Integration of Theory and Practice - Education Theory in the Business Setting
A teacher and an instructor are similar but different. There is no requirement for a two year degree in order to be an effective instructor and plenty of what an instructor does in the business setting involves skills that are in no way represented in a teaching degree. Teaching, particularly from my program at the U of C, is focused primarily on what education looks like in the formalized school setting. There are discussions and occasional examples from the odd-ball schools, such as the Science School, or the Stampede school, but by and large the expectation is that the preparation is for your standard school setting. By looking at the University of Calgary, both for it's business setting among staff, but also a setting to look at adult learners in a classroom, I have found a few areas of cross over and some rather significant differences.
The two biggest differences between the two that I have discovered is inherent to teaching adults verses children, and the lack of historical baggage that comes with being a teacher. Teachers carry with them images of what it means to be a teacher and the role they fill, along with being social tools that shape the upbringing of the students they interact with every day (Britzman, 2011). An instructor in any capacity also accesses that 'traditional eacher role' simply by teaching. A business setting carries less weight than setting up a classroom with a teacher's desk at the back of the room. If it wasn't completely clear from two years of developing that professional identity, becoming a teacher requires a shift in identity, the societal baggage and ideas following with it. Being an instructor, particularly one who works with adults provides far more flexibility in what a class can look like, and in that freedom there is room for technology to step up and take new roles. I am thinking in particular of our seminar, where so much of it existed in what was shared, critiqued and responded to online.
There are too many differences between teaching adults and youth to fully explore here. However, one that should be touched on is the expectation about appropriate technology use. Cellphones in particular have been embraced in many university lecture halls, where students text in answers to questions in real time and give feedback on a large scale. There is no question about maintaining the technology because the students are expected to come in with their cellphones anyways and it provides exceptional value to the institution. Most of the high school students I taught carried a cell phone, but using them depended on the policy of the school and individual teachers. It would require a teacher to trust the students to bring in technology and use the technology appropriately, trusting that no one is going to take a call in the middle of class, but instead simply use it for school work. These lessons on appropriate technology use are still being taught in many High School classrooms, and there are definite issues with maturity and consistency. Many students simply couldn't handle that level of freedom at the Jr High or High School level. To even suggest taking a phone away from an adult seems absurd, the most that you would ask is that everyone turns their phones on silent before the beginning of a class.
Despite these differences, best practices remain the same, because the crossover between being an instructor to adults, and being a teacher of students is extensive. Differentiation goes by a different name in the business world: Good practice, flexibility and options. During the course of this exploration, I have found many educational theories nested within the standard business practices. On my own team in IT, people are offered the chance to go to a class, read and use a manual, watch a video, come in for one on one training or simply a space to learn and explore the technology, with experts an email or phone call away. What a trained teacher might call differentiation is just good practice at the Support Center. However, so much educational theory does not apply at the adult level simply because it is geared towards developing minds and bodies, seeking to cultivate a sense of self. Certainly my experience with resiliency building would not be overly useful in a business setting, but within the school setting it is my primary means of cultivating a relationship.
Even assessment has its place in the business world, but instead of necessarily testing the ability of young students, the resulting skills and the adult students' assessment of the instructor are the primarily measures of success. It is therefore not preparation that we are testing, but actual application. Often in our teacher preparation program, we spoke of trying to assess real world skills, to applying student skill to real world problems. When training with IT, you can know almost exactly what a student will need to know and the skills they will need in order to do their jobs, so there is far less ambiguity around what skills will be more or less important to a student in the future. It takes so much of the uncertainty out of the equation, particularly when there is no provincial testing standard to fear.
The lessons learned in how to create the best assessments are not lost on instructors. Rather than designing assessments for us to deliver to students to understand how well they have learned the material, instead we ask for some self assessment and critical feedback on the instructor's performance. Knowing how to use and design self assessment and how it fails is a well studied area for education researchers, (Falchikov & Boud, 1989), that was brought up and looked at in great detail during my first year of study in the teacher education program, (Sharpe, 2012). The tools of assessment are used to measure our own abilities as instructors in a direct fashion.
Many theories translate well into a business world, once they are translated into a business language and environment, like backwards design (reverse engineering or teaching from the skills of the curriculum), universal design for learning and assessment.