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University of Wyoming

Applying Tenets of Adult Development Theories to Adult Learners A Case Study

Context | Questions


You're in your office one sunny fall afternoon meeting your office hours requirements when good friend Canon Thourgood drops by to discuss some problems he is facing with some students in his gender equity class. He informs you that he has had the opportunity to review the paper you are preparing to publish on adult development of adult learners that you recently posted on the local list serve for peer review within the department, he congratulates you on a job well done, then proceeds to tell you about his endeavors to improve his teaching methodology. He has decided to apply some of the tenets of which you make issue in your paper to his class.

Canon is using learning contracts this quarter and wants to offer a very flexible curriculum that will closely meet the individual needs of his students, but he has run into a couple of "snags" with just a few students and hopes you will be able to give him some guidance on how to best approach their instruction. He describes his situation as you patiently listen. The course was developed for juniors and seniors in the university education program and is designed to develop within the students a critical awareness of gender equity issues teachers face in the classroom. The class is small, only fifteen students, and most students are traditional secondary education majors in their junior or senior year, although a small handful are what would be considered typically non-traditional and seem to be posing difficulties.

The first student he describes is s seventeen year old female taking the course through the concurrent enrollment program and has been admitted by special request from the dean of the department. She is quite aggressive, very vocal, and high honor student at the local high school, and is extremely goal oriented. She is quite excited about the opportunity to have a high level of control over her own course work and has already turned in a proposed learning contract. In class, she expresses the desire to develop as much group interaction as possible and has already instigated several group discussions in class. She is polite but assertive.

Canon insists on describing a couple other class members so you will better understand the issues he has to face. The second student he describes is equally vocal and assertive as the first, a female, over forty, single mother of three teenagers, and wants the other class members to be quite because she feels she learns much better in a lecture format. She has states these expectations to the rest of the class and has told them that Canon is the instructor, and that is whom she expects to teach her. She seems to have a great amount of faith in Canon's knowledge and teaching abilities and has already been to his office twice. However, she is balking at the idea of a learning contract, insisting that Canon knows that is best for her to learn and just wants him to give her the assignments for the class.

The last individual Canon describes is a forty year old ex-military male who claims he has a case of Gulf War Syndrome and already has missed two of the five class sessions. He insists that he wants to succeed in the class but has made no effort towards the learning contract. When in class he is ready to tell a war story at any opportunity and often takes the class on a "bird-walk". He is a really likable individual but seems listless, unprepared and unmotivated.

Item for group consideration:

1. For each of the three students described, determine where they fit within the framework of the theory of adult development of the researcher assigned to the group.

2. For each of the three students, describe the best instructional approach to take given their levels of adult development.

3. Describe what measures might be taken to help each in transition to the next level.