Sunday, March 24, 2013

SIG 2013: Resources on Teaching Veterans as Adult Learners in the Composition Classroom

Dr. Sonia Feder-Lewis
Saint Mary’s University of MN, Twin Cities Campus

Resources on Teaching Veterans as Adult Learners in the Composition Classroom

A  VERY small collection of resources, in an idiosyncratic order, with my “favorites” at the top of each section.  Adult learning theory, from Malcolm Knowles onwards, has emphasized self-directed learning, and drawing on student experience to build student engagement, under the label of Andragogy.  The new term of art, Heutagogy, stresses the idea of self-determined learning, in which the learner not only is responsible for pursuing the learning, but in part designing it as well.  Familiar to those of us who practice critical pedagogy, heutagogy may be particularly relevant to teaching veterans, who may see their educational journey differently.

Relevant Articles on Veterans

Corley, Liam.  (2012).  Reconsiderations: “Brave Words”: Rehabilitating the Veteran-Writer.  College English, 74(4) 351-365.

Fascinating article from a recent College English, written by an Associate Professor of English after his return from mobilization to Afghanistan, as he tries to grapple with his own dislocation from academia and the challenges of re-entry into a now foreign world and discourse.  The article positions him in many ways as an adult learner, reorienting to the milieu from which he has been estranged, and offers a particularly useful insight for us—we can identify with him, yet gain insight into our veteran students.

Special Edition of Teaching English in the Two-Year College:  Four years ago,  in May of 2009,  Teaching English in the Two-Year College devoted a special issue to Teaching English in a Time of War.   A number of articles are relevant to our quest this time, but I will highlight a few that seemed particularly relevant.

Burdick, Melanie.  (2009). Grading the war story.  Teaching English in the Two-Year College, 36(4), 353-354.

Discusses the difficulties we have in providing effective assessment and feedback to students who write about traumatic combat experiences.

Keily, Denis O. & Swift, Lisa. (2009). Casualties of war: Combat trauma and the return of the combat veteran.  Teaching English in the Two-Year College, 36(4), 357-364.

An intriguing reversal of ideas—suggests that combat veterans of today’s wars offer particular and fresh insights into literature of prior wars, specifically in this case The Odyssey. 

Leonhardy, Galen. (2009). Transformations: Working with veterans in the composition classroom. Teaching English in the Two-Year College, 36(4), 339-352.

This article is often cited by others, and presents a very direct experience of a veteran/teacher about his own experience, both as a teacher and a student, in relation to how veterans incorporate their experiences into their writing.  One of the tenets of adult learning theory is that we encourage students to draw upon their life experience, and validate that learning, yet we have to be prepared for what they share, or chose not to share.

Relevant Articles on Andragogy and Heutagogy

Michelson, Elana. (2011). Autobiograpy and self-hood in the practice of adult learning.  Adult Education Quarterly, 61(1), 3-21.

Michelson attends to the practice of having students write autobiographical essays as part of expressing their learning, and the implications for adult learners in the construction of self within these essays.  She argues that rather than necessarily encouraging true reflection and supporting the discovery of learning, teacher and academic cultural expectations of these narratives can be suppressing and rigid, valuing some sorts of narratives over others, and restricting the students to those condoned narratives.  As we consider the narratives of our veterans, this article seems particular poignant.

Blaschke, Lisa Marie.  (2012). Heutagogy and lifelong learning: A review of heutagogical practice and self-determined learning.  International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 13(1), 56-71.

Blaschke reviews the small but growing literature on heutagogy and offers a clear contrast between that and andragogy.  Heutagogy has been seen primarily as a theory belonging in the world of corporate training and education, but as online learning becomes more and more prevalent, the motivation and engagement of learners is becoming more pressing, and the possibility of greater engagement through greater participation in the construction of their learning seems promising.  As student soldiers increasingly take classes between activations and while activated, and veterans access education through online means, their interests may be served here as well.

McAuliffe, Marisha B. and Hargreaves, Douglas J. and Winter, Abigail J. and Chadwick, Gary (2008) Does pedagogy still rule? In: 19th Annual Conference of Australasian Association for Engineer Education, 7-10 December 2008, Central QueenslandUniversity, Yeppoon.

This paper very concisely compares pedagogy (teacher-directed learning), andragogy (student-direct learning) ,and heutagogy (student-determined learning), with very clear explanations. Australia has been the epicenter of heutagogy research.  While this article focuses on engineering education, the definitions are particularly useful and relevant.