Report On The Adult Learner Project
The project for ADED 6453, The Adult Learner, required that we interview two adult learners in order attempt to understand their “learning perspective”.
I selected my spouse, and a coworker as my interviewees since I value their perspective in a professional, and personal levels.
My coworker, Jeff, is a 38-year-old white male who has not completed his undergraduate degree in criminal justice. He is married with two children and one of them is under one-year-old, so he is always busy, not getting enough sleep and is re-learning what being the parent to a newborn is like. He is a senior non-commissioned officer in the military installation where we work and has three deployments under his belt. We have discussed many topics but one in particular we often discuss is sexual violence. He is working to finish his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice online.
The interview was conducted in his office and took all but 45 minutes. I interviewed Jeff on 12 September 2018, right before my work related trip to Guantanamo Bay Naval Station in Cuba. Jeff is a very detail oriented person, who enjoys reviewing long documents for determining statistical trends. I picked Jeff because he is, in my eyes, a consummate professional; a person who cares for our fellow warriors and always strive for achieving perfection without allowing perfection to get in the way of achieving the mission. He is down to Earth and assertive.
My second interviewee is my spouse Victoria. I selected her because she is a strong, highly caring and intelligent individual who has an eye for details, thirst for learning, and an uncanny ability to dissect individual’s perceived motivations and ask pugnacious questions to attempt to understand those around her. She has always been a hard worker who has had to fight for whatever she has. She raised 6 children and her life experiences would be enough to fill several books in motherhood, psychology, parenthood, survival in today’s world, etcetera. I conducted my wife’s interview over this past weekend while traveling to enjoy fall’s foliage colors as we like doing every year. I highly respect my wife and value her opinions in all matters; so learning more about her seemed like a great idea.
I started my interviews by explaining why I was asking them such questions about their learning styles. After explaining that the purpose of the interviews was to gain an insight into their perspective as an adult learner, they readily agreed to the interview.
Findings and conclusions
My spouse is an avid learner who enjoys making a difference in this world. Like many women, she has had to fight her way through life. Growing up in the fifties in California observing her father being the “man of the house” and her mother adopting the role of homemaker, mother, and keeper of the house. Her teenage years were during the rebellious counter culture of the 60s. During high school, she distinguished herself as the editor of the school newspaper. Always the perfectionist, she tried to obtain the best possible grades in every class. Married to a military man, her first husband, and working in the hospitality business, she was subjected to the sexist ways of military life during the second half of the 20th century. She learned that to be taken seriously by those she worked with and her customers in the hospitality business, she had to be just as tough and be willing to call unacceptable behavior for what it was. Victoria raised six children. Her life has not been easy to say the least. When asked what is her learning style, she told me that she likes to read, enjoys educational television programs and because of her life experiences, she is a quick decision maker, pays close attention to details and learns best by doing. Victoria has to do the task to learn it. She also enjoys deep conversations where the other person better know what he or she is talking about, since she makes her decisions based on accurate information. Victoria is open to changing her points of view only after she has examined the evidence and thoroughly discuss it.
Jeff grew up in a small town where the kids go to the river after school and there is a lot of drinking. It was common for his female peers to be pregnant before finishing high school. After school, females get married, and the men just get a low paying job, go to work, continue drinking a lot and there was no hope or opportunity for intellectual growing. Yes, there was a college about 50 miles from the town, but most just followed the status quo. Jeff could barely wait to join the Army and get as far away from his hometown as possible. He is an avid researcher and doer. He can learn just as well by reading, listening to a conference or executing the task. Jeff is a multi-modal learner. He does need to have deep conversations in order to ensure that his learned conclusions are correct and understand the meaning of his experience, as described by Mezirow.
I agree with Mezirow and his definition of learning where he states that learning is the process of using prior learned concepts and interpretation to decode the meaning of new experiences. From the moment that we are born, we use our senses, and our daily experiences to add to our mental file cabinet. As we grow older, this knowledge becomes the basis from which we interpret the world and our experiences. But, as we grow older and encounter critical junctures that cannot be explained by our old ideas, knowledge and or experiences, we are placed in a position where we need to find a way to analyze and interpret those experiences. This concept aligns with Morris Massey’s concept of the “significant emotional event” where a strong enough event would make you reconsider your moral base or your ideology. Often, this significant emotional event is enough to learn and transform you without introspection or critical conversation with others. I learn from my experiences as any other human being; however, instead of having loquacious outward conversations, I rather learn from introspection. Merriam explains Daloz idea that transformational learning is more intuitive than anything else and I find myself agreeing with that, since that is one of the main ways that I learn. Or, as Elias states, “critically analyzing underlying premises”.
While many criticize Mezirouw for his emphasis in rationality while neglecting the emotional side of learning, I do believe that emotions have to be considered in the classroom and in adult learning, but at the end, emotions might lead you stray, reaching the wrong conclusions. Yes, we are ethically bound to consider the emotions of our students, and our own, but we as instructors, trainers, or educators are required to deliver factual information. This is where critical thinking comes into play. We should be able to guide our students, as well as ourselves to develop the ability to reach accurate and ethical conclusions based on the facts at hand.