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What Your May Have Missed in Memphis: Military Related Presenations

Monday, December 18, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Patricia Brewer and Ashley Gleiman, Military SIG
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Military education is one of the oldest of all adult education settings. For those who were not able to attend the Memphis conference this year, members of the Military SIG suggested this newsletter article as an update on military-related presentations, their relevance to the field of adult education, and how the presentations both reflect and inform our practice. Only two presentations were listed as part of the “Military Education Strand” in the conference proceedings. The summary below includes those two, along with other conference sessions that relate to military education and the current thinking of AAACE membership.

Two major themes were evident in this year’s presentations. The first of these is the concept of “transition”, variously applied to different contexts throughout military education. Berg and Rousseau’s research focused primarily on transition within professional military education, while Hunter-Johnson’s research explored the experiences of service members in transition, particularly as the member transitions from a military environment to one focused on higher education. Hunter-Johnson’s research provides specific emphasis on the learning environment and contrasts that may be made between the environment typically seen in the military context (which she identified as behaviorist) and that seen in adult higher education (identified as humanist). Berg and Rousseau go beyond the element of transition with an inquiry as to how prior combat-related experiences affect subsequent graduate-level professional military education for female service members. In both examples, the researchers pay particular attention to the concept of transition and what helps, or hinders, a successful one.

The second theme to emerge from this year’s presentations surrounds the connection between adult learning theory and the intentionality with which one aligns practice with theory. Three of the presenters (Brewer, Craig, and Hunter-Johnson) specifically discussed the link between theory and practice (otherwise referred to as “theories in practice” by Craig) in their presentations. Craig and Hunter-Johnson discussed similar practice approaches (behaviorist and humanist) used in military education. However, Craig notes that occupational and military professional training often follow the behaviorist approach, while voluntary education programs are more humanistic in their approaches to learning. Additionally, Brewer used a similar description of theory-in-practice to support the efficacy of American Council on Education credit recommendations. She noted that an examination of credit awards and the variances among awards, based upon the role that the service member plays in her respective community of practice, reflects components of situated cognition, a subset of experiential learning theory.

A brief summary of each presentation, along with author information, is provided below. Members of the Military SIG thank each of the authors for their willingness to provide information for this newsletter.

The Effects of Gender Related Combat Stress on Adult learning in a Military Academic Environment (Paul E. Berg, Ph.D., Chief of Academic Affairs, VPAA, Army University, KS and Jessica Rousseau, M.S. Psychology Mental Health Counseling and L.P.C, Kansas). This research describes how combat experiences affected female Army officers who attended the Command and General Staff Officer College. The female Army officers’ combat experiences were found to affect their academic learning, classroom experience, and coping mechanisms in a graduate-level professional military education program. The findings of this case study indicated that combat experiences affect female students who served in the Army in Iraq and Afghanistan. This study contributes to the continued research on effects of combat on adult learning, specifically adding to the limited works on being a female serving in the Army.

Finding Theory in Practice (Patricia R. Brewer, Ed.D., CUP Regional Liaison, American Council on Education). This session compared key elements of the theory of situated cognition (social learning, emphasis on context and environment, cognitive apprenticeship, and legitimate peripheral participation) with processes associated with military course instruction and occupational training. The career and education lifecycles of the Navy Quartermaster provided an example and were examined in light of the American Council on Education’s credit recommendations for various Quartermaster pay grade and skill levels. The recommendations reflect the evaluators’ understandings of cognitive growth and professional development, in alignment with the theory’s emphasis on higher-order thinking and its focus on community of practice.

Military Adult Continuing Education (Robert Craig, Jr., MPA, M.Ed., Ph.D. Student, School of Education [Adult Learning], Virginia Commonwealth University). This presentation reviewed the traditions of adult learning theories-in-practice (i.e., humanist, behaviorist) that have evolved and influenced the way adult learning is supported today in the U.S. Military. It provided a synopsis of the DoD’s adult education environment and its three main components: occupational training, professional military education, and the voluntary education program. In particular, the presentation reviewed the DoD’s voluntary education programs from 1943 through 1974, along with the adult learning theories-in-practice that shaped the programs during this period. The research revealed that the humanist orientation to learning, with its emphasis on a person’s potential for growth, was reflected in the United States Armed Forces Institute’s voluntary education program. Additionally, the programs also reflected behaviorist adult learning attributes due to its emphasis on measurable outcomes by using end-of-course exams and the G.E.D. test.

Promoting a Veteran Friendly Learning Environment: Veterans the Ultimate Nontraditional Learner (Yvonne Hunter-Johnson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Southern Illinois University Carbondale). Utilizing higher education as the map for transitioning from the military to the civilian workforce has prompted much discussion and research within the fields of adult education, workforce education, human resource development, and career development and transition. This qualitative study explores the experiences of veterans who are transitioning from the military to the civilian workforce and are utilizing higher education as a tool. Emphasis is placed on the difference in the learning environment of the military, guided by the behaviorism theory and pedagogical approach, compared with the adult learning environment in higher education which is more humanistic in its approach and guided by principles of andragogy and the role of the adult educator with promoting veteran-friendly learning environments.

We are also pleased to identify the additional military-related presentations that were presented during the Memphis conference:
• Utilizing Integrated Project Teams: An Essential Element of Online Course Development (poster presentation), Bethany Cleveland, Ph.D., primary presenter;
• The Veteran Student Transition: From the Military to Higher Education, Katie Crall;
• PTSD – From Surviving to Thriving: My Story and Lessons Learned for Educators and Leaders, Michael McGlenen.

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