Educating Adult Students: A Comprehensive Model for

January 5, 2018 | Author: Anonymous | Category: Arts & Humanities, Communications
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Beth Donnellan, M.Ed, ABD Kaplan University

I. Who are adult students and how do they learn? (emphasis on communication and learning processes)

II. Path from Recovery to Learning to Helping Others (emphasis on growth of students from addict to student to professional)

III. Model for Training Addiction Professionals (emphasis on matching individual growth with career development)

The student you are, is the professional you will be!

Students are “visual, auditory, or kinesthetic” Students complete assigned reading, think about the material throughout the day, and prioritize college learning. Students have two hours a day to devote to their studies. Students are used to voicing their opinions/ideas in class settings

Basic cognitive process is the same in all brains

The brain is designed to NOT THINK. Instead, we automatize processes, actions, and thoughts.

Communication Styles Assured: Adults who use direct, non-emotional

communication. They understand the importance of setting (socially appropriate).

Emotional: Adults who use reactive or manipulative

communication (this is often a habit). May not understand social appropriateness of settings (e.g. classroom vs home).

Lost Voice: Adults who have “learned” to be silent. They do not believe that their voice matters or are afraid to speak.

Assured Example: Hi Prof, I am writing because I just realized that I did not complete my assignment due this week. There are no excuses, I just forgot to finish it and submit it on time. I submitted the assignment a moment ago and hope that you will still grade it for me. I am enjoying class very much and appreciate this learning opportunity, Mary

Emotional Example: Hey, I just saw my grade for the last assignment. It is NOT FAIR that you gave me a zero. I TOLD YOU that I was going to turn it in late because of my family situation. Please fix this. I turned it in last hour and you need to grade it. This is the third time that I have had to write to you about this. You told me that you understood my situation. Whatever…

Lost Voice Example: Dear Professor Donnellan, My name is Jarnell and i am a student in your PS124 Introduction to Psychology class. i am sorry that I have not written to you or participated in class for the last month. I know that i am going to fail, at this point, i totally deserve it. Thanks for being a good instructor, i hope to have you again when things get better. *****************************************************************

1. 2.

Consideration in training students for work in the addictions field. Clients will often use emotional and lost voice type communication. Both can be manipulative. Learning to use assured communication will teach students a valuable clinical skill early in their program. But….. HOW do we do this? Model professionalism in communication Send out samples of proper communication at the beginning of the term. Then, remind students of it.

Learning is a process and so, is automatized. Most adults have developed a “learning habit” that is behavioral in nature. Past addictive behaviors can affect their present learning opportunities. These habits are hard to see in self and harder to change. It is not impossible to recondition learning schemas though.

Great intention

Complete assignment at last minute

Tell self will do on weekend

Think about doing the work

Get busy in “life”

Great intention

Submit work on time or early

Ask questions and review work

Preview work/plan

Do some work each day and more if time

The student you are, is the professional you will be! 1.


Provide students with a motivational goal. Help students define a professional end goal (first end goal). Example: “I want to work as a case manager in an addictions treatment agency in two years.” The second end goal might be, “I want to earn my state full certification in addictions treatment in three years.” Help students create small goals to reach. “I will complete my assignments on Thursdays of each week.”

3. Support students for their completing work on-time. We often focus on those who DO NOT complete work on time. 4. Remind students of the link between student behaviors and professional behaviors. 5. Have them reflect on how their habits are changing (as a class or individually). Supply tools to help: paper or note templates.




Traits of Addiction Students: Despite individual differences in communication style, many students share very personal information in class. Example- sample of student email

Hi Prof D, I know that I wrote about this on the discussion board, but I was not sure if you saw it. I am a recovering alcoholic and just fell off the wagon last week. Honestly, I am so sorry about not getting my work done. It was just, a lot all at once. I am better and quickly stopped my drinking (called my sponsor). This is not an excuse, just letting you know why my work is late. Your student- Jessica ** The referenced post garnered many supportive comments from her classmates.

Addictions Clients: What are some characteristics of their communication patterns? Think about the reasons for the communication!

Adult College Students: What are the reasons for their communications? 1. 2. 3.

Show academic understanding Ask for assistance Share personal information

Addictions Professionals: What are the reasons for their communications? 1. Professional helping (e.g. identify problems) 2. Ask for assistance 3. Share personal information

Consider this…

Recovery/Assisting Someone (Family and Friends) Will be encouraged to focus communication on recovery activities, asking for assistance, and sharing.

Addictions Student

Will be encouraged to focus on academic communication. Asking assistance is next and in many classes, sharing is discouraged.

Addictions Professional

Will be encouraged to focus on professional communication for helping clients. There is much less focus on asking for assistance or sharing personal information (e.g. often discouraged).

College: Transitional role between recovery and professional. This provides more “clean time” and time to build professional skills. Many former addicts were developmentally arrested during their using years. Teens who use into their adult years are often behind in understanding appropriate communication and social skills.

Have students discuss scenarios related to “professional communication”. So, if teaching

ethics/confidentiality, use examples of types of challenges that professionals AND college interns might face. Include college interns and volunteers in your examples. 

If students communicate inappropriately, send examples (via email) of other choices that the student might make. Help them to clarify the intent of their messages.

“Know-it-all Students” need help in breaking down their fear of learning. Many might be in the field and want to rely on their experiences. “Off-Topic Students” need help in focusing. If the student disregards lessons, he/she may not have a copy of the text or might not understand at all. Reach out directly. “Vanishing Students” need help staying committed or need understanding. Sometimes, the student is uncomfortable with the subject matter.

“Addiction Is A Choice” these students can continue to stick to a viewpoint that keeps them from learning. To reduce arguments and increase teaching, help the student focus on learning the theories of addiction. This gives the student a “way out”. **Similar to providing counseling, WITHOUT doing so, students need guidance for learning new skills.

Many facilities are usually willing to take on a student volunteer/intern if the student agrees to not be paid. Helps students face realities: drug testing for volunteers, criminal background (once students get over the fear of facing this, it is easier to help them look for jobs), and understanding local job market. Eagerness for learning is transformed when these barriers are reduced.

Most students assume that either they will immediately be employed or will have a very hard time getting a job. The majority of our students report that they will “think about this later”. Assign a career counselor to build partnerships with addictions agencies who are “college student friendly”. Provide students with lists/job descriptions of all of the jobs in the field. There are A LOT!!


Consider students as having treatment experience or “vicarious experience” (through friends and family). -their experiences can taint their desire to learn other models or approaches - create parameters for sharing in formal academic venues - understand that some students might be triggered by the information in class (old behaviors– manipulation, self-blame, shame) - use class policies as solid guidelines (late work)

2. Understand that some students in recovery have not had many positive formal learning experiences. -teach them how to study and provide templates for papers (scaffold their learning) -create formal opportunities in class for structured sharing that is closely monitored (discussion board thread or live class discussion) -remember that students might hold strong opinions about treatments/drugs because of raw personal experiences. Do not ignore these strong opinions and do not argue with them- use this as a teaching situation (“let’s find evidence from the Psychology of Addictive Behaviors journal to support both sides).

Encourage meetings with career development professionals in first term, give them to find local agencies, and have them meet with other students who have jobs. Create student organizations for those interested in studying addictions science (e.g. Kaplan University). Create a relationships with local agencies who are willing to take unpaid volunteers. Agencies who allow students to intern can train them and learn to trust them. Many of our students who follow this model gain employment following graduation.

Create scenarios in class to help students apply the theories. Provide opportunities for students to debate drug policy issues outside of the classroom (e.g. KU Addictions Division debated the legalization of marijuana) Encourage students from other departments to take addiction science classes. Maintain a database of job descriptions in the addictions/dual diagnosis fields.

Create a Capstone project that helps students to use the information learned in a practical project. Hold seminars about how to find jobs when the student has criminal convictions. Train faculty to maintain the same policies so that students cannot manipulate. Provide opportunities for students to build sense of self and practice developing direct communication skills.

Please contact: Beth Donnellan, Kaplan University [email protected] (813) 933-5382 See more details in: Donnellan, E.G. (2014) If you build it, they will come: Create virtual student organizations. In C. Stevenson & J. Bauer, Building online communities in higher education institutions: Creating collaborative experience. New York: IGI Global.

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