Emerging Trends and Roles of the Adult Educator


The article, “Reconstructing Vocational Education and Training for the 21st Century: Mindfulness, Craft, and Values” by Terry Hyland addresses particular to vocational training in the UK in comparison that in mainland Europe.  The article also references similar issues in United States and in my experience in the construction industry suggests that similar issues exist in Canada.  Hyman touches on a number of issues in unique ways to improve the vocational training.  To address a few of these issues concerning the author, which include status of trades and technical workers relative to white collar workers, and lack of advancement to higher skill levels—Hyland looks to Buddhist principles of “mindfulness” to create a focus on craft and aesthetic as well as looking at social theory and what he refers to as “right livelihood”.

Insights and Trends

Part of Hyman’s change involves the use of “mindfulness”.  Mindfulness is a way of looking at the world; “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally” (p. 4). This focus would be expected to lead to a reinforcement of values of craftsmanship and increase the value of aesthetic when viewing the activity of work and the end product.  Instructors, in Hyman’s opinion, need to explore aesthetic possibilities for all kinds of work (p. 9).  There are trades which already lend themselves to this, such as the joinery trade, but to implement this with some of the more technical trades (such as instrumentation) my require some creativity on the part of the instructor.  This is an important and sometime overlooked aspect of trades training as it will lead to increased pride in skills and therefore encourage continuous development of skill beyond the intermediate level required to complete apprenticeship training.  Hyman believes that behaviorist and competency-based training work against this and should not be used in favour of apprenticeship (p.11).  Apprenticeship follows the cognitivism model, and supports learners developing their “intellectual, affective, and motor skills” (Merriam, 34).  Following this model, I would as an instructor take the time to understand the learner’s stage of cognitive development.  I can make use of cognitivist based steps when planning lessons: passing on the information and testing facts of the theories, then allowing the learners to demonstrate their comprehension.  The students could participate in activities which provide evidence of their ability to understand, apply, analyze, synthesize and then evaluate the material.

Hyland recognizes that there exists a hierarchy of career choices which unfortunately serves as a deterrent for students considering vocational training.  The issue exists in Canada as well, and while over the past several years as there is an increased awareness in training options and the potential for career growth and income it is something that can still be improved upon.  In his view, this can be addressed by implementing a focus on craft and aesthetic and values in students.  My own experience supports this.  Further, this hierarchy also encourages workers who have chosen the vocational path to move out of the path quickly to supervisor and management roles.  The end result is an under-skilled workforce, with a quick turnover to white-collar occupations related to the initial training.

Hyman’s work touches on social theory education models where continuing development of knowledge and skills have an intrinsic value.  The instructor provides coaching, but mindfulness must come from the learner.  It is a form of self-actualization, or the drive to better one’s self without external motivation.  Considering mindfulness, the instructor must act as facilitator to learners become apt at paying attention to the world around them without distraction and without the need to pass judgement.  Where opportunities exist within the curriculum instructors need to actively add this to their lesson plan.  Working on adjusting the focus of lessons on the aesthetic, both of the activity and the end result, can aid in this.

Hyman encourages a differentiation between work and labour to aid growing focus on craftsmanship.  Work is a necessary part of life; it has intrinsic value.  It is part of an instructor’s duty to help their students learn, understand and embrace this in order to better function in society.  Labour, on the other hand, it done only for monetary rewards.  While the pair share in that they take time and energy to perform, the approach to the task distinguishes the two.  Articles like this which look to learning traditions outside the normal sphere employed by educators risk being dismissed for their eccentricity.  However, there is diversity in students and different students will respond to different models.  As an instructor, I need to address the diversity of my students; I need to provide exposure to different types of learning in order to best develop all learners.  Some learners respond very well to traditional methods that are used in vocational training such as behaviorism and cognitivism.  But others will need something else.   For them, having other motivational tools in my learning toolbox will aid these learners development.


My partner, Jason Parnell’s article was “Nine Strategies to Spark Students Intrinsic Motivation.”  The article came from the blog Faculty Focus, which publishes articles on teaching strategies for the post-secondary classroom.  The article concentrated on strategies to shift from an extrinsic reward-based mindset to the intrinsic value motivation.  This shift in turn would have the effect of transforming reluctant learner into an engaged, once they are intrinsically motivated.  According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs students need to have their lower level needs met in order to be able open themselves up for learning.   As instructors, it is our role to be approachable and do what is within our means to aid students and reaching these needs.  The blog post contained nine tips to for instructors help learners become intrinsically motivated:

  • Encourage students to draw on past experiences to facilitate a dialogue.
  • Encourage students to share their own learning expectations and goals.
  • Provide announcements and emails with information about the resources available.
  • Provide real life applications.
  • Use visual aids or even field trips that enhance the student’s learning.
  • Invite guest speakers that are experts in the field.
  • Make class assignments are relevant to future careers possibilities.
  • Teach students to reflect and take control over their own learning by using weekly reflections and think about their own performance.
  • Empower students by teaching them where to find materials and how to use available resources.

Our discussion on this topic brought us to the realization the many of these items involve creating a safe and supportive classroom setting.  In this respect, instructors need to help students meet these basic needs when possible.   This trend showed up in many other readings, and this shift in turn will encourage higher level intrinsic motivation within the student.

Jason looked at a second article as well.  It was study a “Motivating Factors for Adult Learners in Higher Education”.  The article starts with a description of motivation:  “Motivation cannot be seen, touched, or measured directly, but several schools of thoughts believe that a positive relationship exists between motivation and adult learning”.     It went on to describe a situation where if we match two individuals with identical ability, opportunity and conditions to achieve, the motivated person will always surpass the unmotivated.  It is therefore critical to address the learner’s motivation through whatever means available.  It also had a good definition for motivation.  “It is what stimulates and sustains a learner toward accomplishing education goals over time”.   All in all it was a good rundown of what motivation is and how it affects us as students and instructors.

The study went on to study 203 adult learners of various backgrounds.  They conduct many surveys, interviews and questionnaires to collect information.  They settled on eight motivating factors of adult learners, list below in order of student’s priority:

  • Academic Advising
  • Conductive Learning Environment
  • Self-Directedness
  • Progressive Assessment and Timely Feedback
  • Interactive Classroom and Effective Management
  • Relevance and Pragmatism
  • Quality of Curriculum
  • Quality Instruction

The study went on to describe what each of these was and during all the communication formats with the students had them rank each as a factor in their motivation.   Our discussion reflected surprise that quality of instruction and curriculum were among the least motivating factors for students.  Yet academic advising, learning environment, the ability for self- direction and progressive assessment were ranked highest factors for the students.  This demonstrates that the instructor’s role is more than just providing quality instruction and knowledge of our subject matters.   We need to be progressive, encourage self-directed learning and offer advice on students’ academic and real world careers. Even if instructors know their curriculum, but their instruction was based on pedagogical skills from the K-12 education system their classroom will not be a successful learning environment.   To motivate adult learners, instructors need to base their teachings in andragogical principles and trends are becoming that institutions provide regular professional development to provide and enhance those skills.


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