12 October 2013

My Adult Learning Style and A Tech Tool to Support It

Guiding Question: According to the ATLAS test, what is your learning strategy? Explain why you agree or disagree with the results of the assessment. With this week’s reading assignment in mind, identify a type of learning technology you think may work well for students who share your particular learning strategy and explain why the technology would be useful.

I went to take the ATLAS test to see what style of learner I am. I will admit right up front that I am very skeptical of the pre-supposition that using only two questions I can be grouped into a learning style. However, in the interest of good discussion for our class, I took the survey and was categorized as an Engager, Subgroup 2. Here is the information provided by the survey about my group and sub-group:

Description: Passionate learners who love to learn, learn with feeling, and learn best when actively engaged in a meaningful manner. Subgroup 1 likes to use human resources while Subgroup 2 favors reflecting upon the results of the learning and planning for the best way to learn.
Characteristics: Must have an internal sense of the importance of the learning to them personally before getting involved in the learning. Once confident of the value of the learning, likes to maintain a focus on the material to be learned. Operates out of the Affective Domain related to learning.
Instructor: Provide an atmosphere that creates a relationship between the learner, the task, and the teacher. Focus on learning rather than evaluation and encourage personal exploration for learning. Group work also helps to create a positive environment.

There are some pieces of this which resonate strongly with me and how I see myself as an instructor and learner; however, there are also somethings which seem to be a bit shallow to me (meaning that it seems that some of this is just ambiguous enough that I may have some confirmation bias kicking in).
First, I am passionate about learning and I do learn with feeling. I am definitely learning best when I engage in a meaningful manner. However, is this particular to my group of learners? Doesn’t everyone learn best when they are engaged in a meaningful manner? I would agree that I fall more in line with reflective practice, rather than “using human resources.” I definitely do need an internal sense of the importance of the material. But again, is that special to engagers? Maybe I’m being closed-minded, but that’s one of the pillars of my philosophy of teaching. I do tend to teach (and learn) in the affective domain regularly, which dovetails nicely with my reflective style of learning. The instructor strategies (I’m assuming these are how to “reach” my group of learners) speak right into who I am as an instructor. I encourage students to focus on learning rather than evaluation and definitely want students to engage in personal exploration. I LOVE group work in my classes and engage students in it regularly.

As an engager, I think blogging would be a great tool for students in this category. Maybe that’s why I love the “weekly reflection journal” I am in the habit of using each week in most of my classes. Blogging provides students a place to engage in the practice of reflection and I recommend prompting them each week (or some other time interval, e.g. bi-monthly, quarterly, etc.). The questions I usually use for students during their reflections follow:
  1. Which significant idea or concept most engaged you this week? Why do you think that particular piece of our studies resonated with you so strongly? Please provide specific evidence of reading or classroom discussions to support your assertions.
  2. How will that idea impact your life/learning/experiences/interactions with others from this point forward?
  3. What did you do this week that enhanced or assisted your learning the most this week and why did it do so?
  4. What did you do this week that inhibited your learning this week and why did it do so?
  5. What significant questions remain about the concepts or ideas you have learned this week?

The expectation is the student would write a few paragraphs to address those questions. While this is best done as a two-way conversation, there is tremendous value in thinking about big ideas, what worked and what did not, and how you have been changed or impacted, even if no one comments or responds. Am I wrong? Does this only work for me?

In thinking about the ATLAS Survey, it is either really on point and does a great job of telling you who you are as a learner or it is just ambiguous enough to fit me. I will admit that I did go and look at the other adult learning styles. One is navigator and the other is problem-solver. I tend to think the survey results are a bit ambiguous enough to fit many people because I found several instances which fit me in the other two style, specifically organization of the material into meaningful patterns in the navigator and rely heavily on all the strategies in the area of critical thinking and gives examples of personal experience in the problem-solving style. I believe I shall remain a skeptic. The best piece of credibility I found was that the original researchers on this project were/are from Oklahoma State University (*said laughingly and not in too much seriousness*).

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