The examination of the many learning theories applied to adult education served as a very thorough exploration of my own philosophies and methods as an educator. As I look back at each theory and my perceptions of them, I find it difficult to specifically identify with just one. I had previously pigeon-holed myself as identifying with strictly experiential and transformative learning theories. This comes from my foundations as an educator for the massage therapy profession. Additionally, as I considered my beginnings in teaching massage therapy, I had never felt the need to question my teaching methods or concepts because they were dictated to me. But now I feel as though I have grown beyond this, and I am evolving as a truly trained educator.
The studies of andragogy and transformative learning are what prompted my overall idea of diving deeper into the inner core structure of massage therapy education as we currently know it, entitled the Entry Level Assessment Project or ELAP. I was curious to find if there were clear learning theories applied in its construction. Many colleagues have referred to these documents as proverbial bibles to the education methods of my profession, but I often wondered where its foundations were. In many of my posts and reflection entries, I looked for ways in which I currently utilized the theory in the classroom or developed a new approach by using a method I had not used before. As an evaluative internal process, I started to compare my understandings of each educational method to the ELAP and realized there were some real gaps in application, which seemed to have further correlation to the present-day difficulties with the whole industry as it contributes to licensure reciprocity and equitability in educational training standards. As I learned each theory's tenets, it became clear to me that there were many variations in which to employ learning theories to many aspects of teaching. It is possible to incorporate many elements in teaching practice, but the key is in the suitability to the content as it pertains to effective learning transfer. Some learning methods such as self-directed, transformative, experiential, embodied, and brain-based learning theories can be applied in individual components of an instructional design for a course or a program; however, andragogy, adult motivation in learning, and technology usage are more overarching theories emphasized on a more global scale of educational application rather than an individual lesson approach. I found this to be very telling for me as I developed my perspectives as an educator. The changes in my preferential way of thinking about educational theories came from how I could perceive using the theory into practice.
A pivoting moment for me came with a degradation in my professional respect for the for the ELAP blueprint. I was completely disappointed in discovering how the ELAP employed poor and inaccurate interpretation of Wlodkowski’s theory of adult motivation in learning. In my view, it seemed all wrong. There were other elements of inaccuracy with the application of experiential learning too. As I begin to unleash a full arsenal on the ELAP structure, it led me to conclude that not only did the ELAP have some shortcomings in its recommendations for theory application of certain topics and subtopics in achieving higher taxonomy levels, but its interpretations have had some effect on educational structure and delivery for the massage therapy profession, and it hasn't been favorable. I realize that my opinions may not be very well received in the massage therapy educational realm; however, my conclusions are not necessarily without merit and are worth consideration. The ELAP project provided a beginning of a structure to something that had no structure before and that is to be commended; however, through my exploration and knowledge on adult learning theories, I feel as though I can significantly contribute to improving upon ELAP to more modern standards and application of learning methods. I also believe, just as with any educational structure, the establishment of an updating cycle with a task force of trained educators, not just subject matter experts, at the helm is needed to ensure quality is maintained and theory is properly applied. To read my full research paper, go to the Research section of my site.