"Perspectives on adult learning have changed dramatically over the decades. Adult learning has been viewed as a process of being freed from the oppression of being illiterate, a means of gaining knowledge and skills, a way to satisfy learner needs, and a process of critical self-reflection that can lead to transformation. The phenomenon of adult learning is complex and difficult to capture in any one definition." From: Cranton, P. (1994). Understanding and Promoting Transformative Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 3.
Well, there you have it folks--yet another area of adult education that is difficult to define! As you well know, the area of adult learning is extremely broad. The information in this section will certainly not do justice to all of the information that has been published on this subject. What you will find here are some of the main points that are examined in ADE 5385 (Adult Learning). As usual, check your list of readings from this class for a fuller picture of what adult learning includes.
Intelligence and Adult Development
What is Intelligence?
There are many definitions and theories of intelligence and how it can or should be measured, "Intelligence has been most often studies from the psychometric tradition which assumes that it is a measurable construct" (Merriam & Caffarella, 1999, p. 170). But there are other views as well; information processing, contextual perspectives, and practical intelliegence. There are many questions to ask ourselves about intelligence:
Some Theories of IntelligenceCattell: Intelligence consists of two primary factors (fluid and crystallized intelligence) each with different origins. Fluid intelligence is, "...the ability to perceive complex relations and engage in short-term memory, concept formation, reasoning, and abstraction" (p. 175). Crystallized intelligence is influenced more heavily by education and experience. There is no single test that measures both fluid and crystallized intelligence. Fluid intelligence is generally thought to peak in adolescence and crystallized intelligence is beleived to increase or remain stable during most of adulthood. There have, however, been studies done to see if fluid intelligence can be restored or improved as people age (p. 175).
Gardner: Intelligence has been too narrowly defined--we tend to measure only logical and linguistic abilities, ignoring other areas of competence. Gardner believes that intelligence is not a single construct--there are multiple intelligences and he has identified eight kinds: Verbal/Linguistic, Musical, Logical/Mathematical, Spatial/Visual, Bodily/Kinesthetic, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, and Naturalist Gardner's theory offers some explanation as to why people can perform certain tasks very well, but perform less well or poorly on others.His theory has also sparked much debate in the fields of education and psychology on how intelligence is measured (pp.177-8).
Sternberg: Intelligence is composed of three subtheories: 1) a componential subtheory describing the internal mental mechanisms and processes involved in intelligence, 2) an experiential subtheory focusing on how a person's experience with a set of tasks or situations may affect his/her handling of those tasks; and 3) a contextual subtheory emphasizing the role of the external environment in determining what constitutes intelligent behavior in a situation. The first part of this theory is seen as universal and the other two have universal and relativistic components (p. 179) Merriam and Caffarella write: "All three intelligences are interrelated and therefore are needed in adult life. Sternberg stresses that it is not enough just to have these three abilities; rather, people are successfully intelligent when they are able to choose how and when to use these abilities effectively" (p. 180).
Goleman: Goleman believes that we have two ways of knowing: The rational and the emotional. Both of these ways of knowing are intertwined, but emotional intelligence is a greater determiner of success in life. There are five domains of emotional intelligence: "knowing one's emotions, managing emotions, motivating oneself, recognizing emotions in others, and handling relationshps" (p. 181). Merriam and Caffarella (1999) note that Goleman is not the only theorist who sees the importance of emotional intelligence--both Gardner and Sternberg's theories deal in some ways with this idea.
Intelligence and Aging
Does our intelligence keep increasing as we age? Merriam and Caffarella have this to say: "Whether adults lose their intellectual abilities as they age is still open to question for a number of reasons, including a lack of consistent research methodologies and tools. The most common response is to this important issue is that adult intelligence appears relatively stable, at least until the sixth or seventh decade. If a decline in functioning does exist, it appears to apply primarily to the maximum versus average levels of functioning. In reflecting on the issue of aging and intelligence, remember that myths promote powerful images, whether the myth is grounded in fact or fiction. It has been difficult for educators and researchers alike to give up the stereotype that young equals sharp and older means dull." (1991, p. 158)
Learning Processes and Aging
Physical and cognitive changes that take place as we age are important to note because they can have an affect on our learning:
Taken from: Merriam, S. & Caffarella, R. (1991). Learning in Adulthood. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 159-180.
Cross, P. (1981). Adults as Learners. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 152-185.Merriam and Caffarella (1999) make three points about how new information on intelligence in adulthood is valuable for educators:
When we talk about how children learn, we often focus on the developmental stages that children go through as they mature. Adults likewise go through developmental stages which can be grouped chronologically or sociologically (i.e. grouped according to socially defined roles of adults). There is a difference between life-cycle phases and developmental stages. Life-cycle phases are phases which people pass through from birth to death--these phases are not part of a continuous flow toward growth and maturity. Developmental stages are more concerned with personality or ego development. While phases and stages may inform one another, they are not the same thing.
Cross, P. (1981). Adults as Learners. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 152-185.
Another excellent source for info on adult development is Chapter 3 of Daloz's Effective Teaching and Mentoring (1986). Daloz presents three "maps" of how adults develop:
Wait! Before you dash off to the next section, think about some of these questions offered by Susan Imel, "When thinking about serving older adults, some questions for adult, career, and vocational educators that emerge from these trends include the following:
From: ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education Trends and Issues Alerts,
Assumptions of Andragogy
"Andragogy is simply another model of assumptions about learners to be used alongside the pedagogical model of assumptions, thereby providing two alternative models for testing out the assumptions as to their 'fit' with particular situations. Furthermore, the models are probably most useful when seen not as dichotomous but rather as two ends of a spectrum, with a realistic assumption in a given situation falling in between the two ends." From: Knowles, M. (1980). The Modern Practice of Adult Education: From Pedagogy to Andragogy 2nd ed. New York: Association Press.
Knowles' Andragogical Assumptions
Concept of the Learner
During the process of maturation, a person moves from dependency toward increasing self-directedness, but at different rates for different people and in different dimensions of life. Teachers have a responsibility to encourage and nurture this movement. Adults have a deep psychological need to be generally self-directing, but they may be dependent in certain temporary situations.
Role of the Learner's Experience
As people grow and develop they accumulate an increasing reservoir of experience that becomes and increasingly rich resource for learning--for themselves and for others. Furthermore, people attach more meaning to learnings they gain from experience than those they acquire passively. Accordingly, the primary techniques in education are experiential ones--laboratory experiments, discussion, problem-solving cases, field experiences, etc.
Readiness to Learn
People become ready to learn something when they experience a need to learn it in order to cope more satisfyingly with real-life tasks and problems. The educator has a responsibility to create conditions and provide tools and procedures for helping learners discover their "needs to know." Learning programs should be organized around life-application categories and sequenced according to the learners' readiness to learn.
Orientation to Learning
Learners see education as a process of developing increased competence to achieve their full potential in life. They want to be able to apply whatever knowledge and skill they gain today to living more effectively tomorrow. Accordingly, learning experiences should be organized around competency-development categories. People are performance-centered in their orientation to learning.
A table comparing pedagogy and andragogy can be found on pp.43-44 of the above-mentioned book. I have not included pedagogy here because I think that using a table for comparison "tricks" us into seeing dichotomies. Andragogy and pedagogy can be used with kids and adults--they are ends of a continuum. Still, while looking at the above chart, ask yourself if and how kids differ from adult learners.
Kinds of Learning and Settings for Learning
When we discuss adult learning, we need to clarify whether we're talking about the learning itself, the design and facilitation of the learning, or where the learning is taking place. As you can imagine, there are scores of charts and lists out there describing every possible kind of learning and various educational settings. Below, you'll find a sampling of a few of these ideas (it's much easier to digest that way!).
Kinds of Learning
Cranton does a very nice job of quickly running through kinds of knowledge and kinds of learning… and it goes somethin' like this:
Habermas' Three Domains of Knowledge
Technical Knowledge: includes information about cause and effect relationships in the environment and behavioristic learning theories.
Practical Knowledge: Concerned with understanding what others mean; includes understanding social norms, values, political concepts, and making ourselves understood--humanistic learning theories are partly involved in this.
Emancipatory Knowledge: gained through critical self-reflection and can be seen as a component of the constuctivist paradigm. Mezirow's theory of transformative learning is concerned with this kind of knowledge. (p. 9)
Mezirow's Three Domains of Learning
Cranton's Three Perspectives of Adult Learning
Note: While reading this, ask yourself if Cranton is assuming that there's an external agent involved in facilitating the learning? What about self-directed learning?
Subject-Oriented Learning: The goal is to acquire content (e.g. facts, problem solving strategies, practical or technical skills); it is positivistic and most often meets the expectations of the learner and is, therefore, comfortable. The expert makes the decisions, not the learner.
Consumer-Oriented Learning: Takes place when an individual expresses a need to learn, looks to the educator for fulfillment of those needs, and then proceeds to learn under the guidance of the educator. The learner makes each decision about learning--for this reason, this kind of learning falls under constructivism.
Emancipatory Learning: A process of freeing ourselves from forces that limit our options and our control over our lives, forces that have been taken for granted or seen as beyond our control. This kind of learning is constructivist in nature and can be transformative. At times this learning occurs independently of the educator; at other times it is fostered deliberately. Unlike the other two kinds of learning, emancipatory learning is often a difficult and painful process. (pp.10-20).
All of the above taken from: Cranton, C. (1994). Understanding and Promoting Transformative Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 3-21.
Situated CognitionSituated cognition sees context as central in understanding how adults know something. It is, "based on the idea that what we know and the meanings we attach to what we know are socially constructed. Thus, learning and knowing are intimately linked to real-life situations" (p.156). This is not a new idea, but, as Merriam and Brockett note, adult educators are becoming more committed to respecting the role of context in learning by looking beyond individual psychology and by creating real-life contexts for learning. (The Profession and Practice of Adult Education, 1997).
Settings for Learning
When you read about providers of adult education, you usually only see the kinds of learning that are attached to specific educational institutions, but learning can happen in many kinds of settings. Several educators have attempted to come up with frameworks to include learning in nontraditional settings. There is some overlap here between the settings and the kinds of learning that takes place in them. And, as you've seen in kinds of learning, the framework ranges from having external direction to self-direction. (Both are educational, but one tends to emphasize instruction, the other learning.) From: Apps, J (1989). "Providers of Adult and Continuing Education: A Framework." In Merriam, S. and Cunningham, P. (Eds.) Handbook of Adult and Continuing Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 275-286.
Coombs introduced informal learning as a legitimate source of adult learning--as equally important as learning provided in formal, full-time study settings. (p. 277)
Type of Education
Sequences of learning that are socially organized, goal-directed and certified by a diploma or degree having currency in the public educational system.
High school education, diploma-granting vocational education, higher education degrees
Sequences of learning that are socially organized and goal-directed but are not certified by formal education credentials.
CPR training, on-the-job training at work, Elderhostel, Line dancing class
Serendipitous or self-directed individual learning resulting from daily experience
Learning to change a clutch by observation, learning how to care for one's children
The idea is Coombs', the table might be from Paulston (1972). Nonfromal Education This was a class handout and I'm not sure of the reference.
Peterson puts adult education into the context of the rest of education; he recognizes the power of the self-directed learner who chooses a wide variety of approaches to learning; and he points out the importance of unintentional learning at home, work, from friends or the mass media, etc. (p.277)Merriam and Caffarella (1999) discuss settings for learning and include, for nonformal settings, community-based learning and indigenous learning. Community-based learning can take many different forms--citizens of a town gathering to overcome an issue in their community, cooperative extension programs, literacy and job skills programs, "A common thread to all of these programs is their focus on social action and change for the betterment of some part of the community" (p.30) Indigenous learning, "...refers to processes and structures people within particular societies have used to learn about their culture throughout their history" (Brennan, 1997 cited in Merriam and Caffarella, 1999, p. 31). This kind of learning is often connected to oral traditions and indigenous arts and can be used in other nonformal learning programs to enhance learning.
"Learning on one's own, being self-directed in one's learning is itself a context in which learning takes place. The key to placing a learning experience within this context is that the learner has the primary responsibility for planning, carrying out, and evaluating his or her own learning. Participation in self-directed learning seems almost universal--in fact, an estimated 90 percent of the population is involved with at least one self-directed learning activity a year…Adults engaging in self-directed learning do not necessarily follow a definite set of steps or linear format. In essence, self-directed learning occurs both by design and chance--depending on the interests, experiences, and actions of individual learners and the circumstances in which they find themselves…Self-directed learning does not necessarily mean learning in isolation--assistance is often sought from friends, experts, and acquaintances in both the planning and execution of the learning activity." From: Merriam, S. & Caffarella, R. (1991). Learning in Adulthood. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 54-55.
A word to teachers: Self-directed learners are not necessarily students who work alone and need no guidance from an instructor. As a teacher or trainer, you may have learners who wish to be more self-directed than they are capable of being. Brookfield points out that our function as facilitators is to challenge our learners to examine their ways of thinking and doing--regardless of their level of self-direction.
"To say one is meeting felt learner needs sounds humanistic, learner-centered, and admirably democratic, yet to do so without allowing one's own ideas, experience, insights, and knowledge as an educator to contribute to the educational process makes the facilitator a service manager, not a full participating contributor. It also condemns learners to staying within their own paradigms of thinking, feeling, and behaving." From: Brookfield. S. Understanding and Facilitating Adult Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 21.
Candy's Four Dimensions of SDL
Cranton uses Candy's dimensions as a framework for some of her writing on this subject; See Cranton. P. (1996). Professional Development as Transformative Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 50-74.
How can I use this in my practice?
Read Gerald Grow's article,"Teaching Learners to be Self-Directed." The on-line version has cartoons, too! Below is the abstract from the article to whet your appetite. From: Adult Education Quarterly, Vol. 41, No. 3, Spring 1991, pp. 125-149,
Abstract: Based on the Situational Leadership model of Hersey and Blanchard, the Staged Self-Directed Learning Model proposes that learners advance through stages of increasing self-direction and that teachers can help or hinder that development. Good teaching matches the learner's stage of self-direction and helps the learner advance toward greater self-direction. Specific methods are proposed for teaching students at each stage, although many different teaching styles are good when appropriately applied. Several pedagogical difficulties are explained as mismatches between teacher style and learner stage, especially the mismatch between a student needing direction and a non-directive teacher. The model is applied to a course, a single class, and the overall curriculum.
The Learning OrganizationJust a quick word on one of the latest areas of study. I won't go into detail here--we could do a whole web site just on this (in fact, the folks at Stanford already have, visit their site on Learning Organizations to learn more)--also, we at FSU offer a course on this very subject, ADE 5280. "In learning organizations, learning--whether done by individuals, groups, or the organization as a whole--is a central, valued, and integral part of organizational life. The heart of the learning organization is the willingness of organizations to allow their employees and other stakeholders related to the organization to suspend and question the assumptions within which they operate, then create and examine new ways of solving organizational problems and means of operating. This process requires that people at all levels of the organziation be willing to think within a systems framework, with the emphasis on collective inquiry, dialogue, and action. Creating learning organizations could allow educators of adults, whether they are associated with formal or nonformal settings, to develop learning communities in which change is accepted as the norm and innovative practices are embraced" (Merriam & Caffarella, 1999, p. 44).
Transformative LearningTransformative learning is basically the kind of learning we do as we make meaning of our lives. It's become a very popular topic in adult education because it doesn't just involve classroom learning--it involves learning about our lives. This is important because as adults, the meaning making process can change everything about how we look at work, family, and the world. If you read the literature of adult education, you'll find a lot of theoretical writing on this subject and quite a few studies. One of the best known experts in this area is a scholar named Jack Mezirow, who started studying this area in the 1970s. Mezirow came up with a set of phases that people go through when they experience transformation and those steps are:
A Quick Word About Critical Reflection
Mezirow distinguishes among three kinds of reflection--and reflection is key in the transformation process:
Content Reflection: Individuals may reflect on the content or description of a problem. This is similar to Dewey's ideas on problem solving (p.81).
Process Reflection: Involves thinking about the strategies used to solve the problem rather than the content of the problem itself--this is quite a rational and orderly kind of reflection that does not incorporate intuition.
Premise Reflection: Leads us to question the relevance of the problem itself--the assumptions, beliefs, or values underlying the problem are questioned. This process is distinct from problem-solving and can lead to transformative learning (p. 82).
If the process of reflection leads to an awareness of an invalid, undeveloped, or distorted meaning scheme or perspective; if that scheme or perspective is then revised; and if the individual acts on the revised belief, the development has been transformative (p. 113).
From: Cranton, P. (1996). Professional Development as Transformative Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 75-117.
Motives and Barriers for Learning
Why do we participate in learning?
You can probably come up with a long list of reasons on your own, but as a lowly student, your opinion doesn't count! Here's what some of the BIG GUYS have come up with:Houle: Houle divides adult learners into three separate learning orientations.
Houle admits that these are not "pure" types; the orientations can overlap.
Boshier, Morstain and Smart: Houle wasn't good enough for these guys--they had to go out and come up with an even longer list of why adults participate in learning (there's a lot of "list comparison" that goes on in educational research, isn't there?). They came up with six factors for participation:
Note: Think critically about this! Cross notes that Houle is classifying groups of people and Boshier, Morstain and Smart are identifying clusters of reasons. Houle's looking at characteristic orientations that motivate learners and Boshier, Morstain and Smart show multiple reasons existing within the same individual. The above from: Merriam, S. & Caffarella, R. (1991). Learning in Adulthood. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 83-86.
Brookfield: Careful with this one, this is actually my interpretation of what Brookfield is saying. The typical adult learner is, "relatively affluent, well-educated, white, middle-class individual" (p. 5). I take this to mean that people participate in learning events because they are oriented towards learning--attaining more education is something they value(and something they've been socialized to value)--and they have the financial resources to do this. When we think about participation we need to ask ourselves what counts as a learning event and how we define participants--those who are already involved in learning or those who could potentially be involved? If the middle-class organizes most of the learning events that go on, who do you think the most likely participants will be? From: Brookfield, S. (1986). Understanding and Facilitating Adult Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 4-9.
Why don't we participate in learning?
Many have done studies on non-participation. The following researchers have worked out ways of grouping specific barriers into categories
Note: All of the above-mentioned studies look at participation from a psychological perspective, "If one looks at the social structure rather than individual needs and interests, one discovers some very different explanations as to why adults do or do not participate in adult learning activities" (1991, p. 94).Recent studies have taken a more critical look at non-participation. Merriam and Caffarella cite several newer studies in their 1999 edition of Learning in Adulthood, one example is a study by Hall and Donaldson (1997) who looked at women without high school educations. Early pregnancies, economic status, and the amount of education of the women's parents all played a role in choosing not to participate. Other factors included not having a support system and lack of time, information, and child care. Hall and Donaldson also noted "lack of voice," meaning how a woman feels about herself and how she can express herself (p.58). Most of us can come up with many reasons for not participating in educational activities, but as educators, we may be so used to participating in learning ourselves that it becomes difficult to "think outside the box" sometimes. Merriam and Brockett (1997) devote a whole chapter (the info below is from pp.187-200) to the issue of access to adult education and list four major conditions that limit access:
Vella's 12 Principles for Effective Adult Learning
From: Vella, J. (1994). Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 3-22.
How We Can Become
More Intelligent Learners and Teachers
Twelve Characteristics of Intelligent Behavior:
Note: This is not a complete list!
What We Can Do as Teachers to Promote Intelligent Behavior:
From: Costa, A. "What Human Beings Do When They Behave Intelligently and How They Can Become More So."