THE ROLES OF TUTORS IN A BLENDED COURSE FOR ADULTS: INSTRUCTOR-CENTERED VS LEARNER-CENTERED APPROACH
University of Genoa - Science of Education Faculty (ITALY)
This paper, integrating research-based findings and theoretical principles, shows how e-tutor’ activities in a blended adult training course can maximize learning outcome and improve student satisfaction. The research analyzes main e-tutor’s roles emerged by evaluation and monitoring activities of “PuntoEdu ATA”, an online structure created by National Agency for School Autonomy Development, in cooperation with Public Education Board, addressed to Administrative, Technical and Auxiliary Staff who works in Italian school and not used to use computers and online tools.
The project involved a blend of quantitative and qualitative evaluation tools: questionnaires online to learners (15.328 cases on 44.697 enrolled) and e-tutors (802 on 1.453) and focus group online to learners and e-tutors. Through their evaluations the paper examines in what extension and in which ways e-tutors took part in learning activities, both face to face, both online, what kind of support they provided to learners and the relationship established between them. Different points of view of the actors involved in the training course permitted to investigate in what measure e-tutors developed the role of learning facilitators (Rogers, 1969), designing and managing atmosphere of the collective experience, helping, both at individual, both at group level, the learning objectives’ achievement (Dziuban et al., 2004), posing as “friendly guide”, whose action appears as a discrete activity of personalization, orientation, help and support (Banzato, 2002). Learners and e-tutors judgements reflected the diverse pedagogical, social, managerial and technical instructor roles described by Berge (1995) and permitted to identify four key dimensions underlying tutorship (Stagi and Vercelli, 2003): scaffolding (Bruner, 1986; Calvani and Rotta, 1999), mood (Wheeler, 2002), communicating (Feenberg, 1986; Bento and Bento, 2000) and organizing (Woods and Ebersole, 2003; Midoro, 2002). Besides, the study illustrates the shift from a learning model that is exclusively centered on self instruction toward a model that valorises chances of assisted and collaborative learning (Kaye, 1992), with tutorship evolving from a instructor-centered teaching model to a learning-team centered model (Garbolino and Maffei, 2002). According to Taylor’s findings (1998), research supports effective instructional methods that support a learner centered approach, promote student participation and collaboration (Bransford et al., 2000), stressing the importance of e-tutor’s activities that encourage the exploration of alternative personal perspectives, problem posing and critical reflection. The paper will focus the attention on the teaching methods and support activities that favour motivation and involvement in adult students (Zepke and Leach, 2006; Cercone, 2008), who have, as stressed by several studies regarding andragogy (Knowles, 1998; Merriam and Caffarella, 1999), particular needs, showing how adult in formation has to master and carry out autonomously personal educational path, working actively on knowledge without undergoing it.
Finally, the paper examines high degrees of satisfaction by e-tutors and learners as well some difficulties encountered through a S.W.O.T. analysis model, providing information regard improvement factors and best practices to ensure successful results in supporting learners during training path, even among a sample of low technically skilled profiles.