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A conceptual framework of a study in preferred learning styles: Pedagogy or andragogy

Dissertation
Author: Janet M. Anderson
Abstract:
This study was designed to discover and analyze the association between traditional teaching methods and styles and the learning styles and processes of undergraduate, non-traditional, mature adult students. If the following findings suggest a true disparity or mismatch, then a more appropriate remedy should be implemented in order to accommodate both the modern instructors and non-traditional learners. To begin to examine this association, the researcher established a sample consisting of twenty-one subjects: twenty prospective teachers who were Early Childhood Education majors; and the teacher during the summer 2006 semester who was an instructor in the Early Childhood Education Department at Jefferson Community and Technical College, downtown campus in Louisville, Kentucky. All participants were administered the Kolb's Learning Style Inventory Version 3.1 (2005) to assess their preferred learning style. All subjects were also given a demographic survey, and an interview questionnaire. Utilizing the qualitative approach, data analysis revealed that by designing a course based on the learning styles of students, one can determine two benefits: (a) improve student response to the material, and (b) help students become better learners. Filipezak (1995) stated that people are now expected to become lifelong learners, and as such, they must determine their learning preferences to better cope with what and how they learn. Armed with the knowledge that non-traditional students may have been asked to adopt a learning style not best suited for them, instructors must adopt new teaching strategies to meet the diverse learning styles of today's students.

v TABLE OF CONTENTS COVER PAGE SIGNATURE PAGE COPYRIGHT PAGE i ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS.......................................................................... ii DEDICATION …………………………………………………………… iii ABSTRACT.............................................................................................…. iv TABLE OF CONTENTS............................................................................... v, vi LIST OF TABLES…………………………………………………………. vii CHAPTERS I. INTRODUCTION ...............................................................................…. 1 Expectations of Adult Students.……………………………………….. 1 Mature Adults in Higher Education……………………………………… 2 Statement of the Problem................................................................……… 3 Background ……………………………………………………………… 5 Research Questions……………………………………………………….. 6 Purpose..........................................................................................………. 6 Assumptions……………………………………………………………… 7 Research Sample ………………………………………………………… 8 Research Design ………………………………………………………… 9 Limitations ………………………………………………………………. 9 Definition of Terms..........................................................................……… 9 II. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE.....................................................…….. 14 III. METHODOLOGY.............................................................................…….. 42 IV. RESULTS.........................................................................................……… 65

vi V. DISCUSSION, IMPLICATIONS, RECOMMENDATIONS AND TOPICS FOR FURTHER STUDY..........................................……… 100 Implications ………………………………………………..……………… 105 Recommendations ...................................................………………………. 120 Topics for Further Study ....................................................................……… 121 VI REFERENCES ..................................................................................……… 124 VII APPENDICES………………………………………………………………. 136 A. Student and Instructor Interview Protocols………………………………136 B. University of Phoenix Permission/ Classroom Observation…………… 137 C. Student and Instructor Demographic Survey…………………………… 138 D. Jefferson Community College Permission to Conduct Study…………….139 E. Student and Instructor Cover Letter and Informed Consent Forms………140 F. Letter of Confirmation…………………………………………………….141 G. Spalding University Permission to Conduct Study & Permission to use the LSI…………………………………………………………………………142 H. Biography………………………………………………………………….143

vii LIST OF TABLES

Table 1.1 Student Participants’ Years of Working/ Teaching Experience…………66

Table 2.1 Students with a College Degree……………………………………..… 68 Table 3.1 Students Attending College Full-Time/ Part-Time……………………..69 Table 4.1 Days per Week for Students Attending College……………………….69 Table 5.1 Students First In Their Family to Attend College………………………70 Table 6.1 Courses Attended/ Number of Students………………………………...71 Table 7.1 Dominant Learning Abilities of the Four Learning Styles……………...90 Table 8.1 Learning Styles Reported by Participants ………………………….. … 91 Table 9.1 Respondents and Their Corresponding Learning Styles……………… 118

1 Chapter I

Introduction Today there are more adults who are older than the “traditional” 18 to 22 year-old seeking higher education. This reality makes it essential for today’s instructors and administrators to understand what learning styles and preferences to which these older students’ best respond. This understanding will empower administrators and instructors to address these preferences when preparing instructional materials for adults. Birkey & Rodman (1995) stated, just as there are “striking differences in the way people learn and process information…there are significant differences in how learning styles are defined and measured” (23). Perhaps the most important element an instructor should consider in preparing lesson plans and study materials for older students is the diverse learning styles represented in the particular student population. Expectations of Adult Students Of all the demographic changes in the last 10 years on college campuses, perhaps the most evident is the consistently increasing non-traditional student population (Cross, 1988, Holtzclaw 1980). Typically, non-traditional students are defined as students who are 25 years of age or older. They are more likely to attend a college or university on a part-time basis; they tend to take courses for self-improvement initially rather than for degree completion; and they will likely enroll intermittently. Non-traditional students often work full-time, support dependents and are frequently single parents (Horn & Carroll, 1996). They are likely to take longer than traditional students to complete their academic programs; however, since many take their education seriously, they generally earn better grades than younger students (Horn & Carroll, 1996). These adults have

2 realistic, practical goals for their education experience and, likewise, bring valuable life experiences to the college classroom (Brookfield, 1986; Knowles, 1984; Lawler, 1991). However, non-traditional students attending colleges and universities for the first time are sometimes inadequately prepared both academically and psychologically for what will be expected during college-level learning. While still in high school, first- generation students may have given little thought to postsecondary education or may never have completed high school at all and therefore lack realistic expectations of college (Valadez, 1993). These students tend to feel what Brookfield (1999) labels as impostership, a sense that they have neither the ability nor the right to become college students. They are likely to hold stereotypical impressions of college teachers and envision them as the all-knowing experts who pour wisdom into the heads of their students. When adult students beginning classes for the first time discover: that they must think for themselves; that there are no clear rights or wrong answers; and, that the purpose of a college education is to ask the right questions rather than find the right answers, non-traditional students may feel confused, frustrated, and perhaps even cheated (Brookfield, 1999). Mature Adults in Higher Education In order to elicit interest that leads to involvement, which in turn encourages responsibility, the curriculum must take into account what questions are most intriguing and significant to students. Course content must also bring about a sufficient grasp of concepts, principles or skills that adult students can apply to new problems and situations (Barr & Tagg, 1995). In the history of American higher education, the 1980s stood out as the decade of

3 the adult learner. One of three American adults participated in some form of organized instruction during 1979. By 1985, part-time adult learners were dominant in higher education (Cross, 1988). This influx of a different learning population raises fundamental questions for providers of higher education. How are colleges preparing for this dramatic shift in the makeup of the learning population? Are programs, courses, policies and procedures appropriate for adult learners? Should every institution try to capitalize on that new market? How does the increase of part-time adult students affect current arrangements for teaching and learning? Statement of the Problem Given these questions, are today’s colleges and universities, by and large, adequately prepared to address the instructional needs of non-traditional students? A brief review of current research reveals that there is a lack of variety in instructional modalities used with older, more experienced adult learners. Studies have shown that students have varying learning styles and that no single teaching style fulfills all students’ needs. A student’s learning style, according to Felder (1994, 286-290), has to do with the ways he or she processes information in order to learn it and then apply it.Professor Richard Felder of North Carolina State University (Felder & Porter, 1994) described some of these key- learning preferences in the following ways: • Some students are visual learners, and prefer to study graphs, look at models and pictures, and take notes to review later. • Others are aural learners--they listen closely in class, often read out loud when studying or sub-vocalizes during lectures in class, and find it helpful to confer with their peers in class to confirm information.

4 • Verbal learners are likely to absorb reading materials and lectures more easily than other students. Some university teachers are verbal learners, and thus find it easier to relate to, and teach such students. • Still others may be sensing learners. These students may be tactile learners who favor subjects by handling the textures and shapes of objects as they apply their knowledge. • Inductive learners prefer to begin with experience or hard data, and infer the principles behind them. • A deductive learner prefers to start with abstractions or principles, and enjoys deducing the consequences. Most college classes are taught in a deductive manner, not only because it is easier and less time-consuming to teach a class this way, but also because most often the instructors themselves are deductive learners. • Both tactile and kinesthetic learners prefer “real-life” connections to the topic, rather than theoretical approaches. They are “active learners” who learn best by physically doing activities, rather than reflecting about them by themselves, and thus they react well to group work. • Global learners seem more likely to see a project as a whole and have trouble breaking it down into its component parts. • Sequential learners, on the other hand, are good at analysis of concepts because they learn linearly (Felder, 1994, pp. 286-290). Few teachers, if any, can make all students happy at all times because of the diversity of learning styles in any given class. Also, no student is a completely global

5 learner or a completely tactile learner. Preference for one style or another may be strong, moderate, or balanced. However, it is important to recognize that learning styles differ, and that adult students may not learn well if instructors use only one style (Felder, 1993). To reach as many students as possible, the teacher must incorporate varying teaching techniques and strategies into the classroom. Therefore, change must ensue. Background Traditionally, college professors prefer to organize their classes in a logical order during the semester by starting with simple instructions and working up to more complex situations. They use lectures and discussions as the primary means of transmitting information to the students. Classes are usually conducted in a deductive manner with course principles clearly stated and the expectations explained so that the students can understand the outcomes and objectives. Students are encouraged to work individually, and achievement is measured by individual ability to produce materials and take examinations. Instructors generally emphasize and reward individual accomplishments, verbal assertiveness in class discussion, and competition for grades among students instead of collaboration. As a matter of fact, many colleges discourage or even punish collaboration because they fear a potential for plagiarism in collaborative efforts (Beane, 1997). Such teaching methods encourage learners who already shared and accepted the teacher’s methodical practice as their primary learning style, but these methods put other students at a disadvantage because they have to adapt to conditions of learning that do not come naturally to them (Bruffee, 1993). Those who teach in a more conventional deductive manner want students to

6 follow rules of conduct in discussions, which underlines the teacher’s power to direct and control the class. Instructors typically use highly structured syllabi, which are objective and impersonal. Students, as a rule, maintain eye contact with the teacher as he/she facilitates the discussion. A mixture of lecturing and questioning students in class dominates this teaching style. As a result, students in many cases were, and still are, not being engaged by the lectures. Verbal learning and deductive logic remain the dominant mode of instruction (Bruffee, 1993). College educators often continue to rely on a pedagogical, rather than an andragogical approach, with an emphasis on problem solving, information sharing and practical knowledge application, to teaching. Perhaps instructors continue to use the pedagogical approach because they were taught in that model. Research Questions While today’s instructors may continue to use the more traditional pedagogical method, according to Knowles (1984), this model is inappropriate for today’s adults. Therefore, the principle questions posed in this research are the following: (a) Is there a disparity between traditional teaching styles and methods employed by most higher education professors and the learning styles and processes of undergraduate non- traditional, mature adult students seeking teacher certification through Jefferson Community and Technical College? and (b) How can instructors of non-traditional adult students become more learner-centered in their practice? Purpose of this Study The purpose of this study was to discover and analyze the association between traditional teaching styles and methods, and the learning styles and processes of undergraduate, non-traditional, mature adult learners in one group of students seeking

7 teacher certification. If the following findings suggest a true disparity or mismatch, then a more appropriate remedy should be implemented in order to accommodate both the modern instructors and non-traditional learners. The researcher became interested in this topic because of her experiences teaching on a campus in Kentucky where approximately 40 percent of the students were non-traditional. The researcher hopes this study will be contributions to the knowledge base for college and university faculty to better meet the needs of the growing population of mature, adult learners. Higher education needs to support, assist, and nurture non- traditional, mature adult learners who have increasing external demands of work, family and community life. Assumptions Ideal adult learners are described in the adult education literature as autonomous individuals (Selman, 2001) capable of identifying their own learning needs and planning, carrying out, and assessing their learning activities (Sork, 2000). Malcolm Knowles (1980, 1984) is credited with developing the Andragogical Model underlying the assumption that teaching adults should differ from teaching children and adolescents (Beder & Darkenwald, 1982). By contrasting “andragogical” or learner-centered methods with “pedagogical” or teacher-centered methods, Knowles argues that adults differ from pre-adults in a number of important ways that affect learning and how they approach learning. A number of assumptions are made based on this theory as outlined by Cantor (1992, pp.36-37) and Cranton (1992, pp.13-14, 49): • Adults are autonomous and self-directed • Adults are goal oriented

8 • Adults are relevancy oriented (problem centered)—they need to know why they are learning something • Adults are practical and problem-solvers • Adults have accumulated life experiences (Cranton, 1992, pp.13-14). A shift from providing instruction to producing learning frees the instructor from the role of being the all-exclusive source of knowledge for students to becoming a facilitator of their learning (Barr & Tagg, 1995). College teachers should seek the participation of students in determining approaches to learning and might even invite them to help identify the goals and objectives of the course. Knox (1977) pointed out that “active interest and participation are more likely when the learner helped to identify objectives, selects learning tasks, and understands procedures” (p. 411). In addition, learner-centered classes have been found to be related to higher grades, a greater sense of accomplishment, and greater overall satisfaction among students (Miglietti & Strange, 1998). The Research Sample The research sample for this study consisted of twenty non-traditional students attending the summer 2006 semester in Early Childhood Department at Jefferson Community and Technical College (JCTC), downtown campus, in Louisville, Kentucky. All were enrolled at JCTC, at least part-time, within the past two years. They were undergraduate, adult students pursuing either a degree in Early Childhood Education (ECE) or a Child Development Associate Credential (CDA). For this study age 25 and older determined the definition of the mature, adult,non-traditional student. All individuals in the research sample completed at least two three-credit hour courses in

9 Early Childhood Education. Some have completed many more hours. Ten percent of the participating students were African American and 90 percent Caucasian students. The target population for this study also included the instructor of these summer courses in the Early Childhood Education Department. The instructor had thirty-one years of teaching and professional experience. Research Design This case study was conducted at Jefferson Community and Technical College, downtown campus, in Louisville, Kentucky in the Early Childhood Education Department. Assessment tools included various forms of measurements, such as a demographic survey, an interview protocol, supplemented by non-participant observations, and the administration of a learning-style inventory. Data were collected, compiled, and analyzed to provide college instructors and administrators with the knowledge base to better understand what learning style preferences are, and how to address them when preparing instructional materials for adult learners. Limitations of This Study There were four main limitations to this study: (a) failure to obtain perfect objectivity on the part of the investigator, (b) the acknowledged subjectivity of the participants, (c) the deficiency in the number of male subjects and (d) an excessive number of Caucasian subjects. Definition of Terms Andragogical – learner-centered methods—instructors as facilitators of students’ learning; the art and science of helping adults to learn (Knowles, 1980). Assimilator - students exhibiting this learning style can focus on a wide range of

10 information by putting that information in a concise and logical form. Assimilators tend to be less focused on people and more focused on ideas and concepts. Auditory learners – these students listen closely in class and often read out loud when studying or sub-vocalizes during lectures in class, and find it helpful to confer with their peers in class to confirm information. These students work well in study groups where discussion of the material reinforces class discussion and lectures. He/she also reacts well to tapes and films in class. Autonomous – these students tend to be self-governing and independent. Converger – students exhibiting this learning style learn best by finding practical uses for ideas and theories. Convergers tend to be focused more on technical tasks than social issues. Deductive learners – these students prefer to start with abstraction or principles, and enjoy deducing the consequences. [Most college classes are taught in a deductive manner, not only because it is easier and less time-consuming to teach a class this way, but also because most often the teachers themselves are deductive learners. Deductive learners may often be reflective learners who prefer to think about the topic by themselves, or at most in pairs, and to work out the solutions. They do not react as well as others to group work. ] Diverger – students exhibiting this learning style learn best by viewing concrete situations from a variety of viewpoints. Divergers tend to observe rather than take action. Global learners – these students see a project as a whole and have trouble breaking it down into its component parts. They grasp information in large chunks and have a hard time analyzing a topic from incomplete information. This type of student is excellent at

11 synthesis (the act of putting things or ideas together), and by the end of a class may even outpace his or her peers in coming to appropriate conclusions quickly, but he or she often has trouble understanding material when first faced with a variety of pieces of information that makes an incomplete picture. Impostership - the sense that non-traditional students have neither the ability nor the right to become college students. Inductive Learners - prefers to begin with experience or hard data, and infer the principles behind them. Learning Styles - the way he/she processes information in order to learn it and then apply it (Felder & Porter, 1994). Learning Style Inventory – an assessment tool that evaluates the way learning takes place in day-to-day situations. A learning style can help one better understand how an individual makes decisions, solves problems, deal with new situations, or sets goals. Mixed-Age - Traditional and non-traditional students learning together. Non-traditional Student - students 25 years of age or older. They are older than traditional undergraduates, more likely to attend part-time, more likely to have families and work responsibilities, and more likely to reside off rather than on campus. Pedagogical - teacher-centered methods with teachers as dispensers of knowledge, placing responsibility for the learning process primarily on the teacher. Sensing Learners - tactile learners who favor subjects by handling the textures and shapes of objects as they apply their knowledge. [They enjoy looking at and handling objects of interest to the topic, such as original documents, photos, magazines, natural objects etc. Sensing learners may be kinesthetic learners.]

12 Sequential Learners - good at analysis of concepts because they learn linearly. When doing a project, they can take partial information and organize it into a logical order, and they can see what must be done first, next and last. They are patient with the fact that a typical class gives them information in a certain order, and that they must wait until the end of the semester to get the full picture the teacher is trying to present. Since most classes are organized sequentially, this kind of learner excels in the typical college class. Tactile and kinesthetic learners - prefers “real-life” connections to the topic, rather than theoretical approaches. They are “active learners” who learn best by physically doing things, rather than reflecting about them by themselves, and thus they react well to group work. They may also learn by induction rather than deduction. Verbal learners - students likely to absorb reading materials and lectures more easily than other students. These students seem to learn best from written materials, rather than from visual materials such as graphs and illustrations. Most university teachers are verbal learners, and thus find it easier to relate to and teach such students. Visual Learners - prefers to study graphs, look at models and pictures, and take notes to review later. These students react well to extensive blackboard use, (especially drawings, models, etc.) and handouts with appropriate illustrations. Summary Having introduced the background, the statement of the problem, the research question and the significance of study for this particular modern day pedagogical need, the researcher hopes to be able to recommend a shift from the impersonal, detached, and objective traditional lecture-based deductive approach to learning, to a more subjective, social, group-orientated format which would more effectively instruct today’s adult

13 learners.

14 CHAPTER II Review of the Literature Introduction In this chapter, the researcher seeks to provide a historical and current review of the relevant literature concerning both learning methodologies and learning style preferences for non-traditional adults. While works between 1970 and 1999 provide the foundation for the research and the core of the analysis of the study, several other studies completed during the 2000s are included, as they provide major concepts needed to explore adult learning styles. The literature search produced no surprises, as there are many articles available with the keywords of “learning theory” and “non-traditional students.” And the genre of learning styles is also well represented in the learning theory category. Since Kolb’s Learning Style Inventory has been available for review since the mid-1970s, there are many articles that discuss whether the test instrument is valid. Additionally, there are numerous articles that describe (a) how to integrate learning styles into course development, and, (b) whether learning styles are a necessary component of course development. History Apprenticeship was one of the earliest forms of adult education in the American Colonies during the colonial period. Under this system, a person learned an art or trade by working under a skilled master for a period of time. Many apprenticeship agreements required the master to teach the apprentice to read and write as well as an art or trade. In 1727, Benjamin Franklin founded one of the first adult-education organizations, a group called the Junto. It met weekly to discuss philosophy, politics and

15 other topics. In 1731, Franklin organized another means of educating adults, the first subscription library in the colonies. Members of the library paid dues, which entitled them to borrow books. The library used the dues to buy books (The World Book Encyclopedia, 2007). During the 1800s, a wide variety of adult-education institutions developed. Some of the most important of these institutions were study groups called lyceums. In addition to holding discussion, the members of a lyceum attended debates and lectures. Josiah Holbrook, an educator, organized the first lyceum in 1826 in Millbury, Mass. The lyceum movement grew rapidly, and by 1835, more than 3,000 lyceums belonged to the National American Lyceum. Although the national organization disbanded in 1839, many local lyceums continued to meet (The World Book Encyclopedia, 2007). Another important educational movement was the Chautauqua movement. In 1874, John H. Vincent and Lewis Miller, a clergyman and a businessman, respectively, established a summer school for Sunday school teachers in Chautauqua, N.Y., near Jamestown. This school, which still exists, soon added other summer programs and a correspondence school. Related institutions, also called Chautauqua, were founded in other parts of the country. The word Chautauqua also referred to traveling groups that went from town to town presenting lectures and entertainment (The World Book Encyclopedia, 2007). In 1891, the educator William Rainey Harper became the first president of the University of Chicago. He established an extension division there, and many other universities soon started their own adult programs. Starting in the 1900s, the government has taken an increasingly important role in

16 adult education. The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 provided federal funds for instruction in farming and home economics. The Smith-Hughes Act of 1917 financed vocational training (The World Book Encyclopedia, 2007). During the Great Depression of the 1930's, the government sponsored adult- education projects to create jobs for unemployed teachers. The Works Progress Administration ran these programs. After World War II ended in 1945, the government provided funds for veterans to go to school. This program, called the GI Bill of Rights, contributed to the growth of many colleges and universities. It also led to the development of many proprietary schools where veterans received vocational training (The World Book Encyclopedia, 2007). Korean and Vietnam War veterans, as well as later ones, continued to utilize the benefit. The Manpower Development and Training Act of 1962 and the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 made federal funds available to train unemployed adults. The 1964 act also set up the Adult Basic Education Program. Today, a number of professional associations promote education for adults, such as the Adult Education Association of the United States of America (AEA/ USA), which includes adult education directors, university professors, and others in adult education. The National Association for Public Continuing and Adult Education is an organization for adult educators in public schools. The American Society for Training and Development has members who are adult educators in business and industry. The National University Continuing Education Association (NUCEA) helps coordinate credit and noncredit adult education programs at the university level (The World Book

17 Encyclopedia, 2007). During the 1970s, many schools became community schools, which serve everyone in the community, adults as well as children. A strong trend developed which involved recurrent education to help adults “keep up” with the continual new developments in their fields. A high school or college diploma no longer meant the end of a person's education. Five years after graduation, an engineer might find that much of what he or she had learned was out of date. Large numbers of men and women began to regard learning as a lifelong activity (Smith, 1992). In a way, a great revolution in education had occurred. Horace Mann and many others have influenced, more or less, what goes on in the classroom. No doubt inventions, wars, theories, legislatures, innovations, historical circumstances, technology, etc., have altered learning. It is beyond the scope of this study to address these variables, or to explore the paradigm shift from the age of teaching the entire person (as the Greeks and the Scholastics did), this being classified as the age of generalization, to what has dominated this modern age, the age of specialization (i.e., health care, business management, computer engineering, and so on). Many students today are looking for education to improve their income, but both time and life interfere. This modern age is a frantic era of activity, advertisement, fast food, television, computerization and increased duties both at home and at work. Today's students are distracted with a myriad of concerns; consequently, teaching methodology needs to be changed to accommodate the harried, twenty-first century student. Today a different species sits before the instructor (Forsee, 2005, Instructor's Interview).

Full document contains 190 pages
Abstract: This study was designed to discover and analyze the association between traditional teaching methods and styles and the learning styles and processes of undergraduate, non-traditional, mature adult students. If the following findings suggest a true disparity or mismatch, then a more appropriate remedy should be implemented in order to accommodate both the modern instructors and non-traditional learners. To begin to examine this association, the researcher established a sample consisting of twenty-one subjects: twenty prospective teachers who were Early Childhood Education majors; and the teacher during the summer 2006 semester who was an instructor in the Early Childhood Education Department at Jefferson Community and Technical College, downtown campus in Louisville, Kentucky. All participants were administered the Kolb's Learning Style Inventory Version 3.1 (2005) to assess their preferred learning style. All subjects were also given a demographic survey, and an interview questionnaire. Utilizing the qualitative approach, data analysis revealed that by designing a course based on the learning styles of students, one can determine two benefits: (a) improve student response to the material, and (b) help students become better learners. Filipezak (1995) stated that people are now expected to become lifelong learners, and as such, they must determine their learning preferences to better cope with what and how they learn. Armed with the knowledge that non-traditional students may have been asked to adopt a learning style not best suited for them, instructors must adopt new teaching strategies to meet the diverse learning styles of today's students.