Theoretical Framework Essay

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Self- efficacy and perceived self-proficiency

Banduras (1986) social cognitive theory is based on the concept that individuals possess a self-system that enables them to exercise a measure of control over their thoughts, feelings, and actions.  He defines this self-system as housing the individuals cognitive and affective structures which includes the abilities to symbolize, learn from others, plan strategies, regulate ones own behavior, and engage in self- reflection.

 Bandura believes that through self-reflection, individuals could evaluate their own experiences and thought processes.  Bandura (1986) stresses that self-reflection is the most critical human capability.  Through self-reflection, individuals evaluate and change their own thinking and behavior.  Some of these evaluations include the perceptions of self-efficacy.

Self-efficacy is the belief in ones own capabilities to organize and initiate courses of behavior necessary to achieve specific types of performances. Bandura further elaborated on the belief that perceived self-proficiency could affect behavior in several ways.  Individuals may be influenced in the courses of action they undertake. He believed that individuals may only participate in tasks in which they feel confident and competent.  In contrast, they often avoid those tasks in which they feel unsuccessful.

            According to Pajares (1996), self-efficacy beliefs could determine how much effort individuals will invest in an activity, how long they will persevere when confronting obstacles, and how resilient they are in adverse situations.  There exists a direct relationship among two sets of variables where the higher the self- efficacy, the greater is the effort, persistence, and resilience.

In addition, self- efficacy beliefs could influence individuals emotions and thought patterns.  An individual with low self-efficacy could believe that things are more difficult than they really are.  This is a belief state of mind that could contribute to depression, stress, and a limited vision of how to best solve an issue.  On the other hand, high self-efficacy could contribute to an individuals feeling of confidence and serenity in approaching problematic tasks and activities (Bandura 1986; Pajares 1996).  Moreover, according to Bandura, an individuals self- efficacy beliefs are strong determinants and predictors of the level of accomplishment that one may attain.

            In consonance with this, online art students are individuals possessing this self-system that Bandura was referring to. Their self-systems could pave the way for an introspection of ones self. This self-reflection is a means for the students to evaluate their selves and this self-evaluation made by the students are the basis for behavioral changes towards improvement. When done in the educational setting, the students could use this self-system in reflecting with regard to their self-efficacy and self-proficiency.

This would direct and pinpoint the strong and weak points of the students and the factors that keep them continuing in an educational endeavor or activity. Adult online art students would need to have the chance to review their set of characteristics such as self-efficacy. As stated above, this activity would pinpoint their strong and weak points and the identification of such would pave the way for reinforcement or reversal of certain behaviors. There might be some factors that would need to be reinforced or improved in the online courses and this would be identified based on the students self-efficacy beliefs.

Motivations of adult learners

            The literature (Knowles 1995; Mezirow 1991; Rogers 1966) in adult education focuses on the distinct attributes of adults, which builds a rationale for practice based on those attributes. Knowles (1995) advocates that adults are autonomous, self-directed, and have unique needs and requirements as learners.  He also indicates that adults like to direct their own learning and are motivated by several factors:1) are attracted to the social relationships involved in learning; 2) want to create friendships and there is a need to foster interesting associations; 3)  have external expectations; 4) have a desire to comply with instructions from someone else;

5) want to fulfill the expectations of someone with formal authority; 6) want to be of service to the community;7) want to become connected and part of social networks;8) want to secure professional advancements or gain higher status in employment; 9) want to escape from boredom  and learning provides a break in the routine of their daily lives. Moreover, Knowles (1950) believes in informal education; that is education where the learning occurs in daily life and outside of formal school settings. Just the same, the adult students of the online art classes still possess practically the same motivations stated above. It can be noticed that the motivational factors presented here are not entirely in harmony with the elements of an online class.

Transformative learning, best theorized by Mezirow (1991) suggests that the adult learner make changes through transforming personal perspectives. Mezirow believes that individuals could be transformed through the process of critical reflection and that changes which accelerate transformative learning are referred to as disorienting dilemmas. These are situations that fail to align with preconceived opinions. The dilemmas encourage critical reflection and guide the development of alternative paths of knowledge.

The adult learner is given the chance to reflect on the attitudes, opinions and emotional responses that defined personal perceptions. Transformative learning can, thus, aid adult online art students in bringing about an act of contemplation within their personal perspectives of successes, barriers, and motivations with regard to the online art programs they take. As suggested by Mezirow, the change in personal perspectives can help in attaining necessary changes among the adult students in the educational setting.

The theory of experiential learning, by Carl Rogers, evolved as a part of the humanistic education movement (Patterson, 1993; Valett, 1977). Rogers distinguishes two types of learning: cognitive and experiential. Cognitive learning corresponds to academic knowledge such as learning multiplication tables and vocabulary.  Experiential learning refers to an applied knowledge such as learning about sewing in order to make clothing. Rogers (1996) believes that a distinction between cognitive and experiential learning was that the learning addresses the means and desires of the learner.  The qualities of experiential learning are self-initiation, personal involvement, and evaluation by the learner and the pervasive effects on the learner. Rogers also feels that all human beings have the ability to learn and the role of the educator is to facilitate the learning.

The educators responsibilities were to set a positive climate for learning, clarify the purposes for the learner, organize and make available learning resources, balance intellectual and emotional components of learning, and share thoughts with learners. However, an educator should avoid dominating the classroom.  Rogers (1996) states that real learning is facilitated when the learner participates in the learning process and has control over its direction. Also that it primarily is based upon direct application with practical, social, personal or research problems.  Moreover, self- evaluation is the main method of assessing progress or success.

Indeed, the theme of self-evaluation by adult online art students remains to be the central focus of this theory. It is also to be emphasized that it is the adult online art students are the principal actors to whom the learning process should be directed. It is necessary that the inputs to the learning environment comes and directs to the learners, who are the adult online art students, and the teacher remains as a facilitator in the online classes. With the fact that they are the main actors here, they are also the ones who should reflect on the learning process and bring about the change. The teacher, as a facilitator would be the one to be the change agent.

Both Rogers (1966) and Mezirow (1991) reflect Knowles ideas about informal education. Rogers (1966) approach to adult education focuses on relationships. He agrees with Knowles that adults want to create friendships and foster interesting associations. However, he believed that the facilitation of significant learning relied upon the attitudinal relationship of the facilitator and the learner. He also believes that it is impossible to teach another person directly”one could only really facilitate their learning.  Similarly, Mezirow (1991) recognizes that adults are autonomous and self-directed; however, he felt the adult learner needs to challenge their frames of reference by critically reflecting on their assumptions.

Mezirow feels this is a critical step in the adults learning. Learning could change if the adult would implement ways to assess their beliefs or prior assumptions. With this, a line can be drawn in the path of the adult online art students. There is a relationship within the facilitator and the learner, who are the teacher and the adult online art student respectively. It is not possible to have a direct domination of the learning process of the adult online art students. There is a need for the adult online art students to evaluate on their current beliefs so as to gain a new perspective in the learning process.

 Research by Csikszentmihalyi (1997) also explores motivation. He defines a state of flow as a condition of heightened focus, happiness and productivity that all individuals understand and hunger for. Csikszentmihalyi offers an interesting observation about what individuals believe makes them happy. What was discovered is that individuals are most happy and most productive while pursuing challenging activities. The majority of these activities are during work or pursuing a hobby.  Individuals who emerge from each flow state are more complex, self-confident, capable, and sensitive. The experience becomes its own reward.

Moreover, in order to improve ones life, one must improve the quality of the experience. Csikszentmihalyi believes the main advantage of flow is that it enabled adults to avoid psychic entropy or degeneration which could cause depression, dispiritedness and distraction. The adult online art students are motivated by different things. Generally, it can be said that these motivations come from the idea of being challenged with their online art programs. The very experience would serve as their means and their ends. In addition to this, what matters highly are the goals and experiences given and made by them to keep them going in the online art program.

Intentions of adult learners

One definition (Websters World dictionary 1998) of intention states that it is the reason, motive or purpose for ones actions. It is a determination to act in a specific way and on purpose. However, according to Davies (2006) this definition may be unfinished. Jackson (1994), Kuhl (1990) and McCarty and Siccone (2001) as cited by Davies (2006) believe that intention is an internal representation of a persons values, purposes, or commitment to a particular activity. In addition, intention includes willpower, persistence, determination, desire, effort, work ethic, mindfulness, striving, and focus. Rychlak (1997) adds that through intention individuals have the ability to choose specific actions.

They also have specific intentions that can determine the effort and persistence with which they pursue those actions.   Fishbein and Ajzen (1975) add that actual learning behavior is more accurately predicted by a learners intent. Davies (2006) concludes that it is the learners intent that determines the effort expended and the quality of the learning achieved. Through self-reflection mentioned several times before, the adult online art students would be able to learn about their intentions as learners. The degree of the intensity of the intention also shows the effort that will be brought about by the learner in the learning process and in the online art programs. This would greatly affect their interest in their programs.

Intention can be defined as an individuals commitment and will to learn what is expected of them when given a specific learning opportunity.  According to Bandura (2001) intention is the mental representation of commitment to learn which is separate from both from motivation and effort.  Learner intention can characterize an individual aims and values for participating in the learning activity.

An individuals capability to make accurate decisions may vary depending on aptitudes and abilities. Gardner (2006) makes the point that the ability to control oneself in this way is a category of intelligence.  Intrapersonal intelligence as Gardner expresses it, is the degree to which individuals are able to efficiently control motivational influences and accurately judge situations when making decisions and forming intent.

Tyler (1995) notes that intentions which are associated with specific decisions are not always fixed.  Circumstances may change and motives can become reconsidered.  Certain individuals may have multiple intentions for multiple activities.  These can often compete for their time and attention.  According to Schunk and Zimmerman (1994) in learning environments where students are faced with conflicting intentions, compromises are made that are often situational.  Students who can self-regulate and prioritize specific learning goals are academically successful.

Those who are unable can become unsuccessful. The online educational setting would provide the adult online art students conflicts with regard to their motivations, intentions, and personal perspectives. It is important for the adult online art students to be able to identify their main learning goals in vis- -vis their intentions and motivations in order for them to become successful in their online art programs. It is necessary for them to gain a full understanding of their personal perspectives and beliefs because these are the things which would pave the way for a successful academic setting.

Success strategies and best practices

Palloff and Pratt (2001) discuss successful strategies and principles of good practice for instructors in online undergraduate education. This includes, encouraging contact between students and faculty, developing cooperation among students, promoting the use of active learning techniques, and giving prompt feedback. Another good practice is to place an emphasis on communicating high expectations to all learners of diverse talent and learning styles.

Palloff and Pratt (2001) believe that courses that encouraged interactivity are the key to a well constructed online course. It could be remembered that one of the motivations of the adult students is the interaction between the different stakeholders of the learning environment. Thus, the transformation of the online courses into an interactive one is a key step for the administrator and the teachers. The role of the student as the principal actor should be noted here because the adult online students should take a big part and should be considered in the redirection of the online class into an interactive one.

Sales-Ciges (2001) separate the instructors role in the online classroom into three categories: social, intellectual, and organizational.  The instructor monitors the course content by tracking students activities, setting timelines, and introducing procedures.  The instructor also has the role of facilitator in discussions by providing students with feedback on discussion board responses.  Stolovitch and Keeps (1999) add that instructors need to understand how to foster human interaction in a virtual setting and to guide the students through their understanding of course materials.

In addition, an instructor needs to promote students interactivity for communication, motivation, discovery and participation when presenting assignments.  Wiggins and TcTighe (2001) believe that the instructor should focus on the students understanding of the material and the ability to transfer the information into real life.  In addition, the assignments must be achievable and rewarding in order to keep the student motivated.

In line with this, the teachers as facilitators in the online classes for adults should maintain its role as close as it is in the real setting. It should be as close to the real classroom environment and the adult online students should have all the necessary knowledge and skills to be able to put it into application. The maintenance of the real classroom environment and the ability to put it into application are motivations for the adult online art students.

Barriers for completion

The research (Mezirow 1991; Tough 1979) supports that adults have several barriers against participating in learning. Significant barriers include confidence, time, interest, money, scheduling, child care, transportation, and information about opportunities to learn. More importantly, less obvious barriers include their past experiences in acquiring new learning. Kennedy (2003) observes that adults have preconceived ways of thinking and this could cause a resistance to learning new information. The adult learners past experiences can be a barrier in gaining new learning. Crawford (2006) supports Kennedys belief about the adult learner.

He notes that a resistance to learning new information can occur from past habits or old ways of thinking about a particular issue. He adds that the reason for this resistance in learning is that adults are often reserved about acquiring new knowledge, particularly if it is in direct contrast to what they believe. Similarly, the adult online art students bear the same difficulties with regard to learning, more so with a new environment which is the online classrooms for them. In addition to this, there are factors that prevent them from proceeding with the learning process as they take into consideration when they enroll and proceed with their online art programs.

Motivations to continue

According to Knowles (1980) adult learners are educated through life experiences. They gain their self-identity from their past experiences. If they cannot use those experiences or if those experiences are unacknowledged, they can feel rejected as an individual. Bandura (1986) also supported that if an individual perceived themselves as unable to accomplish a task, they would cease to participate in the task. In addition, Kennedy (2003) noted that the fear of failure an adult may bring to the classroom could bring on further rejection from their peer group.  Kennedy believes that past experiences could also be a handicap in acquiring new learning.

  Adults sometimes have preconceived ways of thinking that are resistant to change.  Moreover, adult learners could be more reserved about new knowledge if it is in contrast to what they believe.   Lieb (1991) contends that how an adult uses their work provides a significant and important factor in self- identification. An important aspect of work that influences the adults motivations to learn has to do with job dissatisfaction.

Changes in technology and other socio-economic factors could influence a great number of adults who change occupations over the course of their lives.  Adults are often motivated to acquire and update new skills for employment. To this, the motivations for the adult online art students are motivated by the environment within which learning occurs. This would also include their past experiences and how they use the things they learn from the online art programs.

Palloff and Pratt (2003) support that online learning may require a high degree of motivation, self-directed learning, persistence, and commitment from the adult learner.  Many learners lack the required preparation for the demands of online learning in order to complete their programs. Retention (Frankola 2004) in distance education higher education is not a new subject; however the study of e-learning retention is a relatively new area for research.

Most of the existing models (Tinto 1975; Bean 1980) of retention were built on the retention research of ground campuses and nontraditional learners. The field of retention for adult online art students remains an unknown one. It is also necessary to identify the preparedness of the adult online art students to the nature of the learning environment. This will provide them ample time to reflect and transform their personal perspectives and make them in parallel with the situations of the online art programs.

The research (Frankola 2001) has shown that the reasons for dropping out of online education programs are multiple, interrelated and complex.  Students are most likely to leave an online program after they complete the first few courses. Few students decide to leave an online education program after they have several courses completed.  The students who persist in the early phases of the online program could be viewed as successful and are probably satisfied with their online learning experience in the program.

The students who had issues adjusting to the online program or technology are likely to become frustrated in their first few courses. Taking the time and effort to putting forth the investment into the program could make the difference. The adult online art students who had the chance to reflect on their personal beliefs are the ones predicted to be more successful in their online classes. It is important that the adult online student feels motivated in the experiences and goals in the learning experience to keep them going.

Martinez (2003) states that recent nontraditional attrition studies have considered the impact of psychological factors on persistence.  Bandura believes (1986) that some of these factors could be related to the learners self-efficacy in regard to self-proficiency.

Other factors could have to do with learner intentions (Davies 2006), quality of instruction (Palloff & Pratt 2003), and motivations to continue (Frankola 2004; Kennedy 2003). The level of persistence exuded by the students could be affected by several factors, which are important for the adult online art students. This, in consonance with the learning environment, could contribute to the success of the students and in the continuous endeavor in learning.

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