This week on my journey toward earning my Art Ed. degree…

Introduction

Adult learners carry experience, motivation, and expectations with them when embarking on new learning experiences. This influences how they react to their instructor and the learning environment. Orzelski-Konikowski (2011) illustrates how the need for connection between the student and teacher must be part of the educator’s teaching philosophy and she defines the teacher’s roles of co-learner and transformative thinker in the mature student’s learning experience. Adult learners accumulate more life experiences which define who they are and according to Orzelski-Konikowski (2011), influences how, what, and from whom they choose to learn. 

Knowles’ concept of Andragogy (1980): “Knowles made five assumptions about adult learners: they tend to be self-directed learners, they draw from their own experience to aid their learning, they enter educational settings ready to learn, they want to apply the things they are learning in problem solving, and they are motivated to learn by internal factors.”

Orzelski-Konikowski, I. (2011) Reports of practice: the power of adult learning in fine arts.  Canadian Journal of University Continuing Education.  37(1) Pp. 1-8.

Orzelski-Konikowski (2011) incorporates these assumptions into her teaching experiences. In her classes, she demonstrates the materials, explains the lesson goals, and invites the students to discuss and decide how they will achieve them. The adult learner’s eagerness to experiment can be fun for the teacher, but requires a flexible and respectful attitude when dealing with the individuals. While each adult learner comes ready to learn (Knowles, 1980), why they want to learn is personal to them.

Adult learners expect competence and proficiency from their chosen teachers, and respond directly to their personality and ‘social skills’. Perhaps this is why the author suggests adult learners exhibit multiple intelligences (Gardner, 1983) between learning styles and motivations. The adult learner wants to acquire specific knowledge and requires justification on its relevance to advance the application of new knowledge. More obvious in the art education scenario, where the adult learner can have greater opportunity to focus on the process of acquiring skills by practicing new knowledge. 

This article provided a description of how and why I choose to learn. I’m a lifelong learner: intrinsically motivated, self-directed, and eager to learn. I hold higher expectations of myself and my teachers. I carry my experiences before me into all new learning experiences. I was a poor student in traditional classrooms, I find myself exponentially motivated in non-traditional learning environments. I acknowledge weaknesses and have a strong desire to overcome them. I feel more entitled to get the learning experience I want. The shorter the emotional distance between me and my teacher, the more I am willing embrace all they have to teach. I feel comfort from the complicity of a co-learning experience with my teachers.

As Friere (Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 2002 30th. Ed.) might put it, we seek to eliminate the oppression imposed by the hierarchical dichotomy between teacher and student. In designing the learning/teaching experience around a common objective and having the mindset of making every learning opportunity a mutual learning experience, we become co-learners and partners. Karel Rose (Everything Changes…, 2011) puts this in the context of establishing reflective learning experiences taking all participants out of their comfort zones. ie: We all have something to learn from and contribute to this experience. The reflective teacher becomes facilitator in the learning process; the group shares their collective experiences for a better understanding of “abstract concepts”. Rose demonstrates that this mindset works best in the art classroom where “aesthetic inquiry is an integral part of the experience”. Lawton & Laporte. (2013) sell the benefits of what mature students bring the learning environment: “a wealth of knowledge and experience, a broad range of interests and cognitive abilities, and a unique vantage point: the wisdom acquired with age.”

Conclusion

Mature students not only bring a lifetime of knowledge, beliefs, and preconceptions into every new learning experience, they grow because of them. “Cohen (2000) asserted: as we age, some key ingredients of creativity – life experience and the long view – are enhanced.” Adult learners tend to like making connections to the teacher and the material. Understanding the mature student’s needs and appreciating their history, become success markers for the adult educator. The benefits of developing a co-learning mindset are: mutual respect, engaged classrooms, diminished hierarchical dynamic & increased collaboration between teacher and student, and experience-sharing contributing to transformative learning. The author plays multiple roles in her own classroom: she is equally an adult learner, because she values and invites others’ life experiences into her learning experience. Considering experience as perspective, the teaching/learning environment improves understanding of multiple intelligences in learners of all ages.

Bibliography

  • Rose, Karel.  Everything changes: transformative thinking through aesthetic Experience. In G. Diaz & M. McKenna (Eds.), Teaching for aesthetic experience: The art of Learning New York: Peter Lang. pp.101-113
  • Orzelski-Konikowski, I. (2011) Reports of practice: the power of adult learning in fine arts.  Canadian Journal of University Continuing Education.  37(1) Pp. 1-8.
  • Lawton & Laporte. (2013). Transformative lifelong learning in community-based settings with older adults: Beyond traditional art education. Studies in Art Education, 54(4), Pp. 310-320.
  • Freire, P. (2002 30th. Ed.). Chapter 1. In Pedagogy of the Oppressed. (pp. 43-69) Continuum: New York.
  • Freire, P. (2002 30th. Ed.). Chapter 2. In Pedagogy of the Oppressed. (pp. 71-86) Continuum: New York.
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