Learning Style Inventory LO21974

Swan, Steve R. SETA CONTR (SwanSR@ftknox5-emh3.army.mil)
Thu, 24 Jun 1999 08:42:43 -0400

Replying to LO21960 --

I am still intrigued by the value statements about adult education
(learning) having read Knowles, Cross, Gagne, Spiro, etc. I see a lack of
bringing to clarity several adult learner characteristics that I am
inclined to challenge and someday my be right down demanding of anyone
that states them to define exactly what they mean. Two have come up in
this discussion:

"Adults...want to do two things, 1) direct their education process and 2)
learn those things specific for the job."

The first is something like empowerment. Unfortunately, for some
facilitators of learning (and leaders in organizations) empowerment equals
abandonment. This is difficult to explain and there are degrees of
abandonment. Let me give examples of the spectrum. Low end: A learner
(student) thinks she has an understanding of a learning concept called
double loop learning (Argyris & Schon). In a course titled Adult
Learning, a discussion about learner characteristics comes up in class and
for some reason the double loop idea comes to mind even though it has not
been discussed. In an attempt to check her understanding she inquires of
the professor: Is what we are discussing related to or is it actually
double loop learning? The professors response: That a good question, why
don't you find out and see what you think. Sounds like a good thing for an
adult learner to be challenged on, but I call it abandonment. In an
attempt to fit the role of facilitator the professor essentially
interrupted the learning process of the student. And perhaps several
others. Why should I ask a question for clarity if I'm not going to
receive it? High end: In courses that use projects as learning toll, the
professor allows each student of team to select topics and directions
based on a "contract" founded on the student's lack of knowledge of the
subject matter at hand. The result is no cohesive group learning
experience, which can be gained by independent study just as well. Small
group discussions of the projects is fine, but without a connection
between them, the larger group is abandoned, though they may feel

If we truly believe that the level of self-actualization we want learners
to achieve is knowledge, skills and attitudes that enable further leaning,
then why do we believe that an ultimate aspect of that characteristics is
learning things that are specific to the job? Yes adults "want to achieve"
and we achieve through task accomplishment but it an organization
(society) is striving for higher level of cognitive skill and human
performance, then we teach (learn) what we need for the next job now and
rely on what we learned in the past for the current job.

Here is where these two points merge. If the learned is abandoned to chart
her own road map to learning, then how will she know what is of value in
the next job or not? Who guides? Sometimes the content expert and traffic
cop has to come out in the teacher (facilitator, mentor, boss).

In contrast to the two above an other statement is made that I do not
grasp. Please help. "This pattern (referring to the two above)is changing
to a more open long term learning environment." What is an "open, long
term learning environment" and how is it that is contrast the two
characteristics mentioned?

My bottom line is that we owe it to the future development and application
of sound learning theories and practices to ensure our understanding of
the principles and characteristics are clear, even if we are wrong.

For a resource of summarized learning theories see:

Learning-org -- Hosted by Rick Karash <rkarash@karash.com>
Public Dialog on Learning Organizations -- <http://www.learning-org.com>