Strategies to Transform From a Trainer to a Workforce Educator

Corporate training has tremendous potential to promote learning in organizations. There are two primary elements that are responsible for how much potential is realized within the corporate training classroom, and those elements are the materials provided and the method of delivery. An instructional designer, or someone in a similar role, can develop engaging materials but if the delivery is not well executed, the training will not be as effective as it could. In contrast, if the training materials have not been designed in the most engaging manner, or the material is technical in nature, it is the trainer who can still create positive classroom conditions that are conducive to learning.

There are two types of trainers that can be found within organizations that choose to invest in learning and development. The first is a trainer who adequately delivers the required training materials and meets the minimum requirements for their role. The other type is a trainer who has evolved into someone who has a much greater impact on the learning process within a training classroom, a trainer who has transformed into a workforce educator. While it may seem that both are performing the same function, and to some degree they are because they work with the same materials, one disseminates information and the other brings the class to life and connects the information to participants in a meaningful manner. Becoming a workforce educator does not happen automatically and requires making a conscious decision as a trainer to improve upon existing skills, acquire additional knowledge, and develop new instructional strategies.

The Work of a Corporate Trainer

In general, a corporate trainer will view training from an outcome-based, task-oriented perspective. Participants are required to attend assigned classes and their willing compliance is expected. The role of a trainer involves preparing to instruct participants for what they are expected to learn or complete by the end of the class, whether it involves acquiring new knowledge or developing new skills. They also understand that the primary responsibilities for their role include providing materials, giving instructions, showing processes and procedures, and answering questions. A trainer knows that the learning objectives or outcomes, whether or not they have been directly involved in developing them, determine what must be accomplished and the final results at the end of the class are somewhat within their control since they demand involvement but they cannot force participants to learn.

Of course there are certainly exceptions to this general rule and there are trainers who have taken workshops and classes to advance their knowledge of corporate training methodologies and processes; however, someone who holds a task-centered view of learning still fits within the typical definition of a corporate trainer. Professional development is available through a variety of resources, which includes professional associations devoted to this field. However, professional development requires more than a membership to an organization or group, it must also involve a genuine interest in the growth of the trainer’s own skills. It is easy to believe that if classroom observations and/or performance reviews are adequate, and students respond in a mostly favorable manner to the training instruction, that no further learning and development is needed. That belief only sustains a trainer’s current role and mindset, which can limit their future potential.

Corporate trainers may also be called facilitators or instructors. The words instructor and trainer are generally thought to have the same meaning and they are used interchangeably. Some organizations refer to their trainers as facilitators as it suggests that a trainer is guiding the class rather than leading the process of learning. While that is certainly possible, taking this type of approach still requires advanced instructional experience and strategies, which would change the role of the trainer beyond someone who delivers materials and expects that participants will comply with their instructions. Unless a trainer has acquired advanced knowledge of adult learning and pursued their own professional development, what they are usually most skilled at is the art of corporate training.

What it Means to Be a Workforce Educator

The word facilitator is really not enough to adequately describe a trainer who has transformed from someone who delivers information to someone who educates. A corporate classroom is still going to be instructor-driven, given the nature of how most training occurs, which means the instructor is going to do something more than facilitate a process. Unless students are given the materials in advance, allowed to prepare for discussions before the class begins, and given an opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned through written projects, a trainer is going to do more than guide the participants – they are still going to lead and direct the class. However, what can change the process of corporate training is a trainer who has purposefully transformed and become a workforce educator.

An educator is someone who has developed a different view of how employees as participants are involved in the learning process. In addition, an educator understands that learning begins within the mind of the participants, not with the materials they need to deliver. They are not going to just give participants information that must be assimilated – they understand the basic process of adult learning and through knowing some of the most important adult education principles they will help students learn, apply, and retain new knowledge. A workforce educator will develop instructional strategies that are learner or employee focused, and they will partner with the instructional designer or person who is involved in curriculum development to make certain that all learning activities support the participants’ overall progress and development.

There is another important distinction made between a corporate trainer and a workforce educator. A corporate trainer believes they know enough and are well-equipped to train employees. In contrast, an educator is someone who is focused on their own professional self-development. Regardless of whether a trainer was hired because of their experience rather than their academic accomplishments, they possess a genuine interest in learning how to educate adults. They continue to learn from classes and workshops they attend, they read materials and resources that further the development of their own knowledge base, and they use self-reflection after each class to assess the effectiveness of their instructional strategies. It is possible to be a natural educator without having an advanced degree in adult education because what matters most is the pursuit of some form of ongoing professional development, along with a willingness to continue to learn and adapt for the benefit of the employees as students.

Strategies to Transform from a Trainer to an Educator

The most important characteristics needed to make the transformation from trainer to educator is a mindset that is focused on teaching rather than telling participants what they need to learn, along with an attitude of ongoing development and a willingness to learn. An educator is someone who views themselves as a lifelong learner, even if they have not acquired advanced education. There are many resources available now for educators, especially online, which will anyone to acquire the knowledge necessary to improve their craft. But if someone believes they have already learned enough or know enough about learning, that thinking is going to cause them to get stuck and their developmental capacity becomes limited over time.

Once a trainer has decided they want acquire additional knowledge about adult learning, they can begin to conduct research and read about some of the most important adult education theories. This is going to serve as a pivotal turning point in an educator’s career, becoming well-informed about the process of learning as an adult. One theory that can inform the work of an educator is andragogy, which is about the process of teaching adults who already have experience and knowledge that shapes how they are involved as students or participants. Additional topics and theories that are important to research include cognition, learning styles, critical thinking, transformative learning, student motivation and engagement, multiple intelligences, constructivism, academic skills and academic preparedness, and self-directed learning. There are numerous online websites and blogs devoted to adult education, along with articles about adult learning that can be found online or in print through an online library database.

Ongoing professional development can continue by connecting with other professionals, and LinkedIn is a helpful place to begin searching as there are numerous groups and associations that can be found through this professional networking website resource. As a member of a LinkedIn group it is possible to become involved in discussions and share resources with like-minded professionals who have similar interests in adult learning. Another helpful social networking website that can be used for sharing resources with educators worldwide is Twitter. Your ability to connect with the right audience will depend upon the manner in which you establish your profile and indicate what your professional interests are. The purpose of being involved in ongoing research and connecting with other educators is to inform your work and help you develop instructional strategies that are effective in creating conditions in the classroom where learning can occur. The more you transform and improve your instructional style, the better outcomes your students are likely to experience as a result of attending your corporate training classes.

Corporate Training is Necessary, Workforce Education is Developmental

Corporate training will always be necessary for any organization that needs to provide skill set training or relevant job-related knowledge. There are many individuals who have made a successful career from their work as a trainer, skillfully delivering information in a manner that reduces employee resistance to the training process. Those same individuals may believe that they offer the best possible classroom experience and no further training is required, and they may well be correct. However, everyone who is involved in corporate training has an ability to become more than a trainer, regardless of whether they provide technical training, soft skills training, or other developmental forms of training. Workforce education changes the perspective of a trainer and focuses on the potential of every employee. An educator can help employees obtain the maximum possible benefit from the training classes, while helping them transfer what was learned in the class to their job. This brings out the best in the trainers and the participants as employees, as both experience the transformative nature of learning and being fully engaged in the process. The result of a trainer becoming a workforce educator is that they will likely be more effective in their role, which means that employees (as participants) will gain more from the learning process while improving their retention of knowledge and engagement at work.

Making Online Education Attractive

All over the world, the numbers of people in school at the different levels takes pyramidal shape. There are huge numbers at the elementary, but as they progress, the numbers decrease, leaving just a few in higher education. In the United States, some 65 million students were expected to enroll from K to K12 in the fall of 2015. In the same period, it was expected that 20.2 million would be attending Colleges and Universities. It is estimated that 25% of fresh high school students in the U.S.A are not able to graduate. For fresh students who enter colleges or universities 1 out of 3 are likely not make it to second year. This dropout out rate hinders national development, because many people do not receive the full training they need to be functional in society. National development would be hugely fostered, if more adults receive education, in order that they become functional in society.

I am not saying that all adults who were not fully educated are not playing important roles in society. There are very prominent individuals in society who dropped out of school at some level. Bill Gate, Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah Winfrey, for example, at some point dropped out of school. Though this list is not exhaustive, the number of people who dropped out of school or decided not to gain higher education and yet became successful are relatively few. For the majority who dropped out or discontinued education, and could not become successful in their careers, it was because they lacked the knowledge they needed to develop their potential. If you check the history of those who in spite of dropping out or discontinuing schooling have become successful, you would find that appeared to have found their life’s purpose and so pursued those goals and, more importantly, they received some kind of education later.

Education as we all know is a life-long activity. At any point in time, whether you dropped out of school or got honors at your graduation, you would need education. The school dropout who has found himself a vocation or gained employment needs education so he/she can be more productive, the dropout who has realized the need to school but has ‘grown past school going age’ and desires to school obviously needs education, managers as well as employees need further education in order to keep pace with today’s rapidly changing world and gain increased wages and status respectively. Somehow, the traditional education dependent society we have created for ourselves and considers the ‘best’, limits our quest for continuing education. For many people, formal education ended the day they dropped out or graduated from High School, College or University, even though, technology makes it possible for us to sit in our houses and still get quality education.

When technology – computers and internet connectivity – replaced physical classrooms and made it possible to study by distance in real time, it appeared the issue of continuous education for everyone, including the dropout and the working class have been solved. It appeared, and still does, that now the teacher need not leave his students, apply for study-leave or leave of absence to pursue further education. It appeared the fifty-year-old woman who dropped out of school several years ago could now school from home and it appeared the father could learn what his daughter is learning at College using the same device he uses to call her. That is what it appeared. Those who dropped out of school due to issues of finance and have not since had a breakthrough would not benefit, and those who have the money would not want to put their money into a certificate employers and academicians alike would frown upon. So little appear to have changed for these two groups of people, though online Colleges and Universities abound.

Two prime issues are to blame. First, online education is too expensive for the target group of learners and second, there is the perception that online Colleges and Universities do not provide holistic education like the traditional Colleges and Universities. As indicated by Ed Vosganian – founder and CEO of College Funding 123, the cost of on-campus University for undergraduate is estimated at 42,000 dollars while for the same group it cost around 21,000 dollars for online universities. By comparison we would say that it cost far less to study via online. But we need not lose sight of those who mostly enroll in online University. It is those in the middle and lower classes who opt for online universities. They include; the employee who has sacrificed pleasure for higher qualification in return for better wages, the unemployed who wants to gain employable skills, the dropout who wants to get back to school in the hope that there will be a brighter future, and the people living in the remote part of the world, especially in the developing world, who don’t even have the money to pay fees and so would have to learn and work simultaneously. To these 21,000 dollars is money so huge, it is very difficult to raise. There are people of the higher income class who enroll in online universities, but online learning is not popular among these due to low prestige and the myths associated with online education. The online institutions will tell you, they would not put anything on your certificate to show that you received a non-traditional education. This kind of advert speaks of how society values online education. Online education is considered a cheap way of getting ‘watered down’ education. Online Colleges and Universities were until recently considered diploma mills. This perception still exists, though empirical evidence tells us there is no disparity in quality of students from traditional Colleges and Universities on one hand and online Colleges and Universities on the other. The online Universities and Colleges are doing their best to make online learning prestigious and bring down study cost, but they cannot do it alone. With government intervention online learning can become prestigious and lower and middle class friendly.

Government should provide a national framework for online education, subsidize accreditation, and grant scholarships and student loans for students in online Colleges and Universities. A national framework to guide the operations of all online colleges and universities should be instituted by the state, through the Department of Education or the relevant government agency. This framework, which would be descriptive and not prescriptive in nature would describe, for example, the minimum courses to be taken at a given level, and the general mode of operation of online universities and colleges without prescribing specific courses or mode of operation. Accreditation is not just laborious for online Colleges and Universities; it is also expensive. This cost is passed to students, souring up program fees. If the government decides to absorb half the cost of accreditation, though there is no guarantee the program fees will be halved, the program fee would be reduced somehow. Lastly, most of the students who opt for online colleges and universities do not receive scholarships and student loans from the state. Those who receive something do not get huge scholarships and student loans like their counterparts in traditional Colleges and Universities. Government should make scholarships and students loans available to students of online Colleges and Universities just as it does for students in traditional Colleges and Universities.

The ramifications of these interventions would definitely be awesome. Providing a national framework for online education would take away the false negative perception people have about online learning. Many think online learning is easy and also the number of credits taken are far less than those taken in traditional learning settings. This thinking exists because there are some poorly designed online courses in which certificate are awarded after just a couple of assignments have been submitted. Such practices can be stopped, when a national framework is developed and operationalized. A national framework will give credibility to online learning, because a national standard for online would have to be adhered to and so no online college or university can just sell certificate. Subsidizing Accreditation will yield three results. The most obvious is that, it would reduce program fees because amount to pass to the students would be less. Subsidizing accreditation fees would encourage online Colleges and Universities to seek accreditation from accrediting bodies recognize by the Department of Education or the appropriate state agency. Even though accreditation is not compulsory in some parts of the world, like the united states, some occupation that require state licensing would not accept degree from non-accredited Colleges and University. Prospective online learners are, usually, worried about whether the can easily work with their certificates. Government intervention would remove this worry and remove the negative perception people have about online education as well. Government interventions in the form of scholarship and loans would ease the financial burden and make it possible for those who hitherto would not be able to school to do so. In sum, government intervention would go a long way to produce an enlightened society by permitting many people to receive higher education.

There are many people wanting to get higher education through online Colleges and Universities so they gain knowledge and skills, or enhance their knowledge and skills but cannot do because of either the cost or the uncertainty of the acceptability of the certificate. Government intervention in the form of national framework for online universities and colleges, subsidizing accreditation cost and providing scholarships and student loans would open the door for those who want to study from home. Government intervention can give the assurance that online learning is as good as traditional college or university learning, and that their certificate would be accepted jobs that require state licensing. It would ease the pressure on facilities in traditional Colleges and Universities, produce the well-educated citizenry needed for national development and convert the current pyramidal shape into a ‘near’ cylinder.

Fatal System Errors in the US Education System

7 Reasons the U.S. Education System Is Failing!

Recently, today actually, I saw a post of a video on Facebook that detailed simple questions posed to university students regarding BASIC social and historic facts, events and the people who govern our country. The results were astounding to say the least! Abject failure and an inability to name or identify ANY of the people, places and events. Let me repeat… NONE.

The formal education system in the U.S. was designed to meet the demands of the industrial revolution by providing basic education to the masses. Pretty simple right? So why is it that we fail to recognize or refuse to acknowledge that the demands are different today? There has not been a calculable redefinition or evolution of the educational system since. This is scary as it will define the failure of our country step-by-step and bit-by-bit until we are reduced to a social collection of ignorance.

Let’s examine the cause and solutions.

1. Closed for Business!

Schools find their existence tied to community standards and financial restraints based on the community support… or lack of. The result is that schools are closing at an alarming rate across the country. The decision to close a school rarely reflects the needs of a community or, more importantly, the needs of the students!

There seems to be less concern for the needs of the communities children’s education than the economic demands of the location of the school or the resources available. Where is the federal government when this happens? Well, they are partially to blame. The government rhetoric details the need for affordable, quality education while they demand that school systems adhere to specific federal mandates that tie the school administration’s hands to comply with political wants. So much for federal support.

2. Two-Gallons of milk in a one-gallon jug!

So, how many kids can you cram into a classroom and still teach effectively? That depends on whether you are looking to teach the children or be a daycare service. I know, pretty harsh but look at the function of schools today. They take your children and house them and feed them for about 6-7 hours a day. Mostly providing them with basic discipline and food that they rarely get a t home! Oh yes, admin it. Teachers are required to discipline your children in a crowded atmosphere where safety is no longer guaranteed and education takes a back seat to providing basic needs that parents are unwilling to, uneducated to or unable to provide. Wait, what about education? Well, there is so little time for that that caring for them takes priority over teaching them.

Secondarily, because of the constraints of federally-mandated guidelines, the children are taught in a cookie-cutter style standard of personality-limiting, creative-minimizing and individually-restrictive processes to get them to their adulthood. Basic education with basic performance that aligns children to basic standards that align with everyone else’s basic needs. Sad because it is done in crowded classrooms where teachers are forced to “teach” more children than one person could attend to. How effective is that?

3. If You Do What You’ve Always Done… You’ll Get What You’ve Always Gotten!

How can we expect our children to excel when their parents are minimally educated. One must understand that this cycle of poor education will produce more poorly educated children who will produce more poorly-educated children and so on and so on. Parents are so busy struggling to make a living today because of a poor economy or a lack of opportunity that there is little time to attend to their children’s education at home let alone at school. Involvement is also critical especially when the parents are minimally educated because they lack the foresight and experience to guide a young person to the right path. The result is a continually-repeated system that fails students and undermines this country’s future. It matters not whether you are poor and struggling to make a living that doesn’t allow for time to teach your kids at home OR whether your well off and struggle to maintain a career that doesn’t allow for time to attend to your kids at home. Either way, the education suffers.

4. Once Stated Always Abated!

I was once told that I was stupid. I was told that I could never learn because I lacked the basic ability to understand or comprehend anything that a normal person was expected to know. Can you imagine? Well, today I am in pursuit of a doctorate in education. Highly educated holding several degrees and formally recognized for my teaching abilities and performance as an educator. So there, take that!

If a child is to be challenged then the child has to recognize their worth and value as an individual. EVERY child is talented and gifted in something and should be recognized for it immediately and consistently. Oh yes, failure happens but that is part of the lesson as well. Individualized learning platforms and initiatives are crucial to the support and future of educational success. The talented and gifted programs require that a child be recognized and advanced because of their special gift instead of the initiative being available to ALL students. I believe that EVERY child has the opportunity to reveal their gift if given the opportunity to allow it to reveal itself. Why limit other children’s opportunity to excel because someone didn’t recognize their talents? Beyond me.

This lack of diversity in basic education is driven by personal prejudices and the nuances of social conformity and economic availability in a school district. Shameful that every student doesn’t have the same opportunity to be recognized for their inevitable contribution to society.

5. There’s a Step to the Prep!

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Education Department, 80% of all high school students graduate and student graduation rates are at an all-time high. This sounds great doesn’t it? Well, no it doesn’t because about 80% of high school seniors cannot pass basic proficiency exams or read at a basic level. The fundamental and core foundation for a successful future lies in their ability to read and comprehend and it is failing miserably. Because of a politically-correct mindset and an unwillingness to admit that we are failing we are passing kids without prejudice. What is the dynamic here? Money, acknowledgment, standards, social constraint?

With fewer than 40% of graduating students able to perform basic reading and math skills, what will their future look like? Poor at best because they are set up for failure and aren’t educated enough to know it. They are not prepared for any part of life let alone future education without the basic skills to learn. It seems a path to socialism.

6. Teacher to Preacher!

With the lack of people who are willing to sacrifice their future for low-paying academic careers there is little to choose from in the way of well-educated teachers. Enter teachers. As student education becomes more technology-supported so must teacher innovation education. A once-proud career, teachers are opting for more industrial careers using their basic educational achievements because it pays more and is less restricting. A lack of qualified teachers translates to a lack of quality education from under qualified teachers. The cultural shift in classrooms demands an academic shift in recognizing and utilizing qualified teachers who must meet higher-level standards before being allowed to teach.

Alas, distance learning take the personalization from the process, individualism from the practice and allows for lesser-educated teachers to perform office-like academics instead of teaching-like practices. Poorly educated teachers who are not held to the highest standards will produce poorly-educated students who will perpetuate the same. Pay teachers better and demand more from them and we will produce quality educated people. There is something askew when ball players make millions and teachers make nothing! Time to rethink this one.

7. Girls Will Be Girls and Boys Will Be Boys!

Or will they? There is a huge nationwide divide in the gender makeup of the student population today in schools. The STEM program is experiencing a narrowing range of student diversity as of recent examinations of student diversity in education. Formerly male student dominated academics and careers are changing to a more female dominated academic showing. Women are now able to perform as well or better than their male counterparts in science, technology engineering and math… previously neglected and they have always had the ability but unrecognized or acknowledged.

A globally competitive market demands equal and qualified individuals to perform and defend the right of opportunity regardless of gender, race, creed or social standing. As we develop our more-diverse communities, so should we develop our academically-driven future with better-educated people… no matter what!

Educational Problem Solving

Abstract

This article introduces the educational solutions module of the world’s most recent personal and professional problem solving site, describing competitive offerings, the customer profile, problem-oriented solutions, target markets, product offerings, and usability features. It concludes that the module is a major contribution to the information superhighway.

Introduction

The aim of this article is to introduce to the world the educational solutions module of the world’s most recent personal and professional problem solving site. The article is addressed to those readers who may have an educational problem bogging them and who may therefore be looking for a way out of their predicament. The reader may be a parent, child, or student.

It is a common fact of life that we all have problems and that we are often frustrated or we tend to lash out because of our inability to find accessible and reliable information about our problems. This specialist site fills this need – as our pragmatic friend for solving our educational problems.

To be of the greatest use to people a problem solving site must combine pragmatic discussions of their personal or professional problem with merchant products that provide more detailed information. Typically, the web site will provide free information in the form of news, articles, and advice, which direct the visitor on what to do to solve her problems. Complementing this, the web site will also provide merchant products which discuss in detail how the visitor can go about resolving her problem. This means that the most effective, visitor-oriented problem-solving site will be an information-packed commercial site – and so is the world’s most recent personal and professional problem solving site and its specialist sites.

The approach that we have adopted below is to describe competitive offerings, the customer profile, problem-oriented solutions, target markets, product offerings, and usability features.

Competitive Offerings

The following are the top educational sites on the Internet, along with their offerings.

US Department of Education. It defines the US education policy and provides information on financial aid, educational research and statistics, grants and contracts, and teaching and learning resources.

Educational Testing Service. It provides a range of test resources.

FunBrain.com. It provides educational games for K-8 kids.

PrimaryGames.com. It provides fun learning tools and games for kids.

GEM. It provides educational resources such as lesson plans and other teaching and learning resources.

Education World. It provides advice on lesson plans, professional development, and technology integration.

NASA Education Enterprise. It provides educational materials and information relating to space exploration.

Spartacus Educational. It is a British online encyclopedia that focuses on historical topics.

Department for Education and Skills. It is a UK government department site that offers information and advice on various educational and skills topics.

Times Educational Supplement. It offers teaching news, teaching & educational resources, and active forums to help UK teachers.
All these sites are useful in the domains that they cover. Their main limitations are as follows:

1. They tend to cover only a very narrow segment of the educational market.
2. They do not take as their starting point the daily educational needs of the typical family.
3. They lack a problem focus; i.e., they do not formulate the typical learning and educational problems that pupils, students, and parents face on a daily basis.
4. As a result of the preceding point, the solutions offered are not as incisive (i.e. as problem-centred) as they could be.
5. They do not offer merchant products that deepen the visitor’s understanding of her problem and of the consequent solutions.

The educational solutions module of the world’s most recent personal and professional problem solving site addresses these problems by targeting a multiplicity of market segments, adopting a customer profile that fits the typical education-pursuing family, considering the specific needs or problems that this family may face, offering incisive (problem-centred) solutions to the various problems, and offering a range of merchant products that deepen the visitor’s appreciation of her problems and of the solutions that are applicable to them.

Customer Profile

The customer profile or target visitor characteristics of the educational solutions module is the same as for all specialist sites of the world’s most recent personal and professional problem solving site. The site has been designed to meet the needs of visitors who have an educational problem bogging them. It is designed for both males and females, even though it is often convenient to refer to just one sex when writing.

This visitor uses search engines to research information about her personal or professional problem, with the intention of finding solutions to it. The visitor is serious about solving her problem and is therefore willing to buy products that help her to achieve her mission, provided that she can find reliable and honest information about relevant products so that she can make an informed decision about which ones to acquire. This information will help her to apply her finances economically, and hence avoid wasting money.

The visitor will want a money-back guarantee so that if a product does not live up to expectations or if she were misled into buying a product she can get a refund. Such a guarantee absolves her of purchase risks.

The visitor is intelligent (without necessarily being a genius), educated (without necessarily being a PhD), computer literate (without necessarily being a computer guru), and money-minded (without necessarily being a freebie hunter or an unemployed person). This of course does not mean that freebie hunters or unemployed persons cannot gain a thing from the site. To the contrary, there is a great deal of free information on the site. Just that it is hard to see how anyone can gain the full benefits of the site without buying products.

The visitor wants high quality information products (usually in digital form) and wants to pay the cheapest price for these (without paying so much emphasis on price that she compromises quality). The visitor also wants free bonus offers that are attached to the purchased goods.

The visitor is self-reliant and can cope on her own by reading, digesting, and applying advice about her problem until she solves it or discovers that she needs help from a professional, at which point her acquired knowledge will help her to reduce her consulting fees. As a result of the knowledge gained, the visitor will be able to assess consultants in order to avoid incompetent or fraudulent ones.

Problem-Centred Solutions

Our free solutions are organised in the form of pragmatic articles that are written by top experts. Each article addresses a specific daily problem, but does not go into detail. It explains the problem and tells the visitor what she must do to solve her problem. However, it does not tell the visitor how she must solve it – this is too much for an article. To find out about the how, the visitor must buy a product (usually an e-book or e-book set) that goes into greater depth.

The set of educational articles that we have chosen, to provide initial solution to a visitor’s problem are as follows:

Signs of a Gifted Child – Informs parents on how to identify whether or not their children are gifted.

Essential Parenting Lessons for Enriching Your Child’s Education – Teaches parents how to enhance their child’s education.

Using Positive Affirmations to Be a Better Student – Teaches students how to use positive affirmations to improve their performance.

They Are Just Afraid of Writing – Teaches writing skills to students

How Can Parents Encourage Their Children to Read? – Shows parents how they can improve their children’s reading skills.

Test Preparation Tutoring – Discusses the topic of tutoring students to prepare for tests or exams.

Test Taking Strategies – Discusses various strategies for taking and passing tests or exams

Playing and Winning the Scholarship Game – Describes how to win scholarships.

How to Get a Scholarship to a UK University – Describes how to win scholarships to a UK university.

Saving Money for College – Instructs students on how they can save money in preparation for college.

Student Loans: When Your Educational Dreams Can’t Compete with the Cost – Explains to students the benefits of a student loan.

Education Loans Can Fund a Higher Degree to Boost Your Career – Also explains to students the benefits of a student loan.

The Secret to US Department of Education Loans – Teaches students how to get a US DoE loan to finance their higher education.

Student Loan Consolidation – Save Money, Pay Less, Spend More – Explains to graduates how to make use of loan consolidation to reduce their student loan repayments.

Higher Education: Finding the Right College for You – Explains to students how to find the right college or university for their higher education studies.

Mobile Learning – An Alternative Worth Considering – Explains the concept of mobile learning and its place in education.

Online Degrees – Is Online Education Right for You? – Analyses the merits of online learning as compared to traditional learning.

An Online College Education Overview – Reviews the whole concept of online learning.

Finding the Right Quotation for Your Paper or Speech Online – Shows writers and speakers how to find the right quotation to use in their writings or speeches.

Collaboration: An Important Leadership Development Skill – Explores the useful concept of collaboration and its role in leadership development.

At the end of each article is a list of merchant products that supplement the article’s content. A link is also included for accessing the educational product catalogue.

Target Markets and Product Offerings

Now let us turn to the target markets and their associated product offerings. We have positioned the segments to address the various needs of a visitor over a period of time, and at any given time a customer may belong to one or more of the market segments. There are three general classes of products offered: ClickBank products, Google products, and eBay products. Google and eBay products are presented on each page of the site. ClickBank products are grouped into product categories that match the target markets. These categories and their markets are as follows.

Children and Parenting. This consists of visitors who want parenting solutions for improving their children’s upbringing. Their needs are met through the Children and Parenting section of the educational product catalogue.

Difficult Admissions. This consists of visitors who want to learn how to get admission into top universities. Their needs are met through the Difficult Admissions section of the educational product catalogue.

Esoteric Needs. This consists of visitors with unusual needs. Their needs are met through the Esoteric Needs section of the educational product catalogue.

Financial Aid. This consists of visitors looking for scholarships, grants, or loans. Their needs are met through the Financial Aid section of the educational product catalogue.

Leadership Skills. This consists of visitors looking to develop their leadership skills. Their needs are met through the Leadership Skills section of the educational product catalogue.

Learning. This consists of visitors who want to improve their learning ability. Their needs are met through the Learning section of the educational product catalogue.

Mental Speed. This consists of visitors who want to explode their mental speed. Their needs are met through the Mental Speed section of the educational product catalogue.

Positive Affirmations. This consists of visitors who want to transform their negative dispositions into a positive mindset in order to improve their performance. Their needs are met through the Positive Affirmations section of the educational product catalogue.

Speaking. This consists of visitors looking to improve their speaking skills. Their needs are met through the Speaking section of the educational product catalogue.

Tests and Exams. This consists of visitors looking to master exam technique. Their needs are met through the Tests and Exams section of the educational product catalogue.

Writing. This consists of visitors looking to improve their writing skills. Their needs are met through the Writing section of the educational product catalogue.

Usability Considerations

Usability has been enhanced to make it easy for the visitor to find solutions to her problem, by following these steps:

1. The first thing the visitor sees are a set of articles whose titles represent the specific problem area they address. The articles are accessed from the Educational Problem Solving menu of the navigation bar to the left of the screen or from the Educational Problem Solving main page. By scanning these articles the visitor can identify whether or not her problem is covered. If not the visitor can check the educational product catalogue through the Product Catalogues menu of the same navigation bar, to see whether a product exists that answers her query. If she finds nothing she knows that her problem is not addressed. She can proceed to the Related Sites pages, which are accessible from the left navigation bar.

2. If the visitor finds an article that addresses her problem then she can begin to explore that; at the end of the article she will find products that discuss her problem more deeply. She can also access the educational product catalogue through an article page.

Conclusion

This article has introduced the educational solutions module of the world’s most recent personal and professional problem solving site. The article has examined competitive offerings, the target customer profile, problem-oriented solutions, target markets, product offerings, and usability considerations. It concludes that the module is a major contribution to the information superhighway.

A A Agbormbai is the editor and webmaster of Personal and Professional Problem Solving – a web site that fills a vacuum on the Web. He has a PhD from Imperial College London and enjoys an interdisciplinary upbringing having worked or studied in aerospace engineering, information systems development, and management. The educational solutions module is one of many specialist sites of Personal and Professional Problem Solving.

A Brief History of Special Education

Perhaps the largest and most pervasive issue in special education, as well as my own journey in education, is special education’s relationship to general education. History has shown that this has never been an easy clear cut relationship between the two. There has been a lot of giving and taking or maybe I should say pulling and pushing when it comes to educational policy, and the educational practices and services of education and special education by the human educators who deliver those services on both sides of the isle, like me.

Over the last 20+ years I have been on both sides of education. I have seen and felt what it was like to be a regular main stream educator dealing with special education policy, special education students and their specialized teachers. I have also been on the special education side trying to get regular education teachers to work more effectively with my special education students through modifying their instruction and materials and having a little more patience and empathy.

Furthermore, I have been a mainstream regular education teacher who taught regular education inclusion classes trying to figure out how to best work with some new special education teacher in my class and his or her special education students as well. And, in contrast, I have been a special education inclusion teacher intruding on the territory of some regular education teachers with my special education students and the modifications I thought these teachers should implement. I can tell you first-hand that none of this give and take between special education and regular education has been easy. Nor do I see this pushing and pulling becoming easy anytime soon.

So, what is special education? And what makes it so special and yet so complex and controversial sometimes? Well, special education, as its name suggests, is a specialized branch of education. It claims its lineage to such people as Jean-Marc-Gaspard Itard (1775-1838), the physician who “tamed” the “wild boy of Aveyron,” and Anne Sullivan Macy (1866-1936), the teacher who “worked miracles” with Helen Keller.

Special educators teach students who have physical, cognitive, language, learning, sensory, and/or emotional abilities that deviate from those of the general population. Special educators provide instruction specifically tailored to meet individualized needs. These teachers basically make education more available and accessible to students who otherwise would have limited access to education due to whatever disability they are struggling with.

It’s not just the teachers though who play a role in the history of special education in this country. Physicians and clergy, including Itard- mentioned above, Edouard O. Seguin (1812-1880), Samuel Gridley Howe (1801-1876), and Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet (1787-1851), wanted to ameliorate the neglectful, often abusive treatment of individuals with disabilities. Sadly, education in this country was, more often than not, very neglectful and abusive when dealing with students that are different somehow.

There is even a rich literature in our nation that describes the treatment provided to individuals with disabilities in the 1800s and early 1900s. Sadly, in these stories, as well as in the real world, the segment of our population with disabilities were often confined in jails and almshouses without decent food, clothing, personal hygiene, and exercise.

For an example of this different treatment in our literature one needs to look no further than Tiny Tim in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (1843). In addition, many times people with disabilities were often portrayed as villains, such as in the book Captain Hook in J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan” in 1911.

The prevailing view of the authors of this time period was that one should submit to misfortunes, both as a form of obedience to God’s will, and because these seeming misfortunes are ultimately intended for one’s own good. Progress for our people with disabilities was hard to come by at this time with this way of thinking permeating our society, literature and thinking.

So, what was society to do about these people of misfortune? Well, during much of the nineteenth century, and early in the twentieth, professionals believed individuals with disabilities were best treated in residential facilities in rural environments. An out of sight out of mind kind of thing, if you will…

However, by the end of the nineteenth century the size of these institutions had increased so dramatically that the goal of rehabilitation for people with disabilities just wasn’t working. Institutions became instruments for permanent segregation.

I have some experience with these segregation policies of education. Some of it is good and some of it is not so good. You see, I have been a self-contained teacher on and off throughout the years in multiple environments in self-contained classrooms in public high schools, middle schools and elementary schools. I have also taught in multiple special education behavioral self-contained schools that totally separated these troubled students with disabilities in managing their behavior from their mainstream peers by putting them in completely different buildings that were sometimes even in different towns from their homes, friends and peers.

Over the years many special education professionals became critics of these institutions mentioned above that separated and segregated our children with disabilities from their peers. Irvine Howe was one of the first to advocate taking our youth out of these huge institutions and to place out residents into families. Unfortunately this practice became a logistical and pragmatic problem and it took a long time before it could become a viable alternative to institutionalization for our students with disabilities.

Now on the positive side, you might be interested in knowing however that in 1817 the first special education school in the United States, the American Asylum for the Education and Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb (now called the American School for the Deaf), was established in Hartford, Connecticut, by Gallaudet. That school is still there today and is one of the top schools in the country for students with auditory disabilities. A true success story!

However, as you can already imagine, the lasting success of the American School for the Deaf was the exception and not the rule during this time period. And to add to this, in the late nineteenth century, social Darwinism replaced environmentalism as the primary causal explanation for those individuals with disabilities who deviated from those of the general population.

Sadly, Darwinism opened the door to the eugenics movement of the early twentieth century. This then led to even further segregation and even sterilization of individuals with disabilities such as mental retardation. Sounds like something Hitler was doing in Germany also being done right here in our own country, to our own people, by our own people. Kind of scary and inhumane, wouldn’t you agree?

Today, this kind of treatment is obviously unacceptable. And in the early part of the 20th Century it was also unacceptable to some of the adults, especially the parents of these disabled children. Thus, concerned and angry parents formed advocacy groups to help bring the educational needs of children with disabilities into the public eye. The public had to see firsthand how wrong this this eugenics and sterilization movement was for our students that were different if it was ever going to be stopped.

Slowly, grassroots organizations made progress that even led to some states creating laws to protect their citizens with disabilities. For example, in 1930, in Peoria, Illinois, the first white cane ordinance gave individuals with blindness the right-of-way when crossing the street. This was a start, and other states did eventually follow suit. In time, this local grassroots’ movement and states’ movement led to enough pressure on our elected officials for something to be done on the national level for our people with disabilities.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy created the President’s Panel on Mental Retardation. And in 1965, Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which provided funding for primary education, and is seen by advocacy groups as expanding access to public education for children with disabilities.

When one thinks about Kennedy’s and Johnson’s record on civil rights, then it probably isn’t such a surprise finding out that these two presidents also spearheaded this national movement for our people with disabilities.

This federal movement led to section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act. This guarantees civil rights for the disabled in the context of federally funded institutions or any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. All these years later as an educator, I personally deal with 504 cases every single day.

In 1975 Congress enacted Public Law 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA), which establishes a right to public education for all children regardless of disability. This was another good thing because prior to federal legislation, parents had to mostly educate their children at home or pay for expensive private education.

The movement kept growing. In the 1982 the case of the Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley, the U.S. Supreme Court clarified the level of services to be afforded students with special needs. The Court ruled that special education services need only provide some “educational benefit” to students. Public schools were not required to maximize the educational progress of students with disabilities.

Today, this ruling may not seem like a victory, and as a matter of fact, this same question is once again circulating through our courts today in 2017. However, given the time period it was made in, it was a victory because it said special education students could not pass through our school system without learning anything. They had to learn something. If one knows and understands how the laws work in this country, then one knows the laws always progress through tiny little increments that add up to progress over time. This ruling was a victory for special education students because it added one more rung onto the crusade.

In the 1980s the Regular Education Initiative (REI) came into being. This was an attempt to return responsibility for the education of students with disabilities to neighborhood schools and regular classroom teachers. I am very familiar with Regular Education Initiative because I spent four years as an REI teacher in the late 1990s and early 2000s. At this time I was certified as both a special education teacher and a regular education teacher and was working in both capacities in a duel role as an REI teacher; because that’s what was required of the position.

The 1990s saw a big boost for our special education students. 1990 birthed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This was, and is, the cornerstone of the concept of a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) for all of our students. To ensure FAPE, the law mandated that each student receiving special education services must also receive an Individualized Education Program (IEP).

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 reached beyond just the public schools. And Title 3 of IDEA prohibited disability-based discrimination in any place of public accommodation. Full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, or accommodations in public places were expected. And of course public accommodations also included most places of education.

Also, in the 1990s the full inclusion movement gained a lot of momentum. This called for educating all students with disabilities in the regular classroom. I am also very familiar with this aspect of education as well, as I have also been an inclusion teacher from time to time over my career as an educator on both sides of the isle as a regular education teacher and a special education teacher.

Now on to President Bush and his educational reform with his No Child Left Behind law that replaced President Johnson’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The NCLB Act of 2001 stated that special education should continue to focus on producing results and along with this came a sharp increase in accountability for educators.

Now, this NCLB Act was good and bad. Of course we all want to see results for all of our students, and it’s just common sense that accountability helps this sort of thing happen. Where this kind of went crazy was that the NCLB demanded a host of new things, but did not provide the funds or support to achieve these new objectives.

Furthermore, teachers began feeling squeezed and threatened more and more by the new movement of big business and corporate education moving in and taking over education. People with no educational background now found themselves influencing education policy and gaining access to a lot of the educational funds.

This accountability craze stemmed by excessive standardized testing ran rapid and of course ran downstream from a host of well-connected elite Trump-like figures saying to their lower echelon educational counterparts, “You’re fired!” This environment of trying to stay off of the radar in order to keep one’s job, and beating our kids over the head with testing strategies, wasn’t good for our educators. It wasn’t good for our students. And it certainly wasn’t good for our more vulnerable special education students.

Some good did come from this era though. For example, the updated Individuals with Disabilities with Education Act of 2004 (IDEA) happened. This further required schools to provide individualized or special education for children with qualifying disabilities. Under the IDEA, states who accept public funds for education must provide special education to qualifying children with disabilities. Like I said earlier, the law is a long slow process of tiny little steps adding up to progress made over time.

Finally, in 2015 President Obama’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) replaced President Bush’s NCLB, which had replaced President Johnson’s ESEA. Under Obama’s new ESSA schools were now allowed to back off on some of the testing. Hopefully, the standardized testing craze has been put in check. However, only time will tell. ESSA also returned to more local control. You know, the kind of control our forefathers intended.

You see the U.S. Constitution grants no authority over education to the federal government. Education is not mentioned in the Constitution of the United States, and for good reason. The Founders wanted most aspects of life managed by those who were closest to them, either by state or local government or by families, businesses, and other elements of civil society. Basically, they saw no role for the federal government in education.

You see, the Founders feared the concentration of power. They believed that the best way to protect individual freedom and civil society was to limit and divide power. However, this works both ways, because the states often find themselves asking the feds for more educational money. And the feds will only give the states additional money if the states do what the feds want… Hmm… Checks and balances, as well as compromise can be a really tricky thing, huh?

So on goes the battle in education and all the back and forth pushing and pulling between the federal government and the states and local government, as well as special education and regular education. And to add to this struggle, recently Judge Moukawsher, a state judge from Connecticut, in a lawsuit filed against the state by the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, rocked the educational boat some more when in his ruling he included a message to lawmakers to reassess what level of services students with significant disabilities are entitled to.

His ruling and statements appear to say that he thinks we’re spending too much money on our special education students. And that for some of them, it just isn’t worth it because their disabilities are too severe. You can imagine how controversial this was and how much it angered some people.

The 2016 United States Presidential election resulted in something that few people saw coming. Real Estate mogul and reality star Donald Trump won the presidency and then appointed anti-public educator Betsy Devos to head up this country’s Department of Education. Her charge, given to her by Trump, is to drastically slash the Department of Education, and to push forward private charter schools over what they call a failing public educational system.

How this is going to affect our students, and especially our more vulnerable special education students, nobody knows for sure at this time. But, I can also tell you that there aren’t many people out there that feel comfortable with it right now. Only time will tell where this is all going to go and how it will affect our special education students…

So, as I said earlier, perhaps the largest, most pervasive issue in special education is its relationship to general education. Both my own travels and our nation’s journey through the vast realm of education over all of these years has been an interesting one and a tricky one plagued with controversy to say the least.

I can still remember when I first became a special education teacher back in the mid-1990s. A friend’s father, who was a school principal at the time, told me to get out of special education because it wasn’t going to last. Well, I’ve been in and out of special education for more than two decades now, and sometimes I don’t know if I’m a regular education teacher or a special education teacher, or both. And sometimes I think our country’s educational system might be feeling the same internal struggle that I am. But, regardless, all these years later, special education is still here.

In closing, although Itard failed to normalize Victor, the wild boy of Averyon, he did produce dramatic changes in Victor’s behavior through education. Today, modern special education practices can be traced to Itard. His work marks the beginning of widespread attempts to instruct students with disabilities. Fast forwarding to 2017, for what happens next in the future of education and special education in our country… Well, I guess that depends on all of us…