My adult education practice consists of two major methodologies; online/distance education and traditional face to face classroom facilitation. Depending on the time in history and the role I was in at the time, the ratio of one to the other shifts according to the situation, the required content, and participant competing priorities.
The early stages of my career were predominantly face to face classroom environments; where I received my schooling (see the Testimonials tab for more information on this topic) or outdoor practical sessions. In my role as Commander of Training, due to geographic challenges (my staff /students are spread between 12 stations in an area totalling approximately 45,000 square km), the majority of work is online/distance education with bi-annual conference-style classes where all 145 paramedics together (about 15 at a time to facilitate a 24/7 service) over a two week period, for face to face classroom sessions.
When your primary methodology of adult education is active learning and the majority of content being delivered in face to face sessions are skills based, aligning mostly with a behaviourist application by nature, it is difficult to present tools used in practice. The image above depicts several of the classroom environments I work in as well as examples of activity instructions, a PowerPoint slide explaining a one minute student activity, and a flip chart (the flip chart image in the collage I created as a student for one of my own class assignments). Flip-charts are one of the most valuable tools used in an adult classroom as they can be used as to document/enhance class discussions/presentations, or a medium for individuals or small groups to reflect on course material and then use as presentation media (as is the one depicted).
A collection of samples of different facilitation tools can be reviewed by following the links below.
Psychology vs Education Reflection
A realization I came to while reflecting on my practice, and confirmed by my research, are the close links between fields of psychology and adult education, allowing me to name some of the strategies I came to use naturally. A facilitation technique that I use is to challenge learners’ beliefs with a topic with the intention to evoke an emotional response; to cause reflection and analysis of core beliefs. As Coady (2013) suggests "Emotion can incite or hamper learning" (p/ 179), the technique often resulted in charged discussions and it takes great skill to facilitate. The goal is to change the learners’ perspectives but the risk is the potential to backfire, resulting in the direct opposite of what is desired. According to Gravett, Petersen (2009), if learners are pushed too far there could be resistance or even complete withdrawal from the learning. If the learning is at odds with previous experience, the learning may not be reconciled, the learner will shut down and no learning will take place.
Brookfield (1987) calls this "critical teaching" (p. 80) and makes links to psychology in the realm of therapy, counselling, social work. He puts an emphasis on becoming aware of taken-for-granted assumptions and breaking free of habitual thought. Critical teaching focuses on perceptions of experience and scrutinizes relevant issues either individually or as a group, and presents alternative interpretations. The purpose is to "call into question the beliefs and assumptions underlying individual behaviour and social norms" (p 81).
Lange (2013), in her review of transformative leaning, adds critical reflection on habitual ways of knowing is transformative, a structural reorganization, and a cognitive process of changing thinking that can be central to adult development (Also see Mezirow, 1991, Cranton 2005), reaffirming changes I witnessed in myself as well as in many who attended classes I have facilitated. The premise of critical teaching and cognitive restructuring is prevalent in my philosophy and practice and its purpose becomes even more relevant in my consulting role (see the Consulting tab).
Brookfield, S. (1987). Developing critical thinkers. Challenging adults to explore alternative ways of thinking and acting. San Francisco CA: Jossey-Bass.
Coady, M. (2013). Adult education for health and wellness. In T. Nesbit, S. Brigham, N. Tabor & T. Gibb (Eds.) Building on critical traditions: Adult education and learning in Canada (pp. 173-183). Toronto, ON: Thompson Educational Publishing.
Cranton, P. (2005). Transformative Learning. In L. English (Ed.), International encyclopedia of adult education (pp. 630-637). London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Gravett, S., & Petersen, N. (2009). Promoting dialogic teaching among higher education faculty in South Africa. In J. Mezirow, E. W. Taylor, & Associates (Eds.), Transformative learning in practice: Insights from community, workplace, and higher education (pp. 100– 110). San Francisco CA: Jossey-Bass.
Lange, E. (2013). Interrogating transformative learning: Canadian contributions. In T. Nesbit, S. Brigham, N. Tabor & T. Gibb (Eds.) Building on critical traditions: Adult education and learning in Canada. Toronto, ON: Thompson Educational Publishing.
Mezirow, J. (1991). Transformative dimensions of adult learning. San Francisco CA: Jossey-Bass