characteristics of learners

Situational Factors

As I reflect on the situational factors listed in Fink’s book on Exhibit 3.2, I could include all of them.  However,  I’m going to focus on the characteristics of the learner and the teacher.  With respect to the learners, I had this exact conversation with Dr. Cam Carlson last week when we chatted about the type of course I should be building and I asked – Who are the clients – who are we building this for?  That is classic Stephen Covey – Begin with the End in Mind.

The program in which I teach is housed within UAF’s School of Management.  It has recently evolved into what is now known as the Center for Arctic Security and Resilience (CSAR)  integrating various aspects of Arctic security, human security, and disaster management with the added focus on resilience.   The program was recently described in a Cornerstone article.

Cam and I discussed that this course would be for Master’s students as we look at the systemic risk of climate change.  Bringing it back to both Fink and an article by Ana Altamirano, Another article that I found useful as I collect my thoughts on this project focused on the 9 characteristics of 21st-century learning.  The title certainly sounds similar to an article that we reviewed earlier in the semester.  However, I’m liking this graphic a whole lot more – could it be because it feels as if it applies more to adult learners than to K-12?  Perhaps I sense my bias towards the presentation.

I believe that the students in this program will be similar to those in the current program in that they are usually a working student with family responsibilities, that they have a desire to expand their knowledge about Arctic security and how it might apply to their work, several students might have a military background as they reflect DoD as a primary customer of CSAR, they will most likely have familiarity with the UAF program and they will have a strong motivation to learn more about climate change and the need for building resilience against issues such as coastal inundation.  I believe they will have diverse learning styles and that I can plan to incorporate methods that speak to each of the branches in the tree above.

I expect this to be a smaller cohort than for the undergraduate course, meaning that there is an opportunity for more intimate conversation.   I expect that it will be mostly online, although with an opportunity for periodic seminars and integration with other aspects of the program.

My initial thinking is that this will be a course based on risk analysis, similar to the one I teach to undergraduates in the same program.  However,  there will be a focus on systemic risks as we review the frameworks and policies that influence both climate change and resilience.  We will consider the upside of risk, rather than just the downside as we do when we use the DHS framework.   There will be case studies as we deconstruct the types of hazards, threats, and vulnerabilities that contribute to these consequences and there will be a series of decision analyses and communication projects for students to process and develop their own communication styles on this topic.

The subject matter has certainly engendered a lot of debate.  It will be a topic with a lot of divergent thinking and requiring the evaluation of the interconnectedness of risk to a far greater degree than what we currently teach.

However, I think that the part that will make developing this module/course so challenging is not based on the students – it is based on me as a teacher feeling that I am on the margin of my competence and confidence in this field,  that I will need time to develop this course and that the program is still undergoing CourseLeaf review so it’s difficult to determine if the program will need to move in a different direction after review.  While I’ve invested a lot of practice in developing new modules and enhancing the learning objectives in my current course, I still need to look at the learning objectives from the point of the learner, not the teacher.  This will be a new area of risk analysis for me and I will need to do some research.  I have resources that I can reach out to, and I’m going to need the students to be fully engaged in order to make this work.   I anticipate that if this class is a good fit with the overall program, that I will continue to teach it – at least until such time as the need is shown not to materialize or I am leaving the field of teaching.

I would say that at the moment, I have higher confidence in the students’ abilities than mine.  We will need to see where this journey takes us.

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