Free Direct Instructional Model And Adult Learning Research Paper Sample

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Students, Learning, Adult, Adulthood, Model, Concept, Education, Attainment

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2020/11/03

Instruction Models Approach to Teaching Adults in the Modern Day Classroom

Before teaching the adult learners, it is essential for a teacher to understand the principles that work best with adult learners. If the strategies applied to teach preschoolers and school children are put into place for teaching the adult learners too, then that would not be an effective learning method, because adult learners are different from children when it comes to learn a new concept or analyze a situation. Malcolm S. Knowles (1973) is one of the first proponents of the need to apply strategic learning techniques to adult learning. Since adults are driven by the desire to acquire knowledge or learn a skill that they can apply to their immediate circumstances, any technique that involves the framework for encouraging adult learners to apply their real life experiences into the learning experiences works best for stimulating their cognitive skills and learning interest. There are many adult learning theories available in the literature. The three models of learning that will be evaluated and reflected upon in this paper with regard to their effectiveness in the adult learning classroom include Direct Instructional Model, the Concept Attainment Model, and the Socratic Seminar Model.

Direct instructional model refers to the teaching practice in which the students stay in constant interaction with the teachers who guide the students systematically through the learning process, never assuming that students will develop insights of their own. It reinforces the use of a small group of students who are instructed personally by the teachers through carefully designed lessons in which cognitive skills are developed by breaking the lessons down into small parts, deliberately sequencing them and teaching explicitly (Carnine et al., 2004). The basic components on which direct instruction is based include the following:
1. Setting learning goals for students in a way that they understand these goals.
2. Presenting the assignments, which are well-organized, sequentially.
3. Providing students with concise and explicit explanations and illustrations on the topic studied.
4. Asking students questions frequently to see if the students have understood the topic.
5. Providing students with the opportunity to practice their learning.
Though direct instructional model has been found to be effective in teaching preschoolers, school children and adolescents, for adults, however, it appears that self-directed learning method or implicit instruction is more useful. Nonetheless, direct instructional model can be applied to adult learning if the adult students have learning disabilities (LD). Taking into account that direct instructional learning method works best for LD adolescent students, a study was conducted by D. Mellard and D. Scanlon (2006) on adult learners with LD to find out if the same works for them too or not. The study result revealed that adult learners with LD show more improvement in certain subjects like math and reading when taught in a direct and more explicit instruction method. However, the study recommended against the use of the direct instruction model for adult learners with no cognitive barrier.
Taking into consideration the above findings, it appears that though direct instructional model is effective for teaching a few subjects like math and reading, which involve the development of basic skills for complex activities, it is not suitable, however, for teaching less structured subjects like sociology or English composition. The advice of Barak Rosenshine with regard to the avoidance of erroneous applications of direct instruction is worth taking into account. It is important to take the rationale behind this teaching method (Carnine et al., 2004). It intends to improve students' skills by enabling the teachers and students to focus on activities as actively as possible. However, subjects requiring concept building such as English may need less direct strategies to encourage active participation.

The Concept Attainment Model and Adult Learning

The concept attainment learning method has been defined by Bruner, Goodnow, and Austin (1967) as "the search for and listing of attributes that can be used to distinguish exemplars from non-exemplars of various categories." In this model, the emphasis is laid on the learner identifying and determining the attributes of a concept that the teacher wants to teach. For instance, while introducing the concept of Impressionism, a style of painting famously used by the artists like Renoir and Monet, the teacher could present a few positive and negative examples of painting in front of the students to encourage them to point out the similar attributes. The positive examples would have the same attributes that characterize Impressionism, while the negative examples will illustrate a different form of painting style, not similar to Impressionism. While evaluating the examples, the students will distinguish the attributes between positive and negative examples, and will be able to find the features common to each positive example. Thereby, they will build their concept on Impressionism and arrive at its definition by comparing and identifying the attributes of positive examples. The teachers further assist the learning by testing and refining the concept of the students by presenting sub-categories of each positive example. For example, the teacher will help the students further refine the concept by telling them to distinguish between the style of Monet and Renoir.
The basic assumption that works behind the concept attainment model is the instinctive way of learning by human beings. As we grow up, experiencing the world, we naturally categorize things on the basis of similar attributes. The concept attainment model works this principle into practice. For instance, as a child grows up, experiencing the world, he learns instinctively from his own experiences that certain objects belonging to the category called cars have four wheels, transport people and travel on roads. The concept of the child is further tested and refined by the introduction of several models of cars, such as trucks, SUVs, minivans, and motorcycles (Bruner et al, 1956). This model is used for building concept for almost anything, such as movie genres, spelling rules, grammatical base and so on.
The concept attainment model is very effective for adult learning. As adult learners prefer an autonomous and collaborative approach to learning than didactic method, the freedom to learn on their own as encouraged by the concept attainment model suits the needs of adult learners perfectly. Since the adult learners like to bring the experiences of their lives into their learning experiences, this model particularly helps them in building concepts based on their knowledge and life experiences. Over the years, several studies (Linn and Eylonn, 2006, Marzano, Pickering and Pollock, 2001, and Marzano, 2007) have been conducted on the effectiveness of the concept attainment model in adult learning, and unanimously, all the study results showed positive and significant outcome in favor of the concept attainment model (Thomas and Brunsting, 2010).

The Socratic Seminar Model and Adult Learning

In the Socratic Seminar learning model, under the supervision of a teacher, a scholarly discussion takes place between students through which students share their opinions, prove, refute and refine their ideas about the topic. The group discussion helps students in achieving a deep understanding of the subject through disciplined analysis, listening, interpretation and participation. Classes consisting of more than 15 students should use the fishbowl format of the model in which only half of the class takes part in the discussion at one time, with the other half acting as coaches and observers (Polite and Adams, 1996). The quality of the discussion is determined by the preparation of the students for the same. Good discussions take place when students have studied the text in advance, share their ideas openly, listen actively and ask questions frequently. The discussion is not a debate as to who is right. Rather, encouragement is given for students to exchange their ideas explicitly in a thoughtful, analytical manner. The exact time allotted for the seminars is usually 40-40 minutes, depending on the complexity of the subject. However, it is better to allocate only 30 minutes for the first discussion to help students familiarize with the format first.
The application of the Socratic seminar model is to be found very effective in adult learning classrooms, because as students mature, the collection of their experiences increases and that becomes one of the most useful resources for learning. It is believed that adult learners learn more effectively when they are taught through experiential techniques of education like problem solving method or discussion (Knowles, 1973). When discussion, as is held in the Socratic seminar model, becomes the main form of imparting knowledge, students feel encouraged to put their experience and knowledge into work. Sullivan, Wircenski, Arnold, and Sarkees (1990) in their studies have found out that it is important for adults to become self-directed learners and relinquish their mode of dependency, and that the learning imparted through discussion is one of the most effective ways to help adults transition into self-directed learners so that the learners are able to use the reservoir of their experiences in real life situations (Polite and Adams, 1996). By taking part in the group discussion, the adult learners not only enhance their knowledge base by exchanging ideas, they also get prepared for the next level of life, such as the pursuit of higher education and work life in which the ability to speak in front of a group of people in seminars without inhibition is important for progress.


The three models that have been evaluated in this paper in terms of their efficacy in the adult learning classroom include the Direct Instructional Model, the Concept Attainment Model, and the Socratic Seminar Model. While the model of direct instruction works best for teaching school children and preschoolers, this does not work that well for adult learners, unless the adult learners have learning disabilities. The concept attainment model by telling the learners to identify and organize attributes of a concept into different categories provides the learners with the autonomy that adult learners seek in the learning method. On the other hand, the Socratic Seminar Model encourages students to exchange ideas independently, refute and refine their concepts by taking active participation in group discussions. Both the concept attainment and Socratic seminar models have been identified as two of the most effective and useful medium of learning for adult learners.


Mellard, D. and Scanlon, D. (2006). Feasibility of Explicit Instruction in Adult Basic Education: Instructor-Learner Interaction Patterns. Adult Basic Education. 16(1), 21-27. Retrieved on 8th February 2015 from <>
Carnine, D.W.; Silbert, J.; Kame'enui, E.J. and Tarver, S. G. (2004). Direct Instruction Reading. Columbus, Ohio: C.E. Merrill Pub. Co.
Bruner, J.S., Goodnow, J.J. and Austin, G.A. (1956) A Study of Thinking. Chapman and Hall, Limited. London.
Silver, H., Strong, R., and Perini, M. (2007). The strategic teacher. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Thomas, E. J, and Brunsting, J. R. (2010). Styles and strategies for teaching middle school mathematics. Thousand Oaks, Calif. Corwin.
Knowles, M. (1973). The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species. Houston, TX: Gulf Publishing Company.
Polite, V., and Adams, A. (1996). Improving critical thinking through Socratic seminars. [Washington, DC]: U.S. Dept. of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, Educational Resources Information Center.

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