Program design and delivery for adult learners is built on andragogy principles. One of the key principles for adult educators is creating instructional design techniques that are experiential in nature (Merriam & Bierema, 2013, pg. 52). Adult learners view themselves as independent and self-directed learners. If an adult learner suddenly finds themselves in a classroom where he or she has no voice and limited opportunities for self-direction, then adult educators create problematic learning environments. Jane Vella explains in her book, On Teaching and Learning (2008), that “Knowing the learners’ contexts can give us what we need to design and to teach-and to learn-in dialogue with them” (pg. xxv). As a result of this course, I now recognize traps instructors fall into when they share their expert knowledge or skills while failing to make it accessible or meaningful to the learner. Vella’s theory on dialogue education particularly spoke to me as an adult educator. As an instructor, I should prepare the content in such a way as to connect the learning activities to the learners’ lives. Good program design and delivery must always serve the learning (Vella, 2008, pg. xxiv). When the program is over, I want students to say “‘Look at what we have achieved’ rather than ‘What a great teacher!’” (Vella, 2008, pg. 11).
In addition to better understanding instructional design theory, Rosemary Caffarella’s Interactive Model of Program Planning will continue to serve as a useful and practical tool when planning university courses, modules, and trainings. Prior to enrolling in this course, I did not think about all the details involved in the planning process, specifically transfer of learning components. The course allowed me to implement each component of the model in order to better understand planners’ roles and responsibilities. I also appreciate the flexibility of the model, which can easily be adapted and applied to future planning situations. Overall, I especially enjoyed applying what I read about in the readings when designing my own course. Whenever a course offers the opportunity to apply what you’ve learned, it is the most effective way for learners to actually retain information. The course’s learning activities allowed for opportunities to connect with the material and adapt it to my own professional context, which directly supports major adult learning principles on how adults learn and change.
I did not encounter any major challenges when designing my particular onboarding program, rather there were components of the model that took more time to develop and understand, specifically the instructional design section. I easily decided on the program goal and objectives, but designing instructional activities according to my Achievement Based Objectives took time to plan and organize in a way that focused on the learner’s ability to connect the content to their own lives. Applying Vella’s Four I’s to each learning task forced me to design a robust and meaningful onboarding program – one that focused on relating the material to their past, interacting as a community of learners in small and large groups, and providing takeaways to ensure knowledge-transfer. I agree with Vella that “Quality learning demands quality work from quality teachers,” which invariably involves a lot of time to prepare (Vella, 2008, pg. 77).
In addition to developing my skills as an instructional designer, I also developed my skills as a facilitator by delivering a portion of the instructional design in class to my peers. When it came time to adapt a learning task to an audience unfamiliar with advising, I found myself spending too much time explaining the art of advising and integrating a takeaway that was meaningful to those not in the advising field. Nonetheless, I always enjoy the opportunity to present and practice my facilitation skills with my classmates. I realize how much I enjoy presenting and being in front of the classroom. The feedback from my peers offered me the opportunity to improve and fine tune my facilitation skills and learning activities for my part two training that just took place last week in my current job. I specifically made sure to continually ask new advisors what they will take away rather than telling them what they should take away at the conclusion of our training. The practice in the classroom also gives me more confidence as an instructor. After each class, I found myself applying adult education principles in my university classes that I teach to freshmen. Again, the main benefit of this course (and graduate program overall) is that I can easily apply the design principles to my current job.
I also identified personal learning needs as a result of this class that I plan to implement in my job. I recently delivered our part two training to our new advisors. The feedback was overwhelming positive, so much so that they started talking to other seasoned employees about each learning activity. The seasoned advisors on my team seemed impressed and interested in participating in a “refresher” training. I realized when developing a robust onboarding program that all employees need to be consistently trained on establishing and continuing positive relationships as well as given opportunities to connect to the larger university mission. In other words, there will always be a need for trainings on engagement and professional development. Once you’ve been at an organization for many years, those types of trainings shouldn’t suddenly stop. Overall, this course has empowered me to design and deliver future programs for my team using the Interactive Programming Model and Vella’s dialogue education principles.
If I look at this adult learning graduate program as a whole, Design and Delivery for Adult Learners perfectly combines what we learned in Adult Development and Theory and Human Resource Development (HRD). The program allows learners to first understand adult education as a professional field of practice, then gradually prepares us to plan and implement programs grounded in adult learning principles. Since I am taking this course toward the end of the graduate program, I am able to draw larger conclusions about the graduate program overall. The appeal of the program is that we are able to connect the principles to our own learning; thus, preparing us as learners to plan meaningful instruction for adults (Merriam & Bierema, 2013, pg. 56). If you agree with Swanson and Holton’s (2009) broad definition of HRD, “unleashing and developing human potential,” then all adult educators, regardless if they are in an official human resource training role or not, practice some type of HRD when planning program design and delivery (pg. 3). In other words, adult education is all about the learning and development of individuals who can then go on to impact organizations, institutions, universities, and societies overall.