Adult Learning

Intelligence and Adult Development

Transformative Learning

Assumptions of Andragogy

Motives and Barriers for Learning

Kinds of Learning and Settings for Learning

Principles for Effective Adult Learning

Want to Increase Your Intelligence?


"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:

Below are brief explanations of several well-known theories of intelligence. Caffarella, R. & Merriam, S. (1999). Learning in Adulthood 2nd Edition. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


Some Theories of Intelligence

Cattell: 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: