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Instructors’ differing tactics yield same result – success

Shelley Dubkin-Lee and Donna Drake-Clark are, for all intents and purposes, in charge of the College of Education’s master’s degree program in adult education. The differences between the two faculty members are too many to count.

Donna Drake-Clark and Shelley Dubkin-Lee

Donna Drake-Clark, left, and Shelley Dubkin-Lee play a vital role in the value and success of the adult education program, utilizing their stylistic differences to maximize student learning.

They’d like to try anyway.

“I get people hooked, and she closes the deal,” says Dubkin-Lee, the program coordinator who boasts of a long history in K-12 and adult education.

“We’re the opposite sides of the coin,” adds Drake-Clark, the program lead whose background is mostly in corporate human resources.

“Donna has that business-like ability to see things in the future and get things done, and I like to deal with things in the moment and see how they develop.”

“Shelley’s the bra-burning rabble-rouser, and I’m the one sitting there saying, ‘Let me tell you why it’s good for the university to do this.’ ”

The two women do have quite a bit in common, though. They laugh a lot, crack jokes. And, to hear past and present adult ed students tell the story, each one is an outstanding educator and mentor.

That “opposites attract” formula is a primary reason why the hybrid, online-and-on-site program — delivered Oregon State Ecampus — has established a reputation as a nationwide leader in adult education.

“Grad school was a big, scary thing to me for many years, but when I finally was ready to take the plunge, Ecampus was a great fit. Donna and Shelley and the other faculty made it so,” said Michelle Benoit, a Coos Bay, Oregon, resident who earned a Master of Science in Education this June. “Their styles complement each other very well.”

The instructors’ differing philosophies work to the students’ advantage because the program prepares them to educate adults in a variety of settings. The students, who study online and also meet one weekend per month at the Wilsonville Training Center in Wilsonville, Oregon, learn strategies for teaching and training in business and industry, government, community agencies and community college programs.

The coursework also calls for the design and implementation of curriculum in basic skills, as well as work-related and content-based instruction.

It’s a lot to absorb, but Dubkin-Lee and Drake-Clark — in conjunction with the College of Ed’s other experienced faculty — have found the ideal balance to skillfully prepare Ecampus students for the infinite number of situations they’ll encounter as adult educators.

“What we hope to give them in our program is a huge tool kit of strategies and ways of thinking about education. That way, in any situation they go into they’ll be prepared,” Dubkin-Lee said. “It’s like matching up a Lego. If you come with a certain Lego but another person has a different kind of Lego, it just isn’t going to connect. You don’t come with one Lego — you come with a bag of Legos.”

Dubkin-Lee and Drake-Clark, who came to OSU in 2009, receive such an outpouring of praise from their students because their styles — dissimilar though they may be — merge where it matters most: They lay their instruction bare and invite students to critique their methods in order to maximize learning.

“I use my class as a learning lab. While I’m giving them content, I ask them to put on their hats as instructional designers instead of as students, and we’re going to deconstruct what I just did,” Drake-Clark said. “I tell them why I did it that way, what alternatives I considered and then they tell me how it worked now that they’ve pulled the curtain back. They really like that opportunity.”

Students have said as much, too.

“It just puts it in such a real context that you’d find yourself saying, ‘Oh, it’s clicking. It’s making sense now,’ ” said Benoit, an academic advisor at Southwest Oregon Community College. “I loved that approach.”

For a pair of people who differ on so many levels, Dubkin-Lee and Drake-Clark are connected on the one level that matters most. They engage their students, and the results are a resounding success.

“Donna and Shelley were always there for me,” said 2011 graduate Michael Kramar, an educator in Bend, Oregon. “It was a new experience for me that I often did not know how to handle, but they have given me a model to follow that I can now give to others.”

For more information about this master’s degree in education program, visit the Ecampus adult education website.