Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Who Will Harness the Power of Personal Learning?

Who Will Harness the Power of Personal Learning?  
I recently reconnected with a hero of mine; someone whose star I have navigated by for 40 years: Dr. Allen Tough.
As a young community college president in Vermont, I was searching for an organizing principle for adult learning, other than the classroom and the curriculum. It was 1972, so there was no internet and no web.
Then I read Tough’s book, The Adult’s Learning Projects and it gave me that organizing structure. A professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Tough was interested in why adults learned, how they learned, and how much time they spent doing so, outside of college. So he and his graduate students started asking the adults themselves. The result was the creation of a unit of measurement, the adult’s learning project, that quantified and described the scope of learning that adults were pursuing on their own, personal learning. And what they found was staggering. The average adult engaged in 8 – 10 projects a year lasting a total of more than 700 hours. That is more than 15 hours a week. When they went to other continents and tested by economic levels, the results were largely the same.
In subsequent years, Tough and his graduate students catalogued an astonishing array of “self-directed learning” efforts that were initiated, sustained, and completed by the person most affected, the learner himself.
There is much, much more to this from a substantive point of view. But my “aha” moment, back in 1972 was this. If there is a natural sequence, pattern, and inclination in all adults to learn, why not build a more formal learning program around  1)what the adult already knows, and 2) their learning pattern.  My colleagues and I at the Community College of Vermont quickly observed a pattern that looked roughly like this.
  1. Assess: where am I?
  2. Plan: Where do I want to go?
  3. Implement: Engage in the learning I have planned.
  4. Evaluate: Determine when “enough is enough”.
  5. Which leads back to “assess”.
A college that harnesses the natural inclination to learn that adults carry with them and recognizes what learners already know when they arrive will succeed in personalizing and customizing curricula in ways that have never been achieved before. With the web and the internet, personal learning projects have received a turbo-charged boost. Who will harness this power?
For more information about Allen Tough, Email him: allentough@sympatico.ca  or visit his Website: www.allentough.com.

No comments:

Post a Comment