I’m grateful to Christin for inviting us to blog for this course! While I’ve read and occasionally responded to others’ blogs, I’ve never done one myself. I’m a digital immigrant and I admit to not being a natural at learning new technologies. But I welcome this chance to become a blogger, even if it’s years after most people started blogging…
Week 3’s readings and discussions have been rich and varied and it’s been hard for me to choose a focus for this blog post. I’ve decided to reflect on just a few points that resonated with me.
First, the topic of intelligence, learning, and aging. I started my coursework toward the M.Ed. in Instructional Design this summer. As a middle-aged learner coming back to the formal higher education classroom after many years away from it, I wondered if I would be able to complete academic work satisfactorily, keep up with classmates, and handle online learning; I felt that doing academic work would be harder for me than the last time I was in school. But that has not been the case. I have found that because of my extensive and varied work experiences in the field of instructional design, the readings interest and resonate with me and I have real experiences to add to discussions and writing. It is my experience that has made the coursework in this degree come alive for me and has helped me to make sense of and analyze what I read, and connect it to real-life practice. In fact, because of my experience I “feel smarter” that I did as an undergraduate or during my first graduate degree (completed a few years after college).
Because I am an older learner, and because to date this degree has been a good experience for me, I appreciated learning more about the research on intelligence and aging as presented in Merriam, Caffarella, and Baumgartner’s Learning in Adulthood, 2007, chapter 14. In particular, I was grateful to read about the research on “plasticity” (p. 367) and the Seattle Longitudinal Study’s findings that suggest “…little if any [intellectual] decline of practical consequence until after the mid- to late sixties. Even this decrement is modest until the 80s are reached (p. 371).” I also read with interest about the alternative concepts of intelligence that have emerged in recent years, particularly the theories about “practical intelligence.” I sense that my “feeling smarter” than I did as an undergraduate may come from my having developed “successful” or “practical” intelligence. I particularly appreciated Merriam et al’s summary of this research: “For educators of adults it provides rich evidence that adult intelligence is much more than traditional IQ tests, but also encompasses what many of us have believed it to include all along: everyday or practical intelligence.” Yes.
Second, the idea of the life course concept as a social construct, as Tennant and Pogson articulate in Learning and Change in the Adult Years: A Developmental Perspective, 1994, chapter 5. While this idea is not new to me, I appreciated learning in more detail about alternative life course concepts and having their differences highlighted in a way that brings their “social construct” nature into relief. For example, I loved reading about the Confucian conception of the life course, so different from our culture’s focus on our development as individuals (pp. 102-103). It was also helpful to read about how notions of gender roles have influenced constructions of life course over the years. What I underlined and starred most heavily in this chapter, however, was the following: “For [Gould], psychological health and development are expressed in terms of how well the individual adapts to society’s needs – there is no social critique or analysis. Thus it is not society that is problematic; any problems belong to the individuals who cannot adapt properly to society’s requirements. The possibility that there are some forms of social organization that are alienating or oppressive is not addressed (p. 116).” I whole-heartedly agree with this critique and look forward to more of this type of analysis in the weeks ahead.