Specific best practices are best informed by the use of two theoretical rationales: SDL and SL. In the adult classroom, SDL generally occurs first, and the study of adult learning has assumed that these theories would best serve these students, who are so accustomed to their independence and who often possess more experience than younger students (Ross-Gordon, 2003). However, the diversity of adult learners is too broad for such a generalization regarding the preference for total independence, and some individuals require the faculty member’s encouragement of SDL to be successful. This may be introduced by a point of interest which the professor presents to pique the interests of the students and may even be drawn from the professor’s own experiences and discoveries. When the students are engaged in the curriculum, they participate more and are more willing (and eager) to direct their own learning, melding curricular learning and self-directed learning. Unique to higher education, the amount of integration of self-directed learning is positively correlated with the students’ establishment of new, deeper connections to the reading and with the application of subject knowledge in a real setting (Lunenberg & Korthagen, 2005).
Modern students expect both more faculty involvement (with little wait) and lower costs. While inherently not bad, the increased availability of the faculty members may create a dependence in the traditional classroom experience (James, 2007). Terry (2006) writes that self-directed learning develops the psychological, cognitive, and social development required to adapt to adulthood and further argues that the concept of self-directed learning must be considered as a continuum of student circumstances. These successes can be facilitated through independent study, tutoring, and the strengthening of familial and/or social support (p. 33). Additionally, students who are undereducated or who possess exceptionalities may still actively participate in their learning through the selection of subject, topic, pace, and the schedule- not regularity- of attendance (Terry, 2006). The variety of resources for achieving an understanding of a student’s readiness for SDL can be consulted to provide an inventory of sorts of current intellectual assets and of the support systems which a student may have not taken into account previously (Ross-Gordon, 2003).
As mentioned previously, adult literacy in America is on the decline. Coupled with the demands of learning exceptionalities, such as attention deficit disorder or autism, the curriculum must make allowances for students to assume the confidence for SDL at their own pace but with significant encouragement from the faculty members. All students should direct their learning according to goals and their “assessed skills at program intake and their developing levels of comfort with independent learning” (Terry, 2006, p. 36).
When students have begun to direct their own learning, the positive social support of the learning environment strengthens the students’ commitment to learning and elevates their understanding of the multi-dimensional nature of information. In particular, this article seeks to understand the cumulative potential of student engagement and positive biographical inclusion as utilized by a self-efficacious professor. Semi-historical and personal approaches seek to channel the behavioral modeling elements of social learning, which facilitate the earliest human learning (Ahwee et al., 2004). In the process, more advanced critical thinking skills are engaged. The students together learn to identify inadequacies, injustice, and misinformation, as they perceive them, and to consider their ability to transform these facets (Ross-Gordon, 2002).
Less than half of community college students obtain their educational goal within 6 years, and just over half of first-year students return to college the following year. Both the faculty members and the students make contributions to that troubling statistic, and perceptions of student engagement are a crucial factor in achievement. According to the Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCCSE) and CCFSSE 2010 Cohort findings, faculty perceptions of student engagement were slightly higher than that which was reported by the students- with the exception of student collaboration (outside of class) for assignments. This sparks new areas for the study of the impact of faculty members’ drastic underestimation of time investment in group work and subsequent grading and for the study of the areas of study and time investment in which the students are collaboratively engaged. Regardless, one of the CCCSE recommendations holds that faculty and student expectations should be raised along with faculty encouragement for students. This result was also supported by the findings of the most recent Survey of Entering Student Engagement (SENSE) and by the 2010 CCFSSE (“THE HEART OF STUDENT SUCCESS”, 2010).
For entering students, courses often seem unrelated to the goals which they attempt to reach; just over half of SENSE respondents indicated that they had written a plan to that effect. Furthermore, entering students are not made aware of the various study skills or of personality and habitual inventories which determine student strengths and weaknesses but are made aware of external college resources for their aid. Thus, their information largely emphasizes dependence through the lack of self-education, the search for external resources, and the lowered student expectations (“THE HEART OF STUDENT SUCCESS”, 2010). This approach demeans the capabilities of the students and does not allow them to enjoy the thrill of learning for themselves. Griffard (2010) writes that student engagement and achievement are often triadic, involving a balance of will, skill, and thrill. In this view, the faculty members are depriving students of skill and thrill, and students are undergoing the first year of education as a test of will rather than of the depth of their current and developing education.