I haven’t been blogging near as much as I had hoped through this, my latest foray into online learning. This week I have been tasked with sending an email to my instructor to relay how I am feeling about the course thus far and, as such, I now have some extrinsic motivation to actually take some time, think about what I am doing and feeling and put it down into words.
The fact is, I’m not feeling too good about my learning in this course, Evaluation of Learning. Sure, the content is interesting, but I’m struggling to stay engaged. The facilitation of this online course has been good. Certainly, I have taken other online courses where I felt that the instructor was mailing it in, so to speak, half-heartedly monitoring discussion and providing feedback, in between ordering more mai-tais at the tiki-bar. This is not the case here. The facilitation has been timely and balanced, not too leading but encouraging enough. And, as I said in a previous post, the feedback on my initial assignment was thoughtful and helpful. So, what is the reason for my general malaise?
Well, Fenwick and Parsons, as well as a host of other adult ed scholars, talk about grounding adult education in the lived experience of the learner. Adult learners need to understand concepts in the real world. They need to draw parallels with their own experience; they need to touch, see, hear, and feel the context. They need to try on learning like a new pair of shoes or glasses. Put them on, strut around a bit, wear them to work and play and see how they feel; how do they integrate into and change how they experience the world in which they live. As I’ve tried on the learning in this course, it hasn’t integrated well into my world. It hasn’t changed my experience that much.
Part of the blame lies in the course design; I am increasingly convinced that it was designed for the adult educator working in a post-secondary-type institution. That ain’t me. Even the course text, “a resource for educators and trainers” lives up to it’s billing. It’s a resource, no different than that handy little cordless screwdriver that I pack with me on any fix-it project that I have to do around the house. Heck, it even has toolboxes in the back. It’s not really a challenging read. It doesn’t present theories or ideas that piss me off or make me cheer. It’s just…there.
But another part of the blame lies with me. I’m at a bit of a crossroads in my work right now. I’m not directly involved in adult ed, as I’ve said in past posts. As an analyst, there’s about three degrees of separation between me and evaluating learning. At best, I’m evaluating results that may be attributed to learning in a round-about way. There is some possibility that in the near future, evaluating learning will take on more importance due to significant technological change within my organization, but it’s not entirely certain that I will be involved in the teaching or the evaluating. But I’m also at a crossroads in my career path. I’m not finding much joy in being an analyst and, quite frankly, much of my scholastic work hasn’t really been grounded in what I do. And if I am really being truthful here, what I aspire to do isn’t really clear so I’m not finding much joy in the possibility of a future career direction either. It’s difficult to ground what I learn in the meaning of the work that I do when that work doesn’t provide a lot of meaning for me. And it’s even more difficult to ground my learning in some future professional vision that’s at best fuzzy and at worse so far beyond the horizon that it really has no definition at all. Kind of like trying to build the foundation of a house in the clouds.
So it is with some trepidation that I approached the assignments in this course. How can I examine a particular issue in evaluating learning when I don’t really evaluate learning as part of my professional life? I can’t even start from the premise of, “When I graduate and get a job teaching, I think that this issue will be important to me….”. I’m not so sure that I want to teach, in the traditional sense of the word. But I do know that learning is something that I enjoy. And teaching in the broader sense is something that I enjoy and believe will be an essential component of any work that I do in the future. Whether it pays for the food on the table or not, teaching nourishes me, as does learning. So it is from this premise that I approach the assignments in this course.