Andragony offers an effective use of formative assessment
October 22nd, 2008 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

Adults have different expectations in learning than children do.  Androgogy, the teaching of adults, contains the following important components and tenets:

·         Adult learning is voluntary and learner-oriented. 

·         Education brings freedom to the learners as they assimilate learning with life experiences.

·         Androgogy encourages divergent thinking and active learning. 

·         Often the roles of the learner and the teacher are blurred in the process. 

·         Often there is an uncertainty about the outcome of learning, regardless of the curriculum content. 

I currently have the pleasure of working with many expert teachers in the quantitative statistics course I am teaching for WestConn.  Interestingly, though, the course I am teaching puts many of these expert students in an uncomfortable novice position. 

Research demonstrates that there is a difference in learning between novice professionals and expert professionals.  Three main aspects of performance change in novice to expert learners: 

·         The novice professional’s work paradigm focuses on abstract principles while the expert uses concrete past experiences

·         The novice often views situations discretely where the expert sees situations as part of a whole.

·         The novice is often a detached observer where the expert is an involved performer (Daley, 1999). 

A striking difference when considering novices and experts is that novices are often hindered by specifics of the job, where experts are often hindered by the system.  Novices prefer, and best learn formally, where experts learn best informally, often in conjunction with their peers.  Novice professionals prefer learning strategies like memory and therefore accumulate information, while the expert professional uses dialogue to create a knowledge base (Daley, 1999).    When I consider my students, clearly from an andragonolical standpoint, they behave as experts. 

            Throughout the course, I have assigned work for the students to learn and master statistical techniques that may be useful for them as they begin to research their educational passions.  The assessments have been designed to be formative in nature.  As such, many submit assignments, wait for meaningful feedback, make necessary changes and resubmit.  I am very glad that many feel very comfortable presenting work, knowing that it may require revision. After all, much learning takes place when there is dialogue (in this case, electronic dialogue).  Mistakes are just as valuable as successes. In an adult learning environment, where students are motivated to learn, we can take advantage of the formative process.

            In just a short while, they will begin to work on dissertations, and that is a totally formative process.  Glad we can enjoy it now!

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