Education and Spelling Foundation. Part 4

Best Practices for Adult Classrooms

The ultimate goal of universities should be to serve students and help them attain the highest level of academic achievement possible. Without effective faculty such a task is quite literally impossible. It is therefore the mission of all university faculty to be innovative leaders in developing students’ minds to think independently and act appropriately so they can become well established, successful members of society. Nonetheless, the professor’s greatest lesson is one of student self-discovery, and the knowledge of social learning and self-directed learning theories can build an autonomous learning empire around the solid foundation. According to Lunenberg and Korthagen (2005), learning is “an active process in which learners build up personal knowledge representations that are the products of their own learning experiences” (3). These lessons inspire, intrigue, and internalize a world of learning which emanates from a place of self-knowledge and self-application to a world of new possibilities and solutions, and, according to Ware and Kitsantas, only through teacher and student self-efficacy and through a high level of intrinsic commitment of faculty members can the potentialities of each dimension be reached (2007).

Self-efficacy is an excellent platform upon which new strategies can be built. Jensen (1998) states that the same part of the human brain that is responsible for movement is also responsible for learning. Effective teachers therefore implement interesting tactics to engage students and ensure a certain level of student energy is maintained. Student achievement is enhanced by teacher enthusiasm. Faculty who exhibit animated behaviors often keep students attentive (Marzano R. , 2007). Animated behaviors include role-play scenarios that teach social skills and respect to students. Research has indicated that teacher efficacy is often a good indicator of student achievement and teacher goal-setting and attainment (Berman, McLaughlin, Bass, Pauly, & Zellman, 1977). Similarly, Ashton and Webb (1986) found that university students who had faculty with higher self-efficacy, performed significantly better on tests and were more likely to stay in school.

In an interview, doctoral candidate Darin Stockhill discussed research and the various disciplines of higher education. Stockhill and Moore (2011) soon found that much of the pedagogical research in education is misrepresented in the available literature. Therefore, the initial use of best practice is inherently tied to the selection of research and the relevant analyses and applications. In order to develop methods that will increase student learning, faculty must understand barriers to student learning, know how students learn, and develop classroom techniques that will encourage learning among college students (Stage & Hossler, 2000). In 1992, the learning-style perceptions of the faculty members and of traditional and adult students were roughly aligned. With students of varying ages, sexes, backgrounds returning to colleges and universities, significant attention is continuously given to modern learning styles and learning types (Ross-Gordon, 2003). Darling-Hammond (2003) suggests that to teach effectively and impact learning, faculty must be well prepared and properly trained in classroom dynamics.

The available literature on the specific application of best practices is equally diverse, and each discipline requires its own vocabulary and instructional approach. Although referring to historical studies in particular, some best practices can be generalized. For example, faculty members may choose to engage in a historical debate wherein they aid students in the comparative identification of questions and answers and create a personal understanding of historical accounts (Stockdill & Moore, 2011). The non-traditional presentation of information is one common tactic for increasing self-efficacy and engaging students and further encourages students to inquire about omitted information, thereby making them active participants in the learning process (Marzano R. , 2007). Ross-Gordon (2003) emphasizes three components as best practices for the education of adults: the promotion of critical thinking and reflection, the minimalization of inequality or positioning, and the responsive curriculum and instructor. Stockhill and Moore (2011) also suggest that the identification of the most prevalent strong and weak points in learning should be incorporated into new strategies for the presentation of this material.

The 2010 CCSSE report, which also included the most recent findings of the CCFSSE and the SENSE, recommended that colleges a) reconceptualize the classroom, b) use data to improve the learning culture, c) be open with faculty about current weaknesses, d) maintain standards and be positive about struggling learners, e) seek out sound faculty leadership and participation, f) revise academic policies, g) seek out student input, h) provide strategic professional development, and i) design policies to facilitate student successes (“THE HEART OF STUDENT SUCCESS”, 2010).

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