A Study of the Extent to Which the Instructional Practices of Teachers of Adults Differ from the Instructional Preferences of Adult Learners Enrolled in Postsecondary Credit Courses
Wilson, Nancy L.
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The problem. Most adult education literature supports the collaborative teaching-learning mode as the most effective method when teaching adults. While this andragogical model is accepted by most adult educators, little research has been conducted that investigates the instructional practices of teachers of adults and the instructional preferences of adult learners, and that measures the extent to which the instructional practices of teachers of adults differ from the instructional preferences of adult learners. Procedures. The design of the study used a self-reported survey method to elicit responses from 40 adjunct instructors teaching at four extended campus locations of a private postsecondary institution and 341 adult learners enrolled in baccalaureate degree programs at the same institution. The Principles of Adult Learning Scale (PALS) developed by Conti (1978) was used to determine the collaborative or noncollaborative instructional practices of teachers of adults. An adapted form of the PALS instrument, the Student Preferences of the Principles of Adult Learning Scale (SPPALS) was used to measure if the instructional preferences of adult learners were either collaborative or noncollaborative. Findinqs. The instructional practices of teachers of adults and the instructional preferences of adult learners were found to be similar and both exhibited a noncollaborative orientation. No significant difference was found between the scores of the teachers of adults and the scores of the adult learners. Of the five instructor variables investigated (gender, age, career background, amount of teaching experience, type of course facilitated), none were significant and of the four student variables (gender, length of attendance, academic major, types of course enrolled), three were found to be significant. Female students preferred instructional practices that were collaborative to a greater extent than male students, students majoring in education and social science preferred instructional practices that were collaborative to a greater extent than business majors, and students enrolled in qualitative courses preferred instructional practices that were collaborative to a greater extent than students in quantitative courses. Conclusions. The study suggests that in a postsecondary setting, the instructional orientations of teachers and adult learners have a noncollaborative orientation. Furthermore, adult students seemingly prefer different teaching methods depending on their field of study and the type of course in which they are enrolled. Gender differences also influence student instructional preferences. The study questions whether the collaborative teaching-learning mode can be generalized to the extent that in all settings and in all situations it is the most effective method when teaching adults. Continued research examining situational aspects of adult learner instructional preferences would seem warranted as would research expanding the sample to include full-time faculty and traditional students.
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