Approaching Remedial Education with Self-directed Learning Principles

Instructional Problem Description

Each calendar year over $200 million is needed in the state of Texas alone to address the needs of remedial coursework in higher education (Kever, 2010). Students simply cannot do the work required of them which demands a need of developmental education to teach the basics from elementary education, namely reading, writing and mathematics. The unfortunate component to the remedial courses is the credits do not apply toward college graduation or toward the student’s degree. Much of the need for this remedial education derives from a lack of study habits. Students appear for class as well as exams and expect to pass on the merits of attendance as if the knowledge were integrated into their minds through the process of osmosis.

Approaching Remedial EducationDenis Udall, the officer of education for the Hewlett Foundation, shares “Sixty to seventy percent of community college students requires some remedial work” (Hewlett Foundation, 2010, para 12). He continues to share the working reasons for the increased need of these courses in higher education. Many students have forgotten or simply do not have the needed study skills. Many students have returned to school after a long hiatus since high school. This gap has produced holes in their knowledge. Some simply do not remember what they learned or come to college with poor grades. The largest reason for the need for remedial education falls back to the lack of an alignment in standards between high school and postsecondary standards (Hammons, 2004).

Jacob (2010) expounds on this problem with the help of the Gates Foundation, University of Texas and the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development. These organizations agree that the underlying problem is the lack of study skills. Students have been given the opportunities and the knowledge base in many cases but lack the ability to assimilate the information due to poor study skills. These foundations propose the need for active learning environments to enhance students’ study skills. This move from teaching information to teaching lifelong study habits has the possibility to decrease the need for remedial education while increasing student retention rates. All students need the opportunity to learn these skills as active learners.

Self-directed learning has the capability to fulfill these needs through providing direction for students to learn study skills with the guidance of an instructor or professor. The principles of self-directed learning began with the work of Malcolm Knowles (Merriam, 2010) and Allen Tough (Smith, 1996) who composed the principles which led to life-long learning for adults. They based much of their information and research off of the foundational works of Thorndike, Bregman, Tilton, and Woodyard (Merriam, 2010) who launched the field of adult education. In the 1950s, Knowles noted a difference in the way in which adults learn in comparison to the way in which children learn (Smith, 2002).

In recognizing these learning differences, Knowles acknowledged a need to differentiate between teaching children and teaching adults since adults did not require the same guidance as children in their learning practices. To this point, teacher-directed learning had been a composite of the Greek words ‘paid’, meaning child, and ‘agogus’, meaning leader. Pedagogy was defined as teacher-directed learning.

Lesson Plans
Click on image for a lesson plans and teaching resources.

With this understanding in the root of the word pedagogy, Knowles coined the term andragogy to be applied to accurately describe the adult learning process. Andragogy means self-directed learning. This terminology came from the Greek words ‘andr’, meaning man, and ‘agogus’, meaning leader. Andragogy is defined as the science of helping human beings to study and learn.

Learning Solution Proposal

Rose (2009) expounds on this problem of remedial education stating that institutions within higher education agree that the underlying problem is the lack of study skills. Students have been given the opportunities and the knowledge base in many cases but lack the ability to assimilate the information due to poor study skills (Attewell et al., 2006). These foundations propose the need for active learning environments to enhance students’ study skills. This move from teaching information to teaching lifelong study habits has the possibility to decrease the need and expense (Bettinger et al., 2006) for remedial education while increasing student retention rates.

Since learning is an essential part of every day living for every individual, it requires that we acquire skills and knowledge to compete in a swiftly changing world as supported by current research. In this demanding global environment, self-directed learning strategies are essential to the survival of mankind. As individuals fail to adapt, they also become obsolete. To combat the ineffective study skills, new students will participate in a self-directed learning curriculum embedded within the remedial education course.

This curriculum will consist of the principles set forth in self-directed learning as they investigate and create study habits. The instructor will provide students with positive learning experiences through motivation, goal setting, self-efficacy, and even modeling self-control (Guglielmino, 2006; Horn et al., 2009). Teachers can encourage, as well as demonstrate (Boyer et al., 2007), the attitudes, values, skills and personality traits which are consistent with independent learning environment such as “initiative, independence, responsibility, self-discipline, self-confidence, and curiosity, as well as planning, time-management, and study skills” (Guglielmino, 2006, p. 3).

Teachers need to motivate students to pursue self-directed learning principles to the end of a lifelong learning desire. Younger students need to be taught how to deal with problems as they arise in their quests and be empowered with problem solving options. As a result these tools move the learning from needing extrinsic motivation to relying on intrinsic motivation (Gibbons, 2008).

The greatest benefits of the application of self-directed learning is the type of learner it creates. The learner moves from being a reactive recipient of knowledge to a proactive procurer for information. Self-directed learners demonstrate a greater awareness of themselves and their responsibility to contribute to their society and community. Additionally, these learners develop the characteristics of “persistence, independence, self-discipline, self-confidence and goal-oriented” (Atherton, 2009, p. 1) as well as evolving their leadership skills. “One of the most important tasks of the teacher is to raise student awareness of their roles in learning” (ibid., p. 1).

Sources:

Atherton, J. (2009). Learning and teaching; learning contracts. Retrieved from www.learningandteaching.info/teaching/learning_contracts.htm

Attewell, P., Lavin, D., Thurston, D. & Levey, T. (2006). New evidence on college remediation. The Journal of Higher Education, 77(5), 886-924.

Bettinger, E. P. & Long, B. T. (2006). Remediation at the community college: Student participation and outcomes. New Directions for Community Colleges, 2006(129), 17-26.

Gibbons, M. (2008). Motivating Students And Teaching Them to Motivate Themselves. Retrieved from www.selfdirectedlearning.com/article2.html

Guglielmino, L. (2006). Promoting Self-Directed Learning for the Florida GED PLUS Student. Retrieved from www.floridatechnet.org/gedplus/2006Institute/SuccessfulDistanceLearning/PromotingSelfDirectedLearning2.pdf

Hammons, C. (2004). The cost of remedial education.  Retrieved from http://www.alabamapolicy.org/pdf/re_study.pdf

Hewlett Foundation. (2011). Foundations -A Q & A with Denis Udall, Education program officer. Retrieved from http://www.hewlett.org/newsroom/foundations-qa-denis-udall-education-program-officer

Horn, C., McCoy, Z., Campbell, L., & Brock, C. (2009). Remedial testing and placement in community colleges. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 33(6), 510-526.

Jacobs, J. (2010). Who’s ready for remedial education. Retrieved from http://communitycollegespotlight.org/tags/achieving-the-dream/

Kever, J. (2010). Many in college lack basic skills. Retrieved from http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/7018694.html

Merriam, S. (2011). Andragogy and self-directed learning: pillars of adult learning theory. Retrieved from 74.125.155.132/scholar?

Rose, M. (2009). The positive purpose of remediation, getting to the core of higher education.  About Campus, 14(5), 2-4.

Smith, M.K. (1996). Self-direction. Retrieved from www.infed.org/biblio/b-selfdr.htm

Smith, M. K. (2002) ‘Malcolm Knowles, informal adult education, self-direction and anadragogy’, the encyclopedia of informal education. Retrieved from www.infed.org/thinkers/et-knowl.htm

By Tracy Atkinson

Tracy Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the Midwest with her husband. She is a teacher, having taught elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education and a master’s in higher education. Her passion is researching, studying and investigating the attributes related to self-directed learners. She has published several titles, including Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Lemosa: The Annals of the Hidden, Book Two, Rachel’s 8 and Securing Your Tent. She is currently working on a non-fiction text exploring the attributes of self-directed learners: The Five Characteristics of Self-directed Learners.

Tracy Harrington-Atkinson

Tracy Harrington-Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the mid-west with her husband. She loved storytelling and sharing her stories with her children. As they grew, she started writing her stories down for them. She is a teacher, having taught from elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education, masters in higher education and continued on to a PhD in curriculum design. Her husband, Kerry and Tracy breed miniature dachshunds and love to spend time with their growing family. She has published several books including Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Rachel's 8 and Securing Your Tent.

%d bloggers like this: