Academic journal article Adultspan Journal

Using Technology to Enhance Adult Learning in the Counselor Education Classroom

Academic journal article Adultspan Journal

Using Technology to Enhance Adult Learning in the Counselor Education Classroom

Article excerpt

The authors present a study that used a conceptual framework of adult learning and differentiated learning styles with graduate students in a counselor education classroom. Students in a hybrid course had higher midterm, group proposal, and posttest scores than did students in a face-to-face course taught by the same professor.


Graduate students are often nontraditional adult learners who may work full-time while completing their degree. Many graduate programs cater to nontraditional students by offering night, weekend, hybrid, and online courses; however, there is some controversy regarding the use of technology with nontraditional learners (El Mansour & Mupinga, 2007), and there is a paucity of research regarding the effective use of specific technologies with nontraditional students. There is some evidence that adult learners in hybrid courses (i.e., a combination of online and face-to-face classes) prefer educational options, variety, and self-directedness (Ausburn, 2004), but there is little research regarding the effectiveness of using technology as a learning tool with nontraditional students.

This study used a conceptual framework of adult learning and differentiated learning styles as a means to both understand and meet the needs of adult graduate students in the counselor education classroom. The field of study and theory of learning styles is broad and expansive, yet it is important to understand the basic concepts and principles of learning styles to conceptualize the adult learner. According to Sarasin (1999), learning style is "a certain specified pattern of behavior and/or performance according to which the individual approaches a learning experience, a way in which the individual takes in new information and develops new skills and the process by which the individual retains new information or new skills" (p. 1). Developmental and biological influences help create a person's characteristics and preference for learning. This influences a student's concentration, retention, processing, and internalizing of information presented in class (Honingsfeld & Dunn, 2006). Therefore, curriculum presented in one way (e.g., in a lecture format) may be effective for one student but completely ineffective for another.

Honingsfeld and Dunn (2006) presented interesting observations regarding the learning style of adult students. For example, the researchers stated that adult male and female students have different learning styles. Women, they argued, were more verbal and tended to be more diligent and responsible about schoolwork. Women also thrived when the learning environment was varied and the material was presented in multiple ways. Research showed that students who had been introduced to and given strategies on how to work within their own learning style made significant improvements in their class work (Sarasin, 1999). Sarasin believed that with greater understanding of the different learning styles comes a change in the climate of higher education, both for the instructor and the institution. Instructors may need to modify or explore alternative teaching styles to meet individual students' needs. Additionally, higher education has become more accessible to students from a wide range of backgrounds, experiences, cultures, religions, and learning experiences (D'Andrea & Gosling, 2005). Institutions of higher education may also need to be flexible and accommodating to alternative and nontraditional methods of instruction.

Examples of distinction in learning style include processing information through a student's primary senses: visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic (Sarasin, 1999; Stage, Muller, Kinzie, & Simmons, 1998). Auditory students learn by being presented material orally, and visual students need visual prompts to understand material (e.g., charts, drawings, diagrams), whereas tactile and kinesthetic students learn by active participation. …

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