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Tales from an Instructional Technologist in the world of legal education and beyond…

NERCOMP: Educational Technology in Professional and Executive Education: Second presenter

Understanding Adult Learners: The Implications of Adult Development Theory for Adult Learning:

Deborah Helsing, Ed.D. Change Leadership Group, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Needs of Adult Learners:

  • constructivism: we actively make meaning of raw experience. We immediately find meaning in everything. They are interpretations, not necessarily the truth.
  • development: general or regular growth patterns.
  • an instrumental mind (stage 2): capacity for concrete thought, orients to explicit cause and effect (from experience) and is dualistic
  • a socializing mind (stage 3): capacity for abstract thoughts, authority is external (living up to others expectations) and orients to inner states (reflect on inner feelings)
  • a self-authoring mind (stage 4): authority is internal, conflict and critque as productive and responsible for and can regulate inner states.
  • a inter-institutional mind (stage 5): orientation toward dialectical, paradoxical, underlying morals and values that precede social institutions and the sel as incomplete, in process, evolving.

The one thing we can count on is you can expect students within the entire range of stages. There are some differences between when comparing a full socio-economic spectrum versus those that are highly educated, but there is no way to determine that someone will be with a particular stage. Age is one of the least predictable indicators.

You need to confirm where the student is and then engage the growing edge for that person by asking the appropriate questions. Where are they in terms of the kind of support and challenge they need in order to grow.

Implications: an awareness of differences in developmental capacity allows us to:

  • understand an important form of adult diversity
  • help meet (and help others meet) adults’ different learning needs
  • encourage adults’ continued growth
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