To evaluate teaching activities designed to increase educational administration graduate students' ability to reflect on their learning, make connections between that learning and their schools, and to translate that learning to job effectiveness, students were surveyed over a period of three years to determine the value, enjoyment, and long-term influences of these activities. The students reported experiencing more value from long-term influences of these activities. The students reported experiencing more value than enjoyment from all the activities and both more value and enjoyment from electives than from core subjects. Taking exams, writing papers, and reading were viewed as neither valuable nor enjoyable. Resume writing and mock job interviews, more directly related to future employment, were highly rated while activities requiring interaction with peers received the lowest value ratings. This study has implications for revitalizing instruction for adult learners.
Thirty years ago, in Freedom to Learn (1969), Carl Rogers challenged some educational policies and assumptions on which programs of graduate education appeared to be based. Some were (a) that students cannot be trusted to pursue their own scientific and professional learning, (b) that what is presented in the lecture is what the student learns, (c) that knowledge is the accumulation of brick upon brick of content and information, and (d) that creative scientists develop from passive learners. Rogers pointed to the fallacies of such beliefs and advocated developing each student's creativity, ability to discover new relations, to reformulate or systematize known facts, and devise new techniques and approaches to solving problems. Today, the quest for more effective methods of teaching continues. In 1996, the National Council of Professors of Educational Administration devoted their entire conference to revitalizing instruction in the preparation of school leaders. Talk at this conference centered on such issues as engaging in reflective and responsive
strategies, problem based learning, moving instruction beyond professors' and students' comfort zones, and bridging the gulf between the world of the school and the world outside (Burdin & Yoon, 1996).
After reviewing our program for preparing administrators at Texas A&M University-Commerce, we determined to dedicate ourselves to finding methods that would increase educational administration graduate students' ability to reflect on their learning, to make connections between that learning and their schools, to translate that learning to on-the-job effectiveness, and to experience a real feeling of professional growth. Reported here is some background literature that reinforces and frames our understanding of adult learning and some specific data we collected from students about the value, enjoyment, and long-term influences of these activities for them. Finally, we close with our own learnings about teaching graduate students and our plans for implementing what we have learned.
Several concepts bear consideration when developing a curriculum for adults learners. First, learning experiences must be chosen with care. As early as the 1940's, Tyler recognized that essentially "learning takes place through the experiences which the learner has: that is, through the reactions he makes to the environment in which he is placed" (1949, p. 63). Bennis (1994) extended the value of experiences to the training of leaders. "Leaders are made at least as much by their experiences and their understanding and application of their experiences as by any skills" (p. 74). In regard to adult learners in general, Knowles (1980) pointed out that they have accumulated a "growing reservoir of experience that becomes an increasingly rich resource for learning" (p. 44). For training future administrators, it was this rich resource of experiences in schools that provided the foundation for much of what we taught. …