Sample Paper on Practicum in Adult Learning Environments

What is practicum?

Practicum is a teaching method embraced in teaching, medicine, and nursing professions. The practice entails organization of a series of work related activities while training an individual. This strategy has proven to be effective in teaching adult students as they learn how to perform the task through relating theory and practice.

In teacher education, practicum entails a student teacher completing a specific amount of an hour’s teacher under supervision of an experienced teacher. This phenomenon is evident in my experience as I am attached to MCECC in San Antonio to teach Arabic for two hours per day for a period of three months. The practice is embedded in the structure of learning institutions. Crookes (2013, 15) notes that the strategy promotes both formal and informal learning elements. The system is termed as non-formal as it is structured to suit the learners’ point of view in enhancing key learning outcomes in collaboration with the host institution and the practicum supervisor who was Dr. Saeed. Practicum, on the other hand, is being regardless as an informal engagement because it is an experimental technique of learning which enhances learning occurrences, which are non-intentional. For instance, a practicum trainee is exposed to situations where he organizes focused class discussions in pursuit to gain technique on how to manage a class effectively.

Practicum exposes one to principles of course design by interacting with learners and creating relationships between the student’s profiles, and design of the course. For instance, I managed to interact with students at the MCECC where I interacted with students in establishing their needs and crafting strategies to fulfil their needs. For example, I managed to interact with Hassan who had just become a Muslim in five months ago. He wanted to learn Arabic so as to read Quran. His major problem was that he couldn’t remember some words and pronunciations. I gave him insight on how it took me two months to learn English which was a foreign language to me when I came to the United States.Crookes (2013,18) argues that the integration of formal and informal learning strategies in teaching and learning helps in removing ambiguity in the whole learning process by making it simple and practical. Essentially, practicum revolves around organizing a chain of formal and informal activities within the structure of a formal education program. The main point of concern in practicum by educators is how it can be utilized in complimenting acquisition of knowledge and skills and vocational development of adult students.

Determination of practicum outcomes

A critical analysis of practicum by Crookes (2013, 15) reveals that individuals play a crucial role in influencing outcomes of practicum in a learning set up. Students have an upper hand in determining the amount of the content to be learned. An individual in this scenario is an agency that constitutes multidimensional facets that may either catalyze or slow down the process of learning. These factors include academic background of the adult learner, mindset, expectations after undertaking the adult education program and prior exposure to learning experiences. All this components contributes a lot in determining participation level of an individual. In MCECC for example, I taught students who were from different background. Some of them are not Arabic native speakers making the understanding of the subject to be hard.

Although the role of an individual in determining practicum outcome, Crookes (2013, 15) notes that, the role of the senior teachers who are the supervisors and the host institutions should not be ignored. He further notes that practicum who establishes a good relationship with their host institutions tends to realize greater outcome since they are accorded full support by the organizations. The host institution is always considered as an individuals working environment. Instructional content is always structured to suit both the organizational and learning needs. In my case for instance, Dr. Saeed was a good mentor to me, he always inspired me to do my best. Besides being my mentor, he was an Imam and the president of the mosque. He always strived to be a good leader and encouraged me to emulate his good attributes while always in line of duty.

In attempts to enhance an understanding on how practicum can shape ones perceptions and beliefs, Mirium & Ebrary (2008, 22) argues that many supervisors who provide positive and constructive clarification helps in shaping students experiences. However, the  very the practice have less significance in shaping the mindset  and teaching approaches as the duration is always small to induce significant changes. My practicum teaching hours at MCECC was 65 hours for a period of three months. This time is so limited to an extent that it cannot do much to cause any major changes in the institution.

Practicum beyond course requirements

According to Crookes (2013, 15) practicum ideas are not new in educational spheres. The concept seems to borrow a lot from apprenticeship and other work related learning experiences. There is a great need for cooperation between all parties that are involved in practicum learning strategies so as to ad meaning to the noble process. He further noted that the diverse nature of adult education, individuals is typically viewed as peripheral because of their engagement terms. This makes them to have limited access to privileges. However, the learners appreciate the trust and freedom being accorded to them as adult learners with the potential to take responsibility in their learning progress.

Crookes (2013, 15) in analyzing the conceptual framework that guides practicum argues that the student plays a central role in determining connections between the host institution and the trainer. This is best explained in a survey conducted on the impact of practicum on the curriculum of the host institution. Mariun & Ebrary (2008, 22) argues that practicum which is a modernized form of apprenticeship is a crucial medium that creates a link between job experiences and education. I was able to enhance my teaching strategies while a student at UIW since I got a chance to practice what I learned in class by being posted to MCECC to do my practice. I learned through direct interaction with learners thus making me a practical oriented individual.

Adult education

This education program gives mature people an opportunity to access educational opportunities to supplement or improve their knowledge. In addition, it helps in provision of learning opportunities to those people who did not have an opportunity to access education. According to Crookes (2013, 15), adult education takes various dimensions. To begin with, various institutions of higher learning have establish various programs that target mature students for both pre-service and in-service programs especially in teacher training..

Principles of adult education

Adult learners are always motivated by their internal drives to seek knowledge and skills that they can use to better their lives. They are always effective and attentive as they drive passion in knowing and doing those things that they were not in a position to perform initially. They are always motivated to acquire more skills that will enable them get a promotion or a higher paying job. Teaching adult learners is a rewarding affair; I taught adult learners in MCECC who were from different background with varied socio-economic status, each one of them had a reason why he was pursuing adult education. Most of my students at MCECC were adults who wanted to learn Arabic so as to read the Quran. Some of them were professionals who were busy committed to their vocation and had to find time to attend my practicum classes.

Another principle governing adult education is that mature learners only concentrate on what they want to know since they ate practical oriented in their mindset unlike in teaching of children whereby they are exposed to a broader body of knowledge. In addition, the learning technique employed in adult learning is that which focuses on solving of problems. There is a sharp contrast of this strategy of teaching adult students with that of children. Kids learn sequentially while adult learners start with the problem and always strive towards finding solutions to the problem.

Experience plays a crucial role in influencing of the adult learning process. Experiences, which include exposure to knowledge, can greatly affect acquisition of knowledge by adult students. Most of these students in MCECC did not have prior exposure to Arabic. To them, Arabic was only to aid them read Quran to understand religious teaching with regard to their Islamic religious connections. In addition, learning in adult education may take a formal or informal dimension since its main point of concern is transmission of intended knowledge to the student.

 

Experiential learning

Many scholars have attempted to develop an understanding between learning and experience. Kolb (2014, 108) argues that Kolb experiential learning cycle has played an important role in influencing several models of adult learning. He further said that the term experiential learning was used to refer to conceptualization of various relationships that exist between learning and experience. The concept entails institutionalization of various programs and strategies that adult learning educators can easily identify themselves with so as to the learning process more authentic and one that reflects attitudes in the real life situation. An adults previous learning experiences and how it can influence his learning process. While teaching students how to read and write Arabic, I started by teaching first five letters in week one. Students learned how to pronounce the letters. In week two before introducing five more new letters, I revised the previous five letters to build new knowledge on the previous experience.

Kolb’s experiential learning

Kolb describes learning as a process where knowledge, skill, attitudes, and experiences are transmitted into an individual. According to Kolb (2014, 144), experience is central in influencing how an individual understand and relate concepts. Kolb developed four models of learning that guide adult educators on how to organize the instructional process. The models include; reflective observation, active experimentation, concrete experience and abstract conceptualization.

Learners who are effective are those who are in a position to engage each component of Kolb’s model. That is, they have to participate fully and openly in the learning process without any form of biasness in the experiences they are being exposed to. In addition, it is important for the students to have a reflection on observes experiences from different points of view. Consequently Kolb (2014, 144) reiterates that these learners have to develop concepts that will aid integration of observed experiences into sounds and theories that are logical. Conceptualized theories must serve their rightful purpose of influencing the learner in making rational decisions and applying the same knowledge in solving problems. Learners participated in the learning process by being engaged in the pronunciation and writing of Arabic letters and construct words using the examples given by the teacher. I used this strategy at MCECC to enhancing students’ mental cues as they actively participated in the learning process.

There are four basic styles of adult learning that were propose by Kolb. They are, assimilation, diverging, converging and accommodating Crookes (2013, 15).Each teaching style is influenced from specific abilities of learning. Divergent learning cycle for instance depends greatly on RA and CE, which emphasizes that adult students are always best at viewing situations from a diverse point of view. The strategy is referred to as diverging because those people who employ it are always good at situations that require one to generate ideas through brainstorming.

Accommodating style of learning is centered on CE and AE principles. These categories of learners are those who enjoy learning experiences that are practical in nature and prefer to act on a problem instead of analyzing logical experiences.

Application of Kolb’s experiential theory

Kolb (2014,108) in explanation of the utility of Kolb’s model in teacher education, said that, unlike in most of the teacher training  programs where field experience is gained in the last year of training by the student teacher spending his last semester in a school and at the same time working on his studies. Kolb (2014,108) reiterates that interns are always engaged in al dimension of Kolb’s model through authenticated classroom model that utilizes the pedagogy and curriculum that will make them qualify for licensing by the state. Engaging students in attachments like my case at MCECC makes learners gain enough teaching experience, which is enough to make the government license the graduate teacher.

The in-service student teachers are always exposed to a pedagogy-focused coursework, which enhances the delivery of content through multiple modalities. Here, learners are stimulated to synthesize knowledge that translates into a reflective experience of what they learned. The learning institutions incorporate standard based discussion into the teaching. The interns are then required to do a reflection of the learned concept then write them down in their own words.

Experiential ideas have also been utilized in the training of adult female scout leaders. Their training is centered on participation of the girl scouts in learning of the intended activity, identification and sharing of observed experiences in focused groups, processing of the information and finally forming a generalization of the learned principles.

In helping to determine the styles that is preferred by learners, Mariam & Ebrary (2008, 30) notes that Kolb developed a parameter called Learning style inventory (LSI). It is in its advanced stages of development helps in assessing a student’s preferences for learning by the use of either of Reflective observation (RO),Active experimentation (AE), Concrete experience (CE) or Abstract conceptualization (AC).The model also interrogates an individual’s preferences for concreteness over constructiveness or reflection over action.

Critique of Kolb’s theory

Experiential theory and learning style inventory have a number of shortcomings. Crookes (2013, 15) explains that the theory lacks context since it assumes that reflection and experience work in a vacuum, which is unimpeded by dynamics in a particular context of the society. One is left to wonder how reflecting experiences and experimentation are viable in a dictatorship regime pundits rather view this model as a sparkling chamber that require the student to lay his hands on every aspect of knowledge. Also, Mariam & Ebrary (2008,22) was critical of this theory by asserting that there is a big likelihood that novice teachers will teach from their preferred point of understanding and styles instead of focusing on how one can relate all the styles of teaching. The validity and reliability of learning style inventory is in doubt since that are advanced studies, which have produced more authentic styles and instruments of learning.

 

Transformative theory of learning

Every human being has innate drives to create a meaning in their daily lives. Actually, truth and change is a continuous process that one cannot comprehend what tomorrow will hold. In adulthood, one tends to be more critical of the world around him and tries to pursue those courses of actions that enhance his understanding of the world around him. It involves acquisition of skills like how to negotiate, focusing on activities that shape one’s life and value addition strategies. The main principle of adult learning is acquisition of competencies that  enhance more reliable individual beliefs and  exploration of options that can not only stand the test of time but  which can also be validated. Transformative learning theory of learning plays an important role in putting adult learning process into context that empowers one to have more control over the world than before. Transformative theory is grounded the communication process of human beings. This is to say that, the process of learning is accomplished through utilization of previous life experiences in creation of new understandings of current and future life experiences Mariam & Ebrary (2008,22).Revisiting what was learned in the previous Arabic lesson is critical in developing a student’s understanding since there is continuity in the way the information flows. I used the strategy at MCECC to make learners connect well with the current knowledge through effectively linking it with the previous learned experiences.

The frame of references, according to Mariam & Ebrary (2008, 22), helps in the formation and circulation of the transformative process. Frames of references are a set of experiences and assumptions that shapes an individual’s static point of view to a more progressive version, which is influenced by thinking of actions and beliefs. The revision of frames of reference together with reflection of experiences is the main point of concern addressed by the transformative theory. Mariam & Ebrary (2008, 22) argue that a paradigm shift in perspectives results to a more developed and functional frame of reference. For the frame of reference to be valid, it has to be permeable, inclusive, critical, interrogative, and differentiating (Mariam & Ebrary, 2008, 22).

Alternative conceptions to Transformative learning conceptions

Psycho-critical view of Mezirow’s concept of Transformative learning has resulted in uncontested assumptions that there exists one conception of transformative learning. Although educators have strived to create sense of varied perspectives, the number of studies is minimal and does not make full contributions to transformative learning theory. Now, there are a number of varied conceptions to transformative learning. Theories that refer to the same ideas and take into considerations ideas that were initially ignored by the supreme theory of transformative learning theory.

The theories covers the role personality, spirituality ,neurobiology and emancipator learning .The most interesting aspect of these theoretical dimensions is that they presents a great potential in provision of more structured and varied interpretations to the subject of transformative learning.

Spiritual and cultural view of transformative learning

The perspective focuses on relationships that exist between the social structures and an individual together with an understanding of interconnected personalities. Mariam & Ebrary (2008, 7) note that the dimension focuses on how students construct knowledge as a component of transformative learning. Primarily the perspective favors a religious and culturally ground pedagogy to transformative learning. The main goal of this approach is to foster an understanding that involves telling stories on asocial and personal level using focused group discussions. Intercultural awareness also plays a critical role in promotion of spiritual wellbeing.

The role of the educator in the spiritual perspective is to influence the learning process by encouraging collaboration among learners in developing a rational inquiry. The technique encourages a learner-centered approach of learning through sharing stories and life experiences. In MCECC, I engaged this perspective by first putting learners into discussion groups. Although most of the learners were not native Arabic speakers, their main drive was to learn how to read the Quran for religious inspiration. Learners were from different culture are brought together trough formation of focused group discussions which they used to enhance the understanding of the subject content.

Social-emancipator perspective

This is a perspective that focuses on existence on humankind. It encourages treatment of people as subjects and not objects for accomplishing one’s personal objectives. Marium & Ebrary (2008, 30) reiterate that one should not use humanity as a means to an end rather; they should be viewed as a means in themselves. The theory also encourages people to subject their intended actions to a rational inquiry always before acting.

Plenary perspective of transformative learning

The theory is centered on addressing life in totality beyond an individual’s control by exploring pertinent issues in education holistically. The main endeavor of plenary perspective is to organize the society as a whole by preparing students for political, educational, and social life. Transformative learning theory has become an area of concern among adult learning educators. Transformative learning theory has become an area of concern among adult learning educators and has a considerable influence on teaching of adults. The phenomenal growth in this theory is so immense to an extent that it is almost replacing andragogy the perennial adult education teaching strategy. It offers teaching strategies centered on empirical research while at the same time being backed by theoretical experiences.

Differences between MCECC and UIW

Despite the fact that both MCECC and UIW are learning institutions, there are many differences. To begin with, UOW is an institution of higher learning with diverse learning programs and students from different background and religion. The institution prepared students for their career development like for my case when I wanted to enhance my skills in practicum. MCECC on the other hand is customizes to cater for needs of adult Muslim students who want how to learn Arabic to read Quran. There are also many facilities in UIW compared to MCECC, where we only have simple learning facilities.

Stages in mentorship

After selection of a mentor, the next process entails preparing and implementing of the mentorship strategies, the whole process is guided by the following procedure:

Preparation

Mentors always have to familiarize with the qualities and expectations of a good mentor. They have to be guided by the motive for mentoring someone by defining clear expectations on the side of the mentee. Dr. Saeed was so instrumental during my practicum at MEECCC. He was a hardworking person who juggled between his profession and religious leadership. He was always driven by the prison to do good things to humanity, which I emulated during my practicum (Zachary & Fischler, 2009, 7).

Negotiation

This phase involves formation of a mutual agreement between the mentor and the person who is being mentored on specific objectives to be learned at a stipulated time. It entails formulation of a plan on how the whole mentorship will be executed. Dr. Saeed was very cooperative; we strategized on how to go about the mentorship process and specific objectives to be achieved together (Zachary & Fischler, 2009, 7).

Facilitation of the learning process and professional development

This is the stage when the real mentoring process takes place. The success of this strategy comes from the cooperation between the two parties in the mentorship processed. Dr. Saeed was very supportive and was always available for guidance whenever I needed any help or clarification

Termination of mentorship

The closure of this engagement is determined by the stipulated time, in my case, I had 65 hours in the institution, which was to be covered in three months. Dr. Saeed guided me through the evaluation of the gains made from the entire process. The experience will be of help while I go to my home country, as I will be in a good position of sharing the information I have with people. Despite using of materials prescribed by the ministry of education, I will be in a better position to combine a number of teachings that will enhance student’s interaction with the content thus leading to high academic achievement.

Challenges at an individual and system level

Although teaching adult learners at MCECC was an interactive learning experience, I encountered a number of challenges. Personally, I had to overcome these experiences to make the whole learning experience a success. First, being an Arabic speaking student, I had to learn English to be able to communicate with my lecturers, supervisors, and students. I took two good years to learn English language.

Another challenges was inters of the way the education system is operates here in the United States compared to Saudi Arabia. The laws in my native country are segregative tin a manner that female teachers are only allowed to interact with female students while male teachers only teach male students. The system was new to me since I had to interact with both male and female students, which was a new experience. I had to cope up but later, I appreciated the diversity in teaching students across the gender divide.

I also taught Arabic to students who were not native Arabic speakers. They had problems with pronunciations owing to their previous experiences and background. I had to work with them by encouraging them to pronounce the words correctly through continuous practicing. Some adult learners were busy with their work thus leaving a lot of the work to me. This is because they had to juggle between their vocation and adult learning classes.

Conclusion

Adult education has been instrumental in the promotion of literacy levels and provision of knowledge and skills to mature students, which is essential in improving their livelihoods. However, adult education is not limited to provision of knowledge and skills on how to read and write. From the foregone discussion, one can note that adult education has gained popularity among institutions of higher learning. Many institutions have established programs at both the diploma and postgraduate level, which operates on adult learning principles.

There is need for educators to be equipped with appropriate theory and practice on how to engage adult students. In addition, the teacher has to be trained through exposure to practical teaching experiences, which is one of the philosophies that govern practicum-teaching ideals. Since adult learners through relating the current knowledge with the past life experiences, there is a need for the educators to create an ample teaching environment which maximizes understanding of the adult learners.

 

 

References

Crookes, G. (2013). A practicum in TESOL: Professional development through teaching practice. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.

Kolb, D. (2014). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.

Mariam, S.D. and Ebbrary, I (2008). Third update to adult Learning theory. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Zachary, L., & Fischler, L. (2009). The mentee’s guide: Making mentoring work for you. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

 

 

 

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