Academic journal article Education

Instructional Strategies and Adult Learning Theories: An Autoethnographic Study about Teaching Research Methods in a Doctoral Program

Academic journal article Education

Instructional Strategies and Adult Learning Theories: An Autoethnographic Study about Teaching Research Methods in a Doctoral Program

Article excerpt

About 12 years ago I became an Educational Leadership Assistant Professor in a Midwestern University's College of Education. Having previously been a K12 public school STEM teacher for almost 20 years, I had no reservations about teaching in the higher education programs. I had lived the K12 leadership and teacher roles for almost 20 years. At the time of my transition to higher education, classes were delivered face to face and the traditional lecture style prevailed. The difference was that I would be teaching K.12 teachers instead of K12 students.

Fast forward 12 years. Higher education instructional strategies have expanded to include hybrid learning, online learning and learning management systems such as Blackboard (https://uk.blackboard. com/learning-management-system/blackboard-learn.html). Each iteration of improvements has been helpful in adapting my preferred lecture based instructional strategies and curriculum designs.

In 2014, I began teaching a research methods course for a new education doctoral program in Organizational Studies. The doctoral program is a non-traditional program that includes students who have full time jobs and have worked for at least three years in a leadership position. A cohort model is used, though some cohorts only complete the entry level courses together due to their specific topics of interest. The cohort sizes have ranged from 4 to 13, with a mode of 6 and they include education, military, profit and non-profit organizations representatives.

My preference for using the traditional lecture style to facilitate the research methods course was modified specifically for a few classes in order to cover the importance for students to know their worldview since self-knowledge is required in designing and conducting research studies. To help students identity their worldview, I provided readings providing insights into a variety of most common worldviews, epistemologies and ontologies. Students reflected about their epistemology and ontology and how either or both had evolved over time. 1 included some class time for discussion about their findings, but I was hesitant to allow the discussion to take too much time in case the discussion drifted to a topic about which I was not an expert. To further demonstrate my lack of comfort with active learning activities, I did not help the students articulate how their worldview related to their personal and professional goals. I guess I hoped they would make the connections themselves.

Each year I devoted more class time for this non-traditional (for me) instructional strategy of discourse and reflection on worldviews. I observed that the students energetically participated in the collaborative and reflective activities. In fact, I added more opportunities for this type of learning with regard to topics such as qualitative coding; the students regularly offered connections they noted related to worldview and other topics related to research methods. I enjoyed the spontaneous sharing throughout the class because it demonstrated that students had embraced the connection between self-awareness and research. Consequently, I decided to explore the updated literature about experience based learning and transformative learning to develop a plan for implementing experience based strategies more regularly.

This paper documents my journey to better understand why I began to believe that my traditional lecture style strategy was not having as strong an impact on my adult learner students as the experience based strategies. I wanted to better understand the theories behind the student engagement differences that I observed in the collaborative discourse learning activities. My study included a review of the Science of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) literature related to my quest. The literature review I present is followed by a description of why autoethnography is the method chosen for the study, which is followed by a mapping of my desired instructional outcomes with existing teaching and learning theories. …

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