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"Motivating Adult Learners to Persist" online course

In late summer 2015, we are excited to offer a new online course, Motivating Adult Learners to Persist, developed through the Improving Teacher Effectiveness project.  Once the course is live, we will let everyone know and provide additional information about how to access it through the LINCS Learning Portal.

 

Comments

Catherine Green's picture

As we saw in Johanna’s classroom vignette in the PowerPoint presentation of Unit 1 of this course,  teachers frequently try to tackle attendance issues on their own. They often end up feeling alone in their efforts to improve learner persistence. If it “takes a village” to educate a child, it takes a whole adult education program to promote learner persistence!

  • In what ways have teachers in your program worked together to boost learner motivation and persistence?
     
Lynne Alexander's picture

In our Learning Center, the staff always tries to end the class on a positive note. We pick something that the students have done and excelled at and praise them. We also try to tell them what we might be doing during the next class to motivate them to return.

Candy Buechler's picture

The instructors and coordinators in our department collaborate and share ideas on motivating students to attend classes. I use several techniques that have worked well. I create a syllabus and discuss student expectations the first night of class. At the end of each class, I go over the following week's activities. Additionally, I take the first few minutes of class and let the students share stories or issues such as: how was your weekend, how was work, did you see any good movies, etc... I also have a basket of small goodies such as hand sanitizer, pens, calculators (purchased from the Dollar Store) and have a drawing each night. Who ever shows up on time at the beginning of the class or returns from break on time gets to put their name in for the drawing. 

Steven Letourneau's picture

Although we have a captive audience, we too suffer by the 50% rule. Only half the class that begins on opening day finished. However, the students who stay have an over 90% passing rate historically on both GED and HiSET exams. We constantly point out improvements that our students make no matter how small. We find value in every day's lessons and tie them back to the real world.

We address our missing students (parole hearings, mental health, medical, lock-downs) by having a syllabus and support material that inmates work on in their cell's in addition to direct instruction. For instance, if an inmate cannot make a math class, he knows what we are working on and can keep up with class. If the miss class, they also have an additional hour to work on PLATO at their own pace. Therefore, I don't have to take time out of my direct instruction class to scaffold students back to where the class is. I do this the 2nd hour with PLATO and 1:1. Most of our students report that they feel valued in a way they never did in public school.

Amelia Mott's picture

I have to believe that many students would be more receptive to critique from a peer than from a teacher. It is easier to accept, in that you are also critiquing their essay as well, so you are "equals.". It now becomes a mutually helpful exercise, and it is recognized as a positive, constructive activity. Who doesn't want to participate in something like that?

 

 

Kelly Mobray's picture

Although it may sound simple our team focuses on empowering students through enforced attendance policies and managed enrollment. This allows students to see their progression  and how their attendance affects that progression.  A strong attendance policy additionally gives students experience with that life and work skill that both colleges and employers find as a key element for success.

Kathy_Tracey's picture

Hi All, 

I think this a wonderful strategy. I think an additional strategy is goal setting with students and settting appropriate timelines. In i-Pathways (and I am sure this works for other projects as well), we have a placement survey. Students get a customized path and can focus on their strenghts and weeknesses. Buy taking the placement survey and identifying how many lessons a student needs to do, a realistic time line about how long it will take to prepare for the HSE, or even moving into HSE prep for ABE students, can be projected. This type of planning  and goal setting is directly tied to student retention. 

 

Margery Downey's picture

It is a very high priority in our program to assist students in every way possible to meet their GED completion goals and their career and college goals. We devote professional development for all instructors as well as lead instructor discussions to identifying ways to increase incentives for our students to remain in the program.  In addition, we have transition coaches to help our students with their career and college goals once they have passed the GED tests.

Linda Moore's picture

In our program we often have group meetings during which we can share ideas that have worked and those that haven't worked.

Catherine Green's picture

The Strategies at Work: Observing Alternative Assessment of Discussion Skills

One way that students build skills is by watching how others learn and by listening to how their peers think. In the Unit 1 video assignment of our course, you will observe a group of young adult learners engage in a peer feedback activity.

Pre-Viewing Questions

Before you watch this video on Alternative Assessment, reflect on your current teaching practice by answering the following questions.

  1. Do you have techniques that you use to help students deal with their errors so they do not undercut their motivation? What are they? 

     

  2. Have you used peer feedback activities in your teaching? What are the strengths and challenges of using that approach?

 

Lynne Alexander's picture

When our students make mistakes, we go over what was missed and explain so that the student will know why the question/activity was incorrect. We take into consideration learning styles and learning levels. Each student might be tutored in a different way.

Peer feedback has not been steadily used in our Learning Center. I am always afraid students might be intimated.

Candy Buechler's picture

First I consider how many missed the question. If several missed the same question, we will discuss the question. Was the question vague, not clear, etc.. I may throw out the question in that case. If the question was clear, I will go over it and use different examples and/or explanations. I never speak down to the students, but always treat them as adults. This helps them to persist and stay encouraged.

Although I have grouped or paired students on projects, I have not used peer evaluations. 

Kelly Mobray's picture

1. Our instructors keep dignity in mind as well as student level, learning style, individual's background and learning history etc.   it is Important to help students recognize and accept errors in a way that they can relate to the same practice in college or at work.   Keeping those motivations alone in front of them as well as other goals often helps keep motivation high despite errors.

2. Teachers always provide feedback and each teacher has their own unique flare. Honesty is number one.

Patricia Papineau's picture

Students in my GED program come to the program with the intent and motivation to learn, succeed, and persist. However, Life has a way of getting in the way.  They have families, job requirements, and limited time.  The staff at the school understand those requirements and we have online time for the students, some flexible hours and a LOT of encouragement from the staff.  They are adults and they understand the requirements and the limitations, but they are prepared to move forward under overwhelming odds.  It's a joy to celebrate all their successes and join their families at the end. 

Catherine Green's picture

Consider the video on Alternative Assessment in Unit 2 of this course as you address this question:

  • What is one “specific, concrete, and descriptive” observation you would share with the teacher?
Karinne's picture

I really enjoyed this activity. Students learn so well from each other, and if we have prepared them properly, an activity like this can be so much more effective than a lecture. The page that was given to the students only included Yes/No type responses for how each essay scored on a given part. It seems that the next step should include more ideas for improvement. However, this was addressed as students gave feedback and helped each other improve each part until they could sign off on that section. 

All in all, the students were very engaged, and each interaction I saw included very helpful feedback from supportive classmates. Students were considerate and focused. After their interactions, each had a good idea how to improve. 

Candy Buechler's picture

Wow! What a great assessment. This was great way for the students to manage their errors. I observed a lot of positive feedback between students who shared how helpful this was to their writing skills. The students appeared to have taken their peer feedback with much interest. You could almost see the wheels turning in their brains. While the students were critiquing one another, the instructor was free to observe and monitor their progress as a group instead of one student monopolizing her time.

I have to admit that I was a bit reluctant on the idea of peer assessments in an ABE class. I was very surprised to see the positive results. 

Steven Letourneau's picture

I would tell the teacher that her students were vested in the activity. They took their role in giving feedback serious and learned from it. By assuming the role of teacher, they become the experts and are forced to grow as students. The teacher must have set up clear objectives that the students clearly understood.

Kelly Mobray's picture

I viewed a different video of an elementary class. One strategy she used that impound provide positive feedback for on a younger or older student was the independent work time. Students get 4 minutes to work independently touching as many correct solutions to the problem. This empowers their confidence level and ability to work independently.

Kaye Lively's picture

The writing instructor, Alicia, organized the activity.  The students were directed towards a performance-approach goal.  This is a check and balance set up where one student read another student's writing and then suggested a way a student might improve their writing.    In turn, that same student could take a second look at their own essay and make improvements.  The students were engaged and error management.  

Margery Downey's picture

A specific, concrete, and descriptive observation I would share with the teacher is that it is obvious the learners understood and valued the autonomy she allowed them to have.  They took the learning experience seriously and did a great job with peer feedback of each other's work. I particularly liked the constructive criticism that was given and received well.

chris eberhardt's picture

As mentioned by others, I was impressed by the ability of the students to work together and provide feedback. Do students all participate? What I am all too familiar with, is two students that are grouped together, and neither one of them wants to do the activity.

Linda Moore's picture

One specific, concrete, and descriptive observation that I would share with the teacher is that this activity was an excellent way to assist learners in managing errors. Students were able to detect their own errors by evaluating the writing of others. One student said, "I learned from the mistakes of others".  

Vincent Pellegrino's picture

I hope soon to bring new insights to LINCS: ABE through my time teaching internationally in Haiti and Africa and with ex-offenders, Veterans with PTSD and underrepresented adults from Indigenous Tribes.   Kind regards, Dr. Vince Pellegrino

 

 

 

greneau's picture

I am fortunate to have a team teaching approach to the Basic Skills course that I teach. Once per week, we go to a computer lab and allow students to choose a story that they will practice reading, answer questions and present to the group. The listeners are encouraged to make comments and ask questions of the presenter. Listeners are given guidelines for expected behavior and  for asking appropriate questions. The student usually choose stories that have a personal meaning to them, so this is also a time for students to learn more about each other. This activity also encourages confidence and camaraderie.

Charleen Potasnik's picture

      We have a Get Smart Thinking Activity and a Bonus Question to great the students when they come into class. These activities normally relate to a "prior" learning activity.  The students are given a card to write their responses to these questions. We give the students a few minutes to share current evens each morning.  Also, we always tell our students about "learning plan" for the next day.  We encourage students to get to know each other on a friendship level.

Denise Santa Barbara's picture

This was a great activity.  I would compliment the teacher on her organization.  She really thought out how the process was going to operate in the classroom.  She had stations detailing what they were looking for and examples to match them.  The student were actively engaged. It was clear that she established a sense of community and comfort before the activity.

Amelia Mott's picture

We have implemented (on a trial basis) a new policy where non-teaching staff are assisting instructors with calling students who have missed 2 or more consecutive days, to encourage regular attendance (or to perhaps suggest that if attendance is not going to be feasible, another time might be better for taking the class.) Reasons for absences are shared with the instructors, who often don't have time to keep up with calls on top of all their other out-of-the-classroom responsibilities.
When I know a student is going to miss classes, I try to encourage them to substitute online tutorials (Khan, LEL, Mometrix) to compensate for the instruction they will miss.
Sometimes a teacher can direct them to specific modules that will cover the same instruction for the class they will miss.

Cheryl Thompson Price's picture

Self-Awareness as Learners & Learner Autonomy: One technique that has worked well for me has been allowing students to choose the medium to present their final project/assignment. They’ve presented PowerPoints and videos, they’ve written poems and short stories, and even illustrated cartoons. I’ve used a posted rubric to evaluate their presentation; therefore, everyone understood the point system beforehand. I find students are empowered knowing their largest assignment would be “on their turf” and I believe this advantage encourages their commitment throughout the semester.

Amy Garcia's picture

Our teachers have meetings and share ideas on how they encourage their students.  Building a positive rapport with them sounds simple enough but sometimes can be difficult but is definitely the first thing they do.  As mentioned by Maricel, using a syllabus to promote structure and expectations.

Amy Garcia's picture

The hands-on learning taking place was one that was valuable to the students. Students' comments and feedback seemed genuine and they also benefited in using their language and communication skills and by being able to see others' point of the view on the same topic they wrote about.   

Michele Tate's picture

I feel it is important to motivate the individual with their success . Over time this success will motivate the student to come to class on a consistent basis and will be motivatied to achieve. 

Judy Miller's picture

I discovered some new ideas about either making self-contained lessons for each class or making a syllabus, which I think is a a great idea.  I'll be trying to have more peer feedback in my classes as well.

 

Sonia Solano's picture

In addition to promoting critical thinking and autonomy, I perceived the partner activity fostered a sense of community by increasing the social disconnectedness of students.  This is particularly important for immigrant learners, whose motivation is tied to their sense of well being. 

Sonia Solano's picture

Our program's strength is minimizing access barriers.  For instance, our classes are free or charge to students, materials are provided (or extremely affordable), child care is provided on site, and professors are encouraged to apply pedagogic strategies for increased engagement and retention. Building a collaborative environment adds value to their learning experience.    

jomalis lizardo-case's picture

In the video one specific student interactions I observed showed one student tell the other:  " You are missing a topic sentence" and the listening student was receptive and willing to admit that there had to be a change in her writing. This illustrates that students are capable of assessing each others' work, and that it can be less intimidating for the students to receive feedback from a peer than from a teacher.

jomalis lizardo-case's picture

In my program, teachers frequently, even if informally share ideas about how to motivate adults to persist.  Some teachers verbally encourage students, others use extrinsic motivation, sometimes offering gifts.  

Leonard Parker's picture

In my observation of the video, I thought the class was receptive to having classmate feedback and autonomy relative to their own work as well as others in the class.

Kathy_Tracey's picture

Hi Leonard,

I agree with these observations. When the classroom culture is established to foster a feeling of safety, students thrive with classmate feedback.

I'm looking forward to seeing more of your reflections.
 

Kathy Tracey
@Kathy_Tracey

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