Wednesday, 23 July 2014

#Phd update: interest for older employees learning research niche

The quest to provide research based evidence to upgrade or at least hold on to older employees, and build a rationale to keep them in corporations based on their expertise and knowledge. EU, US, Canadian statistics are clear, we have an aging population and there is a need to keep employees at work, in meaningful work based on their expertise and knowledge.
It is a marginal option that I can chose to work on after my PhD is finalized (yes, still a lot to do, but ... reflection is a nice pastime). It feels like an interesting professional research and knowledge niche. So this subject is just something that sits in the back of my mind as I work on my heutagogy-MOOC-online learning based PhD topic, for I see a future in MOOCs or by that time enhanced, global online learning - for older, lifelong learners, including employees.

While looking for a solid research definition of 'learning episode' I came across a FREE, online book from 1971 by Allen Tough entitled 'The Adult's Learning Projects: a fresh approach to theory and practice in adult learning'. The book is freely available online (per chapter) and chapter 2 provides a really handy definition of learning episodes, which comprises learning actions, and relates it to personal learning goals of the learner. I am still filtering out a transparent, useful definition that I can converge to my research participants, but getting there and will hopefully be able to share soon.

The weird - and nice - thing about this book and follow-up research done by Hiemstra (1976), based on Tough is that all of a sudden I realized it resembled the learning factors I was looking at: learning happens based on networked connections (I admit the term networked learning or anything closely resembling it did not come up in 1971, but grouped learning - either by experts, family/friends, ... - is mentioned). Hiemstra, based on ideas of Tough (1971) seemingly also looked at learning via non-human objects (check), and individual learning (call it self-determined learning - check), and offers the similar drivers for learning: professional, recreational,  ... (check) but also offers one that I had not contemplated, although very important: social/civil. So, I am adding that last term to my research as well. The sources of information have been changing over the last forty years, but again they resemble each other: written, multimedia, ...

So all of a sudden I find a short overview of what I look at, in a brief learning project dating from 1976, done by Roger Hiemstra (a very Fries/Dutch name at that - I am 25% Fries, so it feels familiar even though the researcher worked for Iowa State University), and where adult learning is connected to learning happening in older learners (older defined as 55-64, and older then 65 years). At present a nice paper that emerges from my pilot study findings, and relates to this over 40 year old research begins to crystallize in my head. And I like it.

The wonderful comic is part of: "Piled Higher and Deeper" by Jorge Cham -