2011 Strategy Forum
Evidence-Based Practices
in Adult Learning
Henry S. Merrill, Ed. D.
CAEL Associate Consultant
May 12, 2011
Teaching and learning are only moments in a greater
process that is knowing.” Paulo Friere, 1994
Adult Learning Forum
 Context for adult learning in the 20th & 21st Centuries
 Evidence base for current/evolving adult learning
 Framework for Informal Learning
 Reflective practice
 How do you plan to weave this into your work?
 Transfer of learning
Systems Framework
Person in Systems Context
Many Identities in Multiple Systems
Organizations & Work in
Micro-to-Macro Levels
Gestalt Change Cycle
Less is sometimes more 40% - 60% work load
 While there is often an assumption in education that the more one
teaches, the more students learn, this is erroneous and has been
disproved by empirical research*
 Optimum learning appears to be achieved when approximately
40% of the time available for learning is dedicated to teaching
activities, and the remaining 60% is reserved for self-study.
 Beyond this level of teaching activity, learning actually begins to
decrease, a finding that has significant implications for
professional training programs which tend to emphasize extensive,
formal instructional activity.
* Van Der Drift & Vos, 1987; Gijselaers & Schmidt, 1995
hies of AE?
 Liberal – Cultural transmission
 Behaviorist – Change behavior
 Cognitivist – Information processing, memory, insight,
perception & meta-cognition
 Social Cognitivist – Interact/observe/constructivist
 Experiential/Constructivist
 Humanistic – Andragogy – Fulfill our potential
 Progressive/Radical – Change society
 Name that theorist game!
hies of AE?
 Holistic
 Cognition
 Somatic Learning
 Affective Learning
 Spiritual Learning
 Artistic Ways of Knowing
 Transpersonal Knowing
hies of AE?
 Experiential Learning
 Self-Directed Learning
 Andragogy
 Transformative Learning
 Indigenous Learning
 Emancipatory & Critical Perspectives
 Insights from the Neurosciences
hies of AE
 We are very good at theorizing and even producing
some models
 But are these evidence-based?
 In what ways are they useful?
 In what ways are they not useful?
Evidence-based Practice
 Definition:
 The integration of professional wisdom with the best
available empirical evidence in making decisions about
how to deliver instruction.
 Professional wisdom is defined as…
 the judgment that individuals acquire through experience
 consensus views
 including the effective identification and incorporation of
local circumstances into instruction.
G. Whitehurst, Director, U. S. Dept. of Education, Institute of Education Sciences
Evidence-based Practice
 Distinction between…
 Evidence-based practice: It’s about what should drive
practice—using empirical evidence and professional
wisdom to make decisions.
 Scientifically based research: It’s about what type of
research should generate the empirical evidence
(research that, according to USDOE, meets particular
criteria: experimental design, peer-refereed journal,
sample size and selection, etc.).
Andragogy – Assumptions
about Adult Learners - 1
 The need to know: Adults need to know why they
need to learn something – relevance.
 The learners' self-concept: Adults have a self-concept
of being responsible for their own decisions and lives
and capable of self-direction. Prefer being an active
 The role of the learners' experiences: Adults have
more experiences, so they are more heterogeneous in
background and learning interests than children. This
diversity provides more resources - but it also may
provide more biases and preconceptions.
Andragogy – Assumptions
about Adult Learners - 2
 Readiness to learn: Adults are ready to learn what
they need to know to cope effectively with real life
 Orientation to learning: Adults' orientation to learning
tends to be problem-centered or task-centered
therefore learning must be connected clearly to a reallife situation.
 Motivation: Adults are more responsive to internal
motivation than external motivation.
 Learner-centeredness: Expected focus of learning now
Six C’s of Motivation Learner-centeredness
 Choice
 Challenge
 Control
 Collaboration
 Constructing meaning
 Consequences – show & celebrate results
Culturally Responsive
Teaching & Motivation
Four basic conditions (attributes in the learning
environment) that together support a person’s natural
interest in learning:
 Establishing inclusion
 Developing a positive attitude
 Enhancing meaning
 Engendering competence
Ginsberg & Woldkowski (2000)
Culturally Responsive
Teaching & Motivation
Model by Wlodkowski & Ginsberg (2008)
Evidence-based Practice
 What evidence-based practices do you use in your
designing your professional development services?
 In developing your PD services?
 In delivering your PD services?
 In evaluating your PD services?
 Share practices with 3 or 4 people around you for 10
minutes & report back to whole group.
End of Keynote presentation.
Participatory Adult Learning
Strategy (PALS) Research
Based on meta-analysis of literature searched on these adult learning
methods topics:
 Coaching: Method of transferring skills and expertise from more
experienced and knowledgeable practitioners . . . to less experienced
 Guided design: Decision-making and problem solving process that
includes procedures for using real-world problems for mastering content in
the context of group learning
 Just-in-Time Training: Access information, advice, guidance, etc., to
learner requests that are intended to improve learner performance
 Accelerated Learning: Methods for creating a relaxed emotional state,
an orchestrated and multisensory learning experience, and active learner
Let’s Be PALS: An Evidence-Based Approach to Professional Development by Carl J. Dunst, PhD; Carol M. Trivette,
Participatory Adult Learning
Strategy (PALS) Framework
 Introduce
 Illustrate
 Practice
 Evaluate
 Reflection
 Mastery
Participatory Adult Learning
Strategy (PALS) - 2
 Engage the learner in a preview of the material, knowledge,
or practice that is the focus of the instruction or training.
 Demonstrate or illustrate the use or applicability of the
material, knowledge, or practice for the learner
Participatory Adult Learning
Strategy (PALS) - 3
 Engage the learner in the use of the material, knowledge, or
 EVALUATE [ASSESS is my preference]
 Engage the learner in a process of evaluating [assessing] the
consequence or outcome of the application of the material,
knowledge, or practice
Participatory Adult Learning
Strategy (PALS) - 3
 Engage the learner in self-assessment of his or her
acquisition of knowledge and skills as a basis for identifying
“next steps” in the learning process
 Engage the learner in a process of assessing his or her
experience in the context of some conceptual or practical
model or framework or some external set of standards or
Participatory Adult Learning
Strategy (PALS)
Evidence-based Coaching
Five Key Characteristics
 Coaching is an adult learning strategy in which the coach
promotes the learner’s ability to reflect on his or her actions as a
means to determine the effectiveness of an action or practice and
develop a plan for refinement and use of the action in immediate
and future situations.
 Joint planning: Agreement by both the coach and learner on the
actions to be taken by the coach and/or learner or the
opportunities to practice between coaching visits.
 Observations: Examination of another person’s actions or
practices to be used to develop new skills, strategies, or ideas.
Evidence-based Definition of Coaching Practices: Rush & Shelden; CASEInPoint (2005)
Evidence-based Coaching
Five Key Characteristics
 Action: Spontaneous or planned events that occur within the
context of a real-life situation that provide the learner with
opportunities to practice, refine, or analyze new or existing skills.
 Reflection: Analysis of existing strategies to determine how the
strategies are consistent with evidence-based practices and may
need to be implemented without change or modified to obtain the
intended outcome(s).
 Feedback: Information based on direct observations of the learner
by the coach, actions reported by the learner, or information
shared by the learner to expand the learner’s current level of
understanding about a specific evidence-based practice.
Person in Learning Situation –
Multiple Possibilities - P. Jarvis
Focus on your
recent informal learning
 Think about a recent experience in an informal setting such
as a workshop or other event in a community organization or
cultural institution.
 How was the learning experience structured?
 Was there an individual in charge?
 Was this person called a leader or instructor or facilitator or
 What are the differences in meaning of those terms?
 Or was this a group learning experience where there was
only a nominal leader?
Continuum of Learning
Building on Andragogy
 Valuable as 20th Century assumptions describing adult
 Critique: Assumptions of Andragogy viewed as
formulaic – too rigid for a complex world.
 But – don’t these Assumptions seem to underlay the
evidence-based PALS framework and evidence-based
Coaching characteristics in 21st Century?
 Example of credibility as “professional wisdom”?
Learning Continuum
 Definitions
 Learning resulting from daily life activities related to work,
family or leisure. It is not structured (in terms of learning
objectives, learning time or learning support) and typically
does not lead to certification. Informal learning may be
intentional but in most cases it is non-intentional (or
Commission of the European Communities (2001: 32-33)
 Informal learning, a category which includes incidental
learning, may occur in institutions, but is not typically
classroom-based or highly structured, and control of
learning rests primarily in the hands of the learner. […]
Informal learning is usually intentional but not highly
Marsick and Watkins (2001:25)
Learning Continuum
 Is it necessary to have “non-formal learning” as an
intermediate point?
 Following discussion identifies these categories to
present informal learning characteristics:
 Organizational dimensions
 Design dimensions
 Implementation dimensions
Organizational Dimensions for
Planning Learning - 1
Sponsor Type
Organizational Control
Structured Curriculum
INFORMAL <- - - - - - - - - - - - - - ->FORMAL
Design Dimensions for
Planning Learning - 2
- Cognitive
- Affective
- Skill/kinesthetic
INFORMAL <- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -> FORMAL
Types of Outcomes –
Content/Domain Specific
INFORMAL <- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -> FORMAL
- Cognitive
- Affective
- Skill/kinesthetic
Cognitive: Intended outcomes of knowledge
acquisition, improvement of cognitive skills or
strengthening of problem-finding and/or
problem-solving capabilities.
Affective: Intended outcomes of increased
understanding or valuing of affective states,
attitudes and interpersonal or cultural
Skill/Behavioral: Often used with other types of
objectives when observable change is also part
of a required outcome of learning.
Bloom’s Taxonomy for
Cognitive Learning
Understanding –
Knowledge - Remembering
Developing Cognitive
Outcomes (Objectives)
 Useful template for the two parts of a cognitive
 State the general objective in broad terms to encompass
a domain of learning (e.g. remember, understand, apply,
analyze, evaluate, create):
 State one or more samples of the specific types of
performance that will indicate mastery of the objective.
 After this workshop, participants will understand the
PALS evidence-based adult learning framework for
designing relationship-based professional
Developing Cognitive
Outcomes (Objectives)
Examples of verbs to create objectives:
 Remember – Recognize, Recall, Define, Identify, List
 Understand – Interpret, Classify, Compare, Explain,
 Apply – Implement, Execute, Solve, Use
 Analyze – Differentiate, Organize, Attribute
 Evaluate – Critique, Rank, Recommend, Check
 Create – Design, Produce, Synthesize, Plan, Generate
Developing Affective
 Useful template for the two parts of an affective
 State the general objective in broad terms to encompass
a domain of learning (e.g., remember, understand, apply,
analyze, evaluate, create):
 State one or more samples of the specific types of
performance that will indicate mastery of the objective.
 After this workshop, participants will share reflections
on their professional practice with other colleagues.
Developing Affective
 Verbs from the affective domain that describe
observable action include:
 accepts, agrees, argues, attempts, avoids, challenges,
cooperates, commends, defends, disagrees, disputes,
engages in, helps, is attentive to, joins, offers,
participates in, praises, resists, respond to, shares,
supports, values, and volunteers.
Developing Behavioral
 Behavioral objectives refer to descriptions of observable
learner behavior or performance that are used to make
judgments about learning. They are outcome oriented but
typically focus on only behavior that can be seen or heard.
This is an important difference between a behavioral
learning objective and a learning outcome.
 A learning outcome may describe a change in learner
behavior that is not specifically observable or able to be
easily tested, such as problem-solving capabilities or
attitudes or beliefs.
 Behavioral objectives are best suited to skills-based
(kinesthetic or psychomotor) outcomes.
Developing Behavioral
SMART Objectives
 Specific – focus on observable behavior using verbs
 Measurable – can be observed, counted or tested
 Action Oriented – application of process without too much
 Reasonable – able to be accomplished with available resources
 Timely – the learning will be put into practice soon after the
learning event
 An example of a learning objective of an observable,
measurable behavior:
 After successful completion of the training and given proper
tools and materials (Condition), employees will construct 4
widgets (Performance) per hour without flaws (Criteria).
Implementation Dimensions
for Planning Learning - 3
Perspective – Pratt &
Time Limits
Assessment Plan
INFORMAL <- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ->FORMAL
Teaching Perspectives
Inventory – Pratt & Collins
 Transmission: Effective teaching requires a substantial
commitment to the content or subject matter.
 Apprenticeship: Effective teaching is a process of enculturating
students into a set of social norms and ways of working.
 Developmental: Effective teaching must be planned and
conducted “from the learner’s point of view”.
 Nurturing: Effective teaching assumes that long-term, hard,
persistent effort to achieve comes from the heart, as well as the
 Social Reform: Effective teaching seeks to change society in
substantive ways. From this point of view, the object of teaching is
the collective rather than the individual.
Teaching Perspectives & Learner
Interaction Dimension
Perspective – Pratt &
INFORMAL <- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ->FORMAL
Transmission -->
<-- Apprenticeship-Experiential
<-- Developmental -->
<-- Nurturing -->
<--Social Reform-Change
Reflecting on evidence-based
adult learning
 Reflecting on PALS, Coaching, Guided, Accelerated,
and Just-in-Time Learning
 Where are these located on the Continuum of Informal
to Formal Learning?
 NEXT: A framework to develop a Reflective
Professional Practice Statement
 Intended to stimulate your thinking – not prescriptive!
Reflective Professional
Practice Statement -1
 General Overview of You in your role/responsibilities
Why do you do this role/responsibilities?
What do you find rewarding about it?
What are the basic principles that underlie your
What are your standards or criteria for
Reflective Professional
Practice Statement -2
 Your Professional/Personal Style at Work
What is unique about your work in this role/
How do you establish rapport with your clients and
What are your expectations for your clients’ or
learners’ accomplishments?
Reflective Professional
Practice Statement - 3
Your Goals for X period
What do you want clients to learn and accomplish?
Do you want to work in current context – or change?
What skills, attitudes and values do you deliberately
attempt to share and model in your work and why?
How do you assess whether you’ve accomplished your
goals for clients and yourself?
 NB: This could be adapted to family, community
engagement, teaching and other contexts as well.
Adult Learning Myths
 Adult learning is inherently joyful
 Adults are innately self-directed learners
 Good educational practice always meets the
needs articulated by learners themselves
 Older adult cannot learn due to changes in
cognition and physiology
 There is a uniquely adult learning process as
well as a uniquely adult form of practice
Learning Styles
 Kolb’s Experiential Learning Model
in new
& Reflection
Learning Styles
 VARK – A Guide to Learning Styles
 Verbal
 Aural
 Read/Write
 Kinsethetic
 Recognizes more complexity – describes a
“Multimodal” learner category
 Not a strong research base for Learning Styles, but they do provide some
help for adult learners to know themselves better.
Wrapping up
 Transfer of learning assessment
 What are some measures we could use?
 How could evidence be obtained?
 How much time should elapse before this assessment is
 Reflective practice
 How do you plan to weave this into your work?
Reflecting on recent self-directed
learning experiences
 Write a list of self-directed learning projects you've
completed (or started) recently.
 What was the question that got you started?
 How did you learn about the topics or issues?
 Were you successful in answering your question?
 Or is this more of personal intellectual inquiry that is a
lifelong project?