Statement of Purpose

The College of Inner Awareness, Metaphysical and Spiritual Studies (CIAMSS), located in Clearwater, Florida, has been a leader in metaphysical and spiritual education since 1986. CMS was formed after extensive evaluation of the educational needs of the Metaphysical, New Age, New Thought, Neo-Pagan and modern spiritual communities.

By Metaphysical we mean… Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy, and related to the natural sciences, like physics, psychology and the biology of the brain; and also to mysticism, religion, and other spiritual subjects. It is notoriously difficult to define, but for purposes of briefly introducing it, it can be identified as the study of any of the most fundamental concepts and beliefs about the basic nature of reality, on which many other concepts and beliefs rest – concepts such as being, existence, universal, property, relation, causation, space, time, event, and many others.

Part of the trouble with defining metaphysics lies in how much the field has changed since it was first given its name by Aristotle's editors centuries ago. Problems that were not originally considered metaphysical have been added. Other problems that were considered metaphysical problems for centuries are now typically relegated to their own separate subheadings in philosophy, such as philosophy of religion, philosophy of mind, philosophy of perception, philosophy of language, and philosophy of science. It would require quite a long time to state all the problems that have, at one time or another, been considered part of metaphysics.

Other philosophical traditions have very different conceptions of the metaphysical problems from those in the Western philosophical tradition; for example, Taoism and indeed, much of Eastern philosophy completely reject many of the most basic tenets of Aristotelian metaphysics, principles which have by now become almost completely internalized and beyond question in Western philosophy, though a number of dissidents from Aristotelian metaphysics have emerged in the west.

While metaphysics is practiced by many as a religion, it is basically a belief system. Unity, Science of Mind, Religious Science and Spiritualism are examples of Metaphysical-based religions. There are many who consider themselves metaphysicians but attend no worship services. However, they live their lives in a metaphysical pattern. This includes those who consider themselves Neo-Pagans who follow the beliefs of Druidism and Wicca. They too are spiritual paths that are inclusive rather than exclusive. For the majority of people, there is comfort in belonging to a group of people who think as you do but metaphysics makes no requirements for membership in any organization.

By New Age we mean… New Age describes a broad movement characterized by alternative approaches to traditional Western culture. The movement is particularly concerned with spiritual exploration, holistic medicine, and mysticism, yet no rigid boundaries actually exist, making the term point to its own perspective on history, philosophy, religion, spirituality, medicine, music, science, and lifestyle.

The term "New Age" at one time, perhaps in the late 1960s, referred to a movement started by the followers of Alice Bailey's ideas concerning the coming New Age. Since then New Age has broadened into its current meaning. No longer a single belief system, it is an aggregate of beliefs and practices (syncretism) which are drawn from earlier myths established religions and new religious movements. Inside this movement are individuals using a "do-it-yourself" approach, while other groups formulate coherent belief systems resembling traditional religion.

Some people, including neo-pagans, who are frequently labeled as New Age, might find the term inappropriate since it appears to link them with beliefs and practices they do not espouse. Others think that the classification of beliefs and movements under New Age has little added value due to the vagueness of the term. Instead, they prefer to refer directly to the individual beliefs and movements. Indeed, use by religious conservatives, scientists and others has caused the term "New Age" to sometimes have a derogatory connotation.

By New Thought we mean… The New Thought Movement describes a set of religious developments that occurred in the United States during the late 19th century, originating with Phineas Quimby. From this movement emerged several religious denominations that remain active today, including Divine Science, Religious Science, and the Unity Church. Although Christian Science has some historical connections to the New Thought movement, it developed in a different direction and does not consider itself a New Thought denomination.

New Thought religions generally share a belief in the universal presence of God within all people. In line with Philosophical Idealism, they profess the primacy of mind over the physical world, and place great emphasis in positive thinking, affirmations, meditation, and prayer. New Thought churches often avoid dogmatic pronouncements about the afterlife or other theological questions, and vary in the degree to which they associate themselves with Christianity. Although New Thought churches are often identified with the New Age movement, New Thought beliefs predate contemporary New Age thinking by nearly a century.

By Neopagan we mean… Neopaganism (sometimes Neo-Paganism) is a heterogeneous group of religions claiming to be a revival of mainly European Paganism. It is called Neopaganism by academics and many adherents to distinguish it from earlier forms of Paganism, from which it differs in many significant ways. Some adherents detest the term Neopagan, finding it deeply insulting, while some see it as representing what they feel to be a changing, vital nature of Neopaganism.

Neopaganism is a diverse collection of beliefs. It has been said that there are as many Neopagan belief systems as there are Neopagans. However, while Neopagans do establish their own personal belief system, they also share some common precepts, although the younger generation of Neopagans especially can be highly resistant to such profiling. Common themes include the reverence for nature or active ecology, Goddess (or Horned God) veneration, use of ancient mythologies, the belief in "magick," and often the belief in reincarnation.

By Modern Spirituality we mean… Spirituality is often thought of as the better or higher part of mind. Or is it the moral aspect of life? Perhaps it may mean a state of being ethereal. It may be termed as an ideal that sees all reality in essence as spiritual. Or simply stated spirituality is one's character or quality that makes one transcend the barriers of worldliness, caste, creed and sensuality; and realize one's connection with Truth. 

Spirituality may include belief in supernatural powers, as in religion, but the emphasis is on experience. What is referred to as "religion" and what is referred to as "spirituality" are often the same. In recent years, "spirituality" has often carried connotations of the believer's faith being more personal, less dogmatic, more open to new ideas and myriad influences, and more pluralistic than the faiths of established religions. Those given to speaking of "spirituality" rather than "religion" are apt to believe that there are many "spiritual paths" and that there is no objective truth about which is the best path to follow. On the other hand, there are many adherents of orthodox religions who consider spirituality to be an aspect of their religious experience, and they are more likely to contrast spirituality with secular "worldliness" than with the ritual expression of their religion. Others of a more New Age disposition hold that spirituality is not religion, per se, but the active and vital connection to a force, power, or sense of the deep self.

Some proponents of spirituality believe that the goal of 'being spiritual' is to simultaneously improve one's wisdom, willpower and communion with God/universe, which necessitates the removal of illusions at the sensory, feeling and thinking aspects of a person. The 'Plato's cave' analogy in book VII of The Republic is one of the most well known descriptions of the spiritual development process.

Other spiritual proponents point out that that spirituality is a two-stroke process. The upward stroke relates to inner growth and the downward stroke relates towards manifesting improvements in the world/reality around us as a result of the inward change.

The rule of thumb when evaluating any spiritual approach is that six months of diligent, proper practice should manifest noticeable improvement in one's life. If not, then the usual advice is to pick an approach that is more likely to assist you in achieving your specific goals.

The primary purpose of CIAMSS is to train and educate prospective leaders for metaphysical ministries and schools through Distant-Learning or On-campus Training. Those persons not planning to become metaphysical practitioners, but who only wish to pursue a solid self-improvement program and acquire an excellent education in metaphysics and the spiritual sciences, are also encouraged to attend in a degree or non-degree status.

CIAMSS is authorized by the Commission for Independent Education, Independent Colleges and Universities, Non-Secular Division, Florida Department of Education to operate as a private, non-secular college and to issue religious or spiritual Associate, Bachelor, Master and Doctorate Degrees in metaphysics, religion, spiritual awareness, spiritual and holistic healing, esoteric studies, parapsychology, and the entire allied metaphysical field. CIAMSS trains and certifies ministers, spiritual and holistic healers, teachers, pastoral counselors, mediums, intuitive practitioners, past-life regression facilitators and administrators. Certification is by the New Awareness Ministries (NAMI). Certification by NAMI does not indicate certification or licensing by any Florida state agencies.

CIAMSS bases its curriculum on the truth disclosed by a careful analysis of Metaphysics and the Truth revealed in faith that can be applied and interpreted to meet the challenges of the new millennium. CIAMSS teaches a living spirituality which recognizes and assimilates the contributions and revelations of the sciences and all living faiths of the world.

The College of Inner Awareness, Metaphysical and Spiritual Studies is the educational division of New Awareness Ministries  a metaphysical ministry founded to bridge the gap between New Age, New Thought, and Traditional group. We welcome applications from people of all ethnic backgrounds regardless of sex, race, religion, nationality, sexual preference or marital status. Applications received are considered on an equal basis. The announcements, information, policies, rules, regulations, and procedures set forth in this catalog are for information and are subject to continual review and change without notice.

 Educational Goals

 1. To provide adult education programs for persons drawn to Inner Awareness, Metaphysical, and New Thought movements seeking spiritual growth.

 2. To educate for the purpose of developing leadership within the movements, including licensed and/or ordained ministers, pastoral counselors, teachers, healing and intuitive practitioners, and administrative personnel.

 3. To provide continuing postgraduate education both for those in leadership in the movement and for those seeking programs of lifelong learning.

 4. To engage in research and provide a point of contact with developments in the wider educational community.

 Choosing a Metaphysical Education

The word "metaphysics" comes to us from Ancient Greece – meta, meaning higher – beyond earth physics or invisible physics. Metaphysics is referred to as a branch of philosophy that deals with First Cause and the Nature of Being. Students studying this advanced knowledge of evolution should not accept its teachings unless a “compatible feeling” accompanies it. Metaphysics is not meant to be studied strictly as an intellectual pursuit. A student of metaphysics does not attempt to solve all questions materially. They are taught to accept that which happens obviously, even when no scientific explanation can account for it. It is taught as a branch of philosophy in many academic colleges and universities today as "Speculative Philosophy."

Metaphysics is synonymous with the Greek word Pantheism (pan meaning all). Pantheism is the doctrine that the sum total of everything that exists; all things, animate and inanimate, including the earth and humans are manifestations of God(dess); suffering, evil, and change are aspects of God(dess) as much as the ultimate good in everything.

The word "metaphysics" has become a description of many fields of interest such as: philosophy, religion, spirituality, parapsychology, mysticism, yoga, ESP, dreams, Jungian psychology, astrology, meditation, self-help studies, positive thinking, holistic healing, life after death, reincarnation, etc. The common denominator of these and other comparable subjects deals with an exploration of Reality, and how this knowledge may benefit humanity, both individually and collectively. This is why most professional metaphysical practitioners regard metaphysics as a spiritual philosophy of life. They use this spiritual philosophy in whatever system or teaching of metaphysics they are engaged in.

Metaphysical practitioners are engaged in different things, all under the general label of metaphysics. This encompasses a wide range, such as yogis, mystics, psychics, astrologers, channels, spirit mediums, positive thinking teachers, meditation teachers, spiritual ministers, spiritual and pastoral counselors, spiritual and holistic healers, self-help teachers, etc. The range is wide, but, again, the common denominator is the search for truth, purpose and meaning in life. CIAMSS views all of these fields as part of Metaphysics, in regard to our Degree and other educational and certification programs.

CIAMSS is a private, non-secular college. Our study programs and degrees are designed solely for religious, spiritual, metaphysical-and holistic vocations and avocations and are theological not academic. We do not take one phase of study over another – it is our belief that there are many paths we may travel on the way to finding Truth. We believe that all paths “lead to the top of the mountain”.

Choosing Metaphysics as a Career

Many who have inquired about a metaphysical career, while communicating to us their enthusiasm and desire to enroll in the CIAMSS education programs, have expressed their uncertainty as to what they wish to do after graduation. Do not limit yourself. There are many opportunities in the field of metaphysics; remain open to all of them.

Many students from around the world, have enrolled in CIAMSS for the knowledge factor alone and have no intention of becoming a practitioner. We welcome all students. Whether you are studying for a metaphysical vocation or just for the knowledge that may be acquired, you will enjoy the improvement you will realize in your life as a result of your studies and a metaphysical lifestyle.

Whatever your motivation for studying with CIAMSS, you may be assured that the quality and nature of the studies covered in our education programs can make a dramatic improvement in your life. A metaphysical lifestyle can bring forth your inner potential for successful living from the practical standpoint in matters of love, romance, marriage, income, career, inner confidence, peace of mind, creativity – to the growth and expansion of your mind (inclusive of Higher Consciousness), expanded awareness, increased intuitive and psychic sensitivity, and self-realization.

The Legalities of a Metaphysical Career

Metaphysical teachings incorporate as their main theme, the spiritual nature of the human being. Hence, metaphysics was established as a spiritual philosophy in the United States and many other countries, and, since the existing federal and state laws nationwide do not separate the spiritual from religious, metaphysics was placed in the legal classification of religion.

Many legal metaphysical practitioners are operating under a religious classification. Most hold a legal ministerial status. They may choose not to advertise this fact or call attention to it unless challenged to do so, unless, of course, they have chosen to function as ministers in a spiritual center or church.

Your legal right to teach, counsel, or heal in metaphysics today is often determined by having an ordained or licensed ministerial status. The primary purpose of a metaphysical degree is to establish a highly professional image of yourself as a person who is learned in metaphysics and has taken the time to obtain a scholarly level of knowledge. A metaphysical degree can provide you with many opportunities in life. It can mean:

Greater Knowledge: A metaphysical education will increase your ability to understand developments in spirituality and in society, to think abstractly and critically, to express thoughts clearly in speech and in writing, and to make wise decisions. These skills are useful both in your chosen vocation or your private life.

Greater Potential: A metaphysical education can help increase your understanding of the community, the nation, and the world – as you explore interests, discover new areas of knowledge, consider lifelong goals, and become a more responsible citizen.

Greater Opportunities: The world is changing rapidly. Many jobs rely on new technology and require more brainpower than muscle power. In your working life, more and more jobs will require education beyond high school. With a college education of any type, you will be more prepared for any opportunity that may arise.

Specific Career Opportunities in Metaphysics

 

The Ministry

From the beginning, many leaders from every spiritual belief have been called to serve. For the minister, each day offers a new challenge. The phone rings; you are summoned to the bedside of a dying person. Later in the day, you help arrange a marriage. That evening, you counsel a soul in trouble. No other vocation offers such a wide span of involvement with humanity. The ministry is not a job, not a profession. It is a calling and the noblest; the most demanding and at times exasperating but it is surely the most satisfying and rewarding experience human life affords.

The minister serves the Ultimate Power; It develops and strengthens us. We must prepare ourselves first, then our sermons, lectures and classes. The fact that we are ministers will work against our spiritual life unless we are careful. While attending to our public ministries, our personal devotions may be neglected.

Power in preaching and teaching comes in direct proportion to time spent in prayer and meditation. Nothing – not speaking ability or a personality or a persuasive manner can take the place of the Spirit, filling and shaping and using the committed life. Are we adequate to the task? Never. But Spirit accepts and uses our service nonetheless. If the truth were known, few of us pray or meditate enough. We tend to rely too much upon our own cleverness in programming and promotion, but not enough upon the power of the Universe through prayer and meditation. Sadly, our spiritual organizations show it.

The minister who keeps his/her appointment with his or her Inner Divinity need have no anxiety about his or her work. In your daily walk, you will experience the unfolding hand of God(dess) bringing new power and effectiveness. You will see your life lifted to a level you never dreamed possible, a level you could never have attained by yourself.

For the reasons stated above, you may find that you must have a ministerial status to practice legally. As explained in this catalog, you may obtain ministerial status in our Ministerial Education Programs.

 

Training Good Teachers

Many of our schools are doing a poor job due to overcrowded conditions and teachers who must be inspired to put their heart in the work. Better school housing and salaries for educational workers will help. But the metaphysical spiritual center or school can inspire the desire to teach the young in many of its members. A dynamic program of spiritual education for all ages is a wonderful challenge to any spiritual group. If you intend to teach something you must know it well; and this fact in itself will spur the teachers to deeper studies in spiritual philosophy and metaphysics.

For some, even those who in the beginning felt that they had no special talent, there will come a time when an inner urge to do something more will manifest. In many cases this urge will came in a desire to teach, to point the way for others that they may find the joy you have found. In the first place don’t expect people to look up to you as a teacher or to follow your teaching unless you show in your own life that your ideas work. The old saying "Do as I say, not as I do" will not work in this area, the result will be failure. If you are not willing to make a few changes in yourself, don't set yourself up as a teacher.

Living is also teaching, many people will follow a leader. And what better form of leadership than example? After all, what right does anyone have to try to teach another the worth of something, unless he or she has proved it in his or her own life? Unless you can show by your everyday living that you have something that makes your life better, it doesn’t mean much to try to teach it. If others can see by your example that your way, your belief makes your life a better, happier experience, they will wish to have what you have and so you may teach and help them.

You must be willing to study, read, and learn in order to broaden your outlook and increase your knowledge. Never forget that a teacher learns from students as well as they learn from their teacher, there is much truth to the old adage: “A teacher teaches what he/she needs to know”. Realize also that you must face criticism. Great people throughout history were criticized so why do many of us feel we should be spared this? Make up your mind that you will not let this discourage you. On the other hand, as you grow more confident and helpful and people begin looking up to you, do not let it go to your head.

No matter how much you know there are always those who know more. Keep your humility. It is a great virtue. Never feel proud or conceited because you think you know more than some because on this great spiritual path each of us are exactly where we should be. Seek instead to bring others to where you stand. Perhaps you may also learn from them, for in some other field they may know more than you. You came to evolve, as all souls do. As you help others to evolve you also progress. There are many ways of teaching. Not all can teach formally but all can help. If what has been given you has helped, or comforted, or guided you, do not hesitate to share it. Often a personal experience related well will help another more than any other thing.

You are entering a new life and you can do it from where you are now. Stress meditation with your students. It is of utmost importance. Look within for guidance. The Spirit of Truth will guide the one who trusts and believes that "there is only Good". Let the power of your Creator work through you to serve humanity. Do not falter, nor be discouraged, no matter what comes. When you see the greatness of the Light you have helped to create, your joy will know no bounds and you will forget the harshness of the struggle.

Eventually, people of all ages will hear the truth. They will hear about modern spirituality; about the visible and etheric worlds, the origin and meaning of human life; the facts about transition and the afterlife; the truth of communication as a perfectly natural process; and they will be encouraged to develop their own spiritual and psychic powers as a natural part of the educational process – which it certainly is. Is this too much to hope for? We think not, as the tempo of change is speeding up; Aquarian age vibrations are pressing hard upon mass consciousness and forcing people to think more deeply about spiritual truth.

 Spiritual and Pastoral Counseling

Your decision to enter the ministry may be one of the most significant events in your life. You have chosen to "get involved" by being a part of the growing movement of people helping other people. Your energies and efforts are needed. You can make a positive difference in the lives of others. Helping others in their attempts to make sense out of life is no easy task. Yet, reaching out and caring about what happens to another human being can be a satisfying and rewarding experience. So many people today are struggling to get along in this fast-paced and rapidly changing world that the need for helping services has increased in all areas, especially in the area of interpersonal relationships.

Spiritual and Pastoral Counseling is one of the most dynamic, rapidly expanding fields of the decade. It is no longer just the province of the orthodox religious community. It is a response to the need for someone to really care for the troubled within the modern spiritual center and those numerous persons who have no center, but who turn to a minister or spiritual counselor for help when crises strike.

It is important to obtain the best available training in counseling, not only to avoid doing harm but also to maximize one’s abilities to be of help to the disturbed. A competent counselor often has the privilege of walking with another human being on his or her inner journey toward wholeness. The counselor who has paid the price of disciplined study and training leading to competence knows the joy and wonder that comes with the realization: “My personality, with all its flaws and frailties, has been used as an instrument by which the power of the universe brought healing to another human being.”

You and your client will team up. The client will use flexible, non-rigid intelligence, and will need the cooperation of your flexible, non-rigid thinking. With some precise assistance from you, your client will become able to discharge, release and be freed of stored up tensions that have held his/her patterns of hurt in place, and then think through the experience of hurt until he/she makes complete sense of them. Then the experiences will no longer affect him/her in rigid or compelling ways, but only as if they were ordinary memories of ordinary living.

It's not difficult to be a spiritual/Pastoral counselor, and yet in a way it is. It is a simple matter once the theory and practice is understood, and yet doing it will often be complicated. What you will be doing is assisting another person to become free of rigid patterns of behaving and feeling that have been left upon him/her by experiences of being hurt. The only persistent difficulties in your way will be the rigid patterns that have been left upon you. The CIAMSS Spiritual and Pastoral Counseling Education Programs will prepare you to open you mind and allow you to change the patterns to become a true caregiver. 

Metaphysical and Spiritual Healing Modalities

Metaphysicians throughout the ages have practiced "Faith Healing." There is a wide variety of healing experiences today, and faith is a major ingredient in receiving healing from them. A strong desire to give us the thoughts that brought about the condition is even more important.

It may take intercessory prayer from another person to turn around a condition one has incurred. Only when the emotions of illness are set right can an effective healing take place. We know that fear, greed, revenge, jealousy, anxiety and frustration are seeds of disease. When the body is mentally, emotionally, and spiritually in harmony it is "at ease" and is healthy. When it is at "dis‑ease," illness follows. Life will never fail to give us what is right for our growth. When we put ourselves in harmony with the Divine Mind, illness is overcome.

Metaphysical healing practitioners generally accept requests for prayer treatment for physical, emotional and/or financial conditions needing improvement. Not all use prayer. Some use meditation and others use psychic or telepathic healing along with holistic modalities. The current holistic trend toward alternative or complimentary medicine is increasing the demand for metaphysical healing practitioners, and should continue to do so for many years to come.

The Relationship between the Holistic Movement and Metaphysics

Metaphysical and holistic healing practitioners recognize the interaction of Mind, Body and Spirit. We teach that as a person thinks, so he or she is. If your thoughts are negative, you will manifest illness. In Holistic medicine, like Metaphysics, self-responsibility is stressed. Patient participation is encouraged in every aspect; attitude, diet, exercise and education. There can be no separate slot called "Health." All of life reflects our level of consciousness.

In our Holistic Healing Education Programs, CIAMSS teaches natural modalities such as Naturopathy, Homeopathy, Herbology, Aromatherapy, Biofield (Energy) Healing and Visualization. All these, as well as the spiritual healing modalities have been given to us, in nature, to promote health. The plants that grow on the earth, the mineral found in the earth, the animal found upon the earth, our hands, and our voices were placed here to help us survive and flourish.

Other Metaphysical Careers

In addition to the above vocations, you might also consider social work, past life regression facilitator, intuitive practitioner, spirit medium, paranormal investigator, motivational speaker, body or massage worker, just to name a few.

Operating a Metaphysical Bookstore: You will attract attention in your community for your metaphysical bookstore if you have a valid metaphysical degree or certification. Bookstores are a lucrative operation. This is a business that can be established for very little cost for inventory. Metaphysical bookstores are always busy, even in some towns where metaphysical thinking in the population is not readily visible. Metaphysical bookstores are also a wonderful outlet for crystals, gifts, yoga classes, referrals, and other related items.

Paranormal Practitioner: The "paranormal" ("beyond the normal") refers to human experiences that do not seem to be explainable in terms of our everyday understanding or known scientific principles. Paranormal experiences often seem weird, uncanny, or unnatural, but are really part of a hidden part of nature of which we are not aware.

Professional Lecture Circuit: Lecturers on metaphysical, spiritual and New Age subjects are in great demand at this time, even on the corporate circuit. If you like to travel, this is a wonderful way to earn right livelihood. Agents book lecturers all over the country for things like charities, colleges, business groups, fund-raising groups, metaphysical and medical centers, expos, fairs, and countless other types of organizations. Your metaphysical degree will make an agent more likely to take you on, especially when you are first trying to establish yourself. If you do not have credentials, the agent will most likely not take you on. It is easier for agents to book people who have credentials.

Retreat, Seminar or Workshop Facilitator: Many graduates of metaphysical studies become facilitators of retreats and workshops. Having credentials gives the facilitator a professional image, and gives credibility to the workshop. People are more inclined to invest in and trust someone who has formal training than they are to trust someone without training. Having credentials gives you an immediate advantage over those who have none, yet have an ad right next to yours.

Opening a Metaphysical or Spiritual Center: When starting a center or a retreat facility it is much easier to gather investors and other necessary partners for the project when the principal has a metaphysical degree or certification. It is a statement of professional standing. It gives the center credibility and creates an air of seriousness and commitment to your endeavor.

Perhaps you have an idea that is not mentioned here. In this New Age there are new kinds of careers that did not exist before. What other ideas do you have for a possible career path in metaphysics?  

Advantages of a Metaphysical Degree or Certification

Many people practicing metaphysics today have a ministerial status but few have a bona-fide metaphysical degree or certification. This is due primarily to the fact that there are very few legitimate colleges and universities teaching metaphysics and its allied fields. Many people practicing metaphysics and claiming to have a degree have obtained their degree from a diploma mill, making their degree suspect and casting doubt on their qualifications to practice metaphysics. We strongly suggest that you verify the credentials of any school you wish to attend. Unfortunately, there are many charlatans selling their “snake oil” today, but what is even worse is the well-meaning but poorly trained practitioner. They become a danger to their client and to themselves and eventually to the entire professional metaphysical practitioner vocation.  

A Word of Caution to the Distance-Learning Adult Student

Learning is not automatic. Adult students and their instructors must face and overcome a number of challenges before learning takes place including: becoming and staying responsible for themselves; "owning" their strengths, desires, skills, and needs; maintaining and increasing self-esteem; relating to others; clarifying what is learned; redefining what legitimate knowledge is; and dealing with content. These challenges are considered in relation to distance education:

Becoming and staying responsible for themselves: High motivation is required to complete distant courses because the day-to-day contact with teachers and other students is typically lacking. Instructors can help motivate distant students by providing consistent and timely feedback, encouraging discussion among students, being well prepared for class, and by encouraging and reinforcing effective student study habits.

Owning one's strengths, desires, skills, needs: Students need to recognize their strengths and limitations. They also need to understand their learning goals and objectives. The instructor can help distant students to explore their strengths/limitations and their learning goals/objectives by assuming a facilitative role in the learning process. Providing opportunities for students to share their personal learning goals and objectives for a course helps to make learning more meaningful and increases motivation.

Maintaining and increasing self-esteem: Distant students may be afraid of their ability to do well in a course. They are balancing many responsibilities including employment and raising children. Often their involvement in distance education is unknown to those they work with and ignored by family members. Student performance is enhanced if learners set aside time for their instructional activities and if they receive family support in their academic endeavors. The instructor can maintain student self-esteem by providing timely feedback. It is critical for teachers to respond to students' questions, assignments, and concerns in a personalized and pleasant manner, using appropriate technology such as fax, phone, or computer. Informative comments that elaborate on the individual student's performance and suggest areas for improvement are especially helpful.

Relating to others: Students often learn most effectively when they have the opportunity to interact with other students. Interaction among students leads to group problem solving. When students are unable to meet together, appropriate interactive technology such as E-mail should be provided to encourage small group and individual communication. Assignments, in which students work together and then report back or present to the class as a whole, encourage student-to-student interaction. Ensure clear directions and realistic goals for group assignments.

Clarifying what is learned: Distant students need to reflect on what they are learning. They need to examine the existing knowledge frameworks in their heads and how these are being added to or changed by incoming information. Examinations, papers, and class presentations provide opportunities for student and teacher to evaluate learning. However, less formal methods of evaluation will also help the students and teacher to understand learning. For example, periodically during the course the instructor can ask students to write a brief reflection on what they have learned and then provide an opportunity for them to share their insights with other class members.

Redefining what legitimate knowledge is: Adult learners may find it difficult to accept that their own experience and reflections are legitimate knowledge. If the instructor takes a facilitative rather than authoritative role, students will see-their own experience as valuable and important to their further learning. It is best for distant learners to use first-person language to help them claim ownership of personal values, experiences, and insights.

Dealing with content: Student learning is enhanced when content is related to examples. Instructors tend to teach using examples that were used when they received their training. For distance learning to be effective, however, instructors must discover examples that are relevant to their distant students. Distant students are encouraged to find or develop examples that are relevant to them or their community.

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