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But I'm Not an Adult Educator, Am I?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Donna Heavener, CAE
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Brianne L. Jackson, third year doctoral student, Virginia Commonwealth University

I’m sure that most of us joined AAACE as graduate students of adult learning, or as first year professionals, at the suggestions of their peers. My path, however, was a little less orthodox.

My name is Brianne Jackson, and I am a third-year doctoral student of education in the Curriculum, Culture, and Change track at Virginia Commonwealth University. This track explores curriculum, and how it’s affected by a variety of both hidden and mandated practices. More or less, it’s a social justice program for education.

K12 education, that is.

My primary research goal involves Teacher Preparation for K12 Virtual Learning, so naturally, I enrolled in a program that focused on K12 education. It never once crossed my mind in class after class on pedagogy and student learning that at the end of this program I would be expected to teach these skills to teachers, yet I had no training in adult education.

I spent the beginnings of my program honing my knowledge on K12 online best practice and quality instructional design, attended classes in curriculum and instruction, and debated philosophy of education in terms of modern technology. In all the discussion of pedagogy, the term andragogy was barely mentioned, except in passing by an instructor, but I sat blissfully unaware of the difference.

As time moved on, my advisor asked me to be his co-instructor for a number of classes in Online Learning. While some were more field work facilitations, others were traditional instruction-based courses, some on design and teaching online K12, others for teaching adults. Due to my teaching experience and my early success in research, I agreed and began to help him plan and design the courses. It was then I first determined that I was missing something, some element that I felt I should have explored. In developing instruction, I struggled with creating meaningful instruction in online learning for my adult learners, who had a far different mindset than my 7th graders. I leaned greatly on my advisor, who introduced me to a vast library of literature in andragogy. I slowly began to piece together the differences and similarities in teaching adults and, as important, how to prepare them to teach others.

It was a revelation.

However, at this point, my journey was between myself and my advisor. That was, until a colleague from the School of Education introduced me to AAACE. As a student in the field of adult learning, she initially asked me to join her in presenting a webinar on best practices for online course design and teaching. As we were developing our presentation I was introduced to a few leading members of AAACE as well as the organization itself. I was impressed by the organization and the offerings for their members. The webinar series were just the beginning, as membership in the organization granted members access to a wide variety of resources, including many in online learning. Following the webinar, we were asked to plan a proposal for the 2016 conference in New Mexico, and I began to take a closer look into the various things that AAACE had to offer. I could list them, but as I know fellow members are reading this, I can say, that I was very impressed and joined without hesitation.

Why? Why does a K12 teacher join AAACE and the CDLT?

Because, without realizing it, I had become an adult educator.

Most teacher educators begin a path of teaching themselves before going on to earn a terminal degree in things like policy, or curriculum and instruction. They learn HOW to teach and engage children but never once is there a mention of HOW to teach and engage the next generation of teachers. As we struggle in online teacher education to be included in teacher preparation programs, the andragogical needs of the teacher to be trained are often overlooked. However, the reality is that those of us tasked with preparing the next generation of teachers must recognize that we are no longer just K12 educators, but adult educators as well, and as such need both the education in adult learning as well as the support of professional networks and organizations; organizations like AAACE. As a fledgling adult educator, I need a place to share not only best practices in K12 online learning, but also a place to share best practices in how to reach these virtual teachers. Now that I have found such a place, I plan to share this knowledge with other teacher educators in the hopes that they too will understand the importance of the study of adult learning.

My first AAACE conference was in November of 2016, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I served as a roundtable panelist, a volunteer, and dashed into as many sessions as possible. I met so many talented adult educators that I hope to work with again in the future. I still have piles of notes from my sessions that I continue to sort through, a great many offering suggestions on creating virtual learning for adults that I hope to incorporate in the classes I teach. I left the conference with a renewed sense of self; that the obstacles I felt I faced in training teachers could be overcome with the help of the people I met in this organization.

I am already planning my roundtable for 2017 as I wouldn’t miss the conference for the world. I want to be as active in AAACE and my SIG because my responsibility as a teacher educator is twofold. I need to be prepared to teach both children AND adults to be the best teacher educator that I can be. And, I look to AAACE to help me achieve this goal.
See you all in Memphis!

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