Sarah Scherling, vice president of Academic Administration for CCU’s College of Adult and Graduate Studies, has earned her doctorate in education (Ed.D.) from Liberty University. Her in-depth study of andragogy culminated in a dissertation exploring instructor beliefs about adult learning and how these beliefs affect what happens in the classroom.
“CAGS seeks a learner-centered teaching approach,” explained Scherling, “rather than teacher-centered models. I studied professors who exhibit this approach and probed their beliefs.”
Through the process she discovered that the most effective professors understand and leverage the increased life experience adults bring to the classroom. As such, these professors encourage learning in community – where adults interact and share responsibility for their learning.
“I had professors tell me, ‘I cannot teach enough for all my students to learn what is really valuable – but other perspectives can round things out,’” Scherling explained. “This experience really made me pleased and proud of our faculty.”
As vice president of Academic Administration, Scherling sought a dissertation that would resonate with other staff and faculty – and aid in equipping faculty in the classroom. “I strongly feel that the adult learners who come here need the best education we can provide them – and we need to make considerable investments in the lives of our faculty in order to help them.”
Part of that investment includes the academic team’s focus for the upcoming year: ensuring effective online classes.
The team will be exploring how to encourage online students toward a sense of community that occurs more naturally in the classroom. “There are a lot of pitfalls to online classes, and I’ve written on the subject,” noted Scherling. “We’ve got to get it right. We can’t just assign group work and threaded discussions – we need to truly engage community.”
Scherling, having just completed her doctorate largely online, comes with the knowledge and expertise to tackle the project. She seeks to build from the ground up: understanding instructors’ beliefs and letting their beliefs connect to their in-classroom – and online – practices.
“I think the instructor is key in terms of the student experience. We can have great curriculum, great courses – but if the instructor is not effective, the students won’t have a good experience.”
Armed with new practices and techniques, Scherling will ensure that students at CCU continue to have increasingly positive experiences.