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Teaching Philosophy and Course Information Kirk Vander Molen

Adult Learning Theoretical Framework


Adult learning has been broadly defined by scholars and educators. Definitions focus on
age, change outcomes, and aspects of personal development. Zepke (2003) cites the Hamburg
Declaration Agenda for the Future (1997) definition of adult learning as the entire body of
ongoing learning processes, formal or otherwise, whereby people regarded as adults by the
society to which they belong develop their abilities, enrich their knowledge, and improve their
technical or professional qualifications or turn them into a new direction to meet their own needs
and those of their society. Jarvis (2004), defines human learning as a combination of
processes whereby whole persons construct experiences of situations and transform them into
knowledge, skills, attitudes, beliefs, values, emotions and the senses, and integrate the outcomes
into their own biographies (p. 111). Learning creates a change in the learner (Karakowsky &
McBey, 1999), such as behavior, an interpretation, in autonomy, in creativity or a combination of
these changes.
My definition of adult learning is informed by these and other definitions. It takes into
consideration the age, development stage, goals and experience of change of the learning
process. My definition of adult learning is the process in which a person chooses to improve
skills, advance vocational opportunities or increase knowledge by taking in information,
processing its potential application and integrating it into a new behavior and/or understanding.
Personal Teaching Philosophy
My personal philosophy of adult learning is heavily influenced by the six characteristics
of adult learners identified by Knowles, Gardners Multiple Intelligence Theory and Banduras
Social Learning Theory. An elemental aspect of my adult learning philosophy is to be aware of
the needs, motivation and capacity of the learners. Knowles six characteristics of adult learners
are helpful in this regard (McConnell, 2013):

Teaching Philosophy and Course Information Kirk Vander Molen

1. The need to know - Adults want to know why they need to know something.
2. The learners self-concept - Adults want to be treated as capable and responsible
3. The role of the Learners experiences - Adults come to learning with experiences
enhances learning and application.
4. Readiness to learn - Adults are ready and active to gain and apply learning
5. Orientation to learning - Adults are goal oriented to apply learning in practical
ways.
6. Motivation - Adults are motivated by gain of capacity and career advancement.
Awareness of these characteristics should cause me to clearly state learning objectives, identify
importance of learning objective related to field of study and career, seek cross-over reflection
into the students previous experience and help student to apply the learning to their specific
environment.
Aligned with my learner-focused philosophy is Gardners Multiple Intelligence
Theory. This theory acknowledges that people have different preferred learning styles and
capacities. An instructor needs to be self-aware of their own learning style, assess and be aware
of the need/style of others, establish pedagogical tools that are effective across learning styles
and provide students opportunity to work in their particular strength (Gardner, 1993). Gardners
theory raises my awareness to not impose my preferred learning broadly on a class, but to
provide various opportunities for students to engage the learning objective in their preferred style
of learning.
Lastly, my adult learning philosophy is influenced by Banduras Social Learning Theory,
which contends that people learn through observation and that there is a reciprocal interplay
between the learner and the learning environment (Grusec, 1992). Social Learning Theory has
influenced me to focus on classroom dynamics in two specific areas: first, using relationships
between students to create an environment of encouragement and support, and second, the
influence of the instructor tone, passion and relationship with the learners. Such relationships
can influence motivation and provided a socially supportive learning atmosphere. The reciprocal

Teaching Philosophy and Course Information Kirk Vander Molen

interplay identified by Bandura indicates that there is a dynamic interplay of classroom


environment that impacts each student and the class as a whole.
My personal adult learning philosophy can be summarized with this statement: Adult
learning is a dynamic endeavor to equip people with knowledge and tools that allow them to
make practical application of learning objectives. Instructors must be students of themselves and
their students to understand context, motivation and learning styles. In so doing, instructors
should seek to provide student various methods to understand and apply learning. The adult
learning environment, whether it be one-on-one or a class of 30, is a socially dynamic experience
that influences learners individually and as a group.
Core Values as a Teacher
As a teacher, I aspire to design, develop and deliver my instruction guided by the values
of competence, creativity, preparedness, respect, and relational engagement. Competence refers
to having an appropriate mastery knowledge that has been processed, internalized and matched
with the learning objectives of the class. Creativity is taking intellectual competence and
crafting it into a deliverable package that is interesting and accessible to the learners.
Competence and creativity mean nothing unless a teacher has the discipline to prepare each
lesson well, with attention to detail. A teacher must respect the topic, the intellectual forerunners
on the topic and the students. An atmosphere of respect will help ensure a safe learning
environment where there is no risk to question or offer ideas. Related to respect, a teacher who
excels in engaging the class relationally stands to gain better attention, contribution and impact
on the learners
Role Expectation as a Teacher
The role expectations of the teacher can be identified as designer of the instructional
environment, presenter of knowledge, facilitator of discussion, catalyst of exploration, affirmer

Teaching Philosophy and Course Information Kirk Vander Molen

of thought, encourager of integration, and evaluator of application. These expectations can be


explained by the analogy of hosting a dinner party. A teacher must set the table, providing the
tools and a place for people to engage in learning. Second, the teacher provides the food, some
prepared as a dish with known recipes and other food served a la carte allowing people to create
their own combinations. During dinner, the teaching prompts discussion amongst the guests
about the meal, making sure each person has the opportunity to contribute, encouraging and
affirming different experiences and perspectives of the meal. Finally, the teacher asks the guests
what they learned by being at the table, and how they may use the knowledge gained in the
future.
Role Expectations for Learner
A teacher's philosophy of education must consider expectations of the learner. Such
consideration should include an assessment of the target audience on various levels:
demographics, motivation, personal interest, importance of class/content to larger goals, learner
style and intellectual capacity. Expectations may also depend on established program,
certification or performance requirements. My general expectations of learner are categorized in
three areas: commitment, respect and engagement. Commitment is important at a basic
level. Learners must be committed to regular participation in learning activities and completion
of assignments. The expectation of engagement moves beyond the obligatory aspect of
commitment to a proactive learning spirit. Engagement is the anticipation and expectation of a
learner to seek, process, internalize and appropriate knowledge. Lastly, I expect learners to
respect each other, the instructor, topic of study and course design. The learning environment
needs to be a safe environment that all people feel valued and have something to
contribute. Respecting the topic values the positional importance of the topic's place in overall

Teaching Philosophy and Course Information Kirk Vander Molen

knowledge in the field of study, even though it may not be immediately evident to the
learners. Respect of the course design acknowledges the process guidance of the instructor to
explore and appropriate knowledge. It also helps ensure clear expectations of the sequence of
learning
Desired Outcomes as an Educator
Broadly, the desired outcome of an educator is for learners to appropriate, integrate and
apply knowledge for the purpose of developing skill, providing services and/or advancing
knowledge. More specifically, the desired outcome of an educator is to meet the objectives
stated for each session, course or program. This will require specific and realistic planning
involving the assessment of the learners and learning environment, intentional design, careful
development, and successful implementation.
Teaching SW316: Interviewing in Social Work
Rationale for Topics, Delivery Model, Textbooks, and Innovative Instruction
The opportunity to teach SW316 at Grand Valley State University came from an existing
relationship with faculty in the Social Work Department. The relationship was developed as a
student/alumni of the GVSU Masters of Social Work Program and later as a supervisor for
GVSU BSW interns. Also, I had been an adjunct faculty for the GVSU BSW program, teaching
a policy class and the SW316 class once, two years prior to teaching it for my WMU IHS Ph.D.
requirement. Certain aspects of the class schedule, structure, materials and content were preestablished based on program credentialing and needed uniformity of different sections of the
class. The textbook, Interviewing in Action in a Multicultural World (2011, 4th ed) by Muphy
and Dillon, was selected by the Social Work department. As well, two assignments were
required: the Student Skills Demonstration Video Assignment and Reflection Paper and the

Teaching Philosophy and Course Information Kirk Vander Molen

Ethics Assignment. Beyond the textbook and these two assignments, there was leeway in class
topics, delivery model and instructional design.
Interviewing in Social Work is an entry level course offered the second semester for
students accepted into the BSW program as college juniors. It is the first hands-on course that
provides students opportunity to practice social work skills. The course is part didactic, part
practicum. My overall goal for the students was to learn basic skills, practice, be comfortable
with and gain confidence in interviewing with intention and professionalism. There were several
opportunities for me to test different delivery and innovative instruction methods learn from my
IHS Instructional Design and Innovative Pedagogy courses. First, exposure and exploration of
different learning methods caused me to utilize a simple exercise in tactile learning. I gathered
from my home different items that I thought students could associate with interviewing even on
the first day of class. Items included such things as: a flour shifter, stethoscope, sun glasses,
miniature shovel, Legos, magnifying glass, paint brush and blindfold. Each student selected a
different item and did their best to associate it with interviewing. The exercise accomplished
several things: allowed students to identify and contribute something to one another, acted as an
ice-breaker and set the expectation/tone that this will be a hands-on class. Second, self-reflection
as a learning tool was incorporated by requiring the class to write a pre-class and post-class
reflection. This allowed students to set individual goals for and identify learning from the class.
Third, the use of a certain technology in instruction was incorporated not by plan, but by
necessity let me explain. The weather at the beginning of the semester was poor, resulting in
the cancellation of two weeks of class, the first and third. This caused a slow start to the
semester and took away valuable teaching time. I needed to re-evaluate my modules/classes and
prioritize the use of class time. I decided not use further face-to-time in delivering the material

Teaching Philosophy and Course Information Kirk Vander Molen

content of week number 3. Instead, I did a screen recording, voice-over of my PowerPoint and
emailed it to the class, explaining my adjustment and informing them they would be responsible
for the content.
Self-evaluation of the Experience
Overall, I am satisfied with my instruction of this course. It was helpful to have taught
the class once before, which allowed me to better explore and test some different teaching
techniques and assessment approaches. The practicum nature of the course requiring students to
practice and present in front of each other stretched many of the students. I realized that
establishing a supportive, positive environment in the class was important. I was intentional
about being personable, caring and approachable. In leading class feedback on students
performance, I asked for positives and then growth areas. I affirmed students positive feedback
and often normalized and generalized growth areas. I do wonder, however, if I erred too much
on the side of positive feedback and not enough on constructive criticism. There is a balance and
I wonder if, at times, I should have been more instructive (directive) in giving advice? Related,
I did feel that the personal-use-of-self was important in setting the tone and motivating
students to be at ease and invest more of themselves in class exercises. What do I mean by this?
I attempted to be likeable, humble, real and caring. I believe that being so, authentically, can be
an important aspect of creating a positive learning environment.
Some weeks, I was better prepared for class than others. For the weeks, that I was less
prepared, not ill-prepared, I was surprised at how disruptive it felt internally and how it must
have showed in some way externally. There were a few times that I became stuck or was unclear
in my communication. These awkward moments were best handled by acknowledging them and
committing to return to the topic with a better understanding and communication at a later time.

Teaching Philosophy and Course Information Kirk Vander Molen

In most cases, the difference between feeling prepared and unprepared was likely about an hour
of prep time.
I volunteered to receive an optional mid-term evaluation offered by the GVSU Faculty
Teaching and Learning Center. Dr. Munk, Director of Part-time Faculty, visited my class in
week 6 and interviewed the students as a group for twenty minutes at the beginning of the class.
In my absence, Dr. Munk asked the students two questions and facilitated discussion. The
questions were: 1) What helps you learn? and 2) What changes can be made to assist you in
learning? Specific feedback can be found in the Evaluation tab of this e-portfolio. This
experience provided me positive feedback on the class activities and my teaching style. It also
encouraged me to be more instructive (directive) in offering guidance to students.
Course Modification in the Future
I would modify my instruction of this course in several ways. First, I think the course
tries to do too much. The Ethics Assignment is not directly related to interviewing, but for
social work program credentialing, it needed a course to fall in. This took instruction time and
student assessment time. I would prefer to remove this component from this course, and/or
stream line some other content to allow for an additional skill demonstration video on a smaller
scale prior to culminating skill demonstration video, which is already a part of the class. This
would allow students to get a feel for the interview experience, and incorporate feedback from
the first interview, into the second. Time will not allow for this initial video to be viewed and
commented on by the entire class. I would likely ask that it be posted on tube to be watch and
commented on by the professor and a certain number of students. I heard several students
comment they wish they could do the interview over again, as they know they could do a better
job.

Teaching Philosophy and Course Information Kirk Vander Molen

Second, I wonder if the students kept up on their reading. My sense the way the class is
structured presentation and assessment wise, it would have been easy for student to skip out on
significant amounts of reading. I might consider reducing the amount of reading, but then have
some sort of mechanism to hold the students accountable for the reading. For instance, some
options could include providing them several short-answer take home content questions, identify
two-question, short-answer quiz questions each week, or 15 minute student presentations on
specific topics found in the readings.
Lastly, towards the front-end of the class, I would incorporate watching and critiquing
previous years skills demonstration videos as a class. This would serve two functions: first, it
would give students a good feel for the expectations and experience of doing the video and
second, it would allow for critical reflection of multiple interviewing approaches.

Teaching Philosophy and Course Information Kirk Vander Molen

References
Howard, H. (1993). Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice. New York, NY, US: Basic
Books.
Gardner, H. & Hatch, T. (1989). Multiple Intelligences Go to School: Educational Implications
of the Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Educational Researcher, Vol. 18, No. 8, 4-10.
Grusec, J.E. (1992). Social Learning Theory and Developmental Psychology: The legacies of
Robert Sears and Albert Bandura. Developmental Psychology, Vol 28(5), 776-786.
Jarvis, P. (2004). Adult education and lifelong learning (Third ed.). London: Routledge Falmer.
Knowles, M.S. (1977). Adult Learning Processes: Pedagogy and Andragogy. Religious
Education; Mar 1, 1977; 72, 2; Periodicals Archive Online, pg. 202-211.
Karakowsky, L., & McBey, K. (1999) The Lessons of work: Toward an Understanding of the
Implications of the Workplace for Adult Learning and Development, Journal of
Workplace Learning, Vol. 11, No. 6, 192-202.
McConnell, M. (2013). Six Characteristics of Adult Learners. Retrieved from
http://blog.intradiem.com/six-characteristics-of-adult-learners/
Merriam, S.B. (2004). The Role of Cognitive Development in Mezirow's Transformational
Learning Theory. Adult Education Quarterly, Vol. 55, No. 1, 60-68.
Zepke, N. (2003). Adult Learning, Tertiary Education Policy in New Zealand and the Future.
New Zealand Annual Review of Education, 12, 5-20.