Adult learning as a concept was first introduced in Europe in the 50s (QOTFC, 2007). But it was in the 70s when American practitioner and theorist of adult education Malcolm Knowles formulated the theory and model he called andragogy. He defined andragogy as "the art and science of helping adults learn (Zmeryov, 1998 & Fidishun, 2000 as qtd in QOTFC)." It consists of assumptions on how adults learn, with emphasis on the value of the process. Andragogy approaches are problem-based and collaborative as compared with the didactic approach in younger learners. It likewise emphasizes the equality between the teacher and the learner (QOTFC).
Adult Learning Principles
Knowles developed these principles from observed characteristics of adult learners. They have special needs and requirements different from those of younger learners (Lieb, 1991). Adults are internally motivated and self-directed. They bring life experiences and knowledge into their learning experiences. They are goal-oriented. They are practical. And they want to be respected (Lieb, QOTFC, 2007).
Motivations and Barriers to Motivation
Adult learners need to be motivated. Their sources of motivation are social relationships, external expectations, social welfare, personal advancement, escape or stimulation, and cognitive interest (Lieb, 1991). They need to form new friendships and become part of groups. They must comply with instructions, expectations and recommendations by significant persons. They need to feel they are helping advance the welfare of mankind through their contribution or participation. They want to advance to a higher status in their job, profession and to remain at par with competitors. They need to escape boredom and routine. They want to learn more for the sake of learning. They also seek knowledge for its own sake and satisfy their inquisitive mind (Lieb).
Responsibilities often present as barriers and adult learners must know how to balance with responsibilities (Lieb, 1991). These may be a lack of time, money, interest or confidence, opportunities for learning, busy schedule, child care or transportation problems. The teacher or instructor must capitalize on the adult learner's reason for enrolling while reducing or addressing the barriers. The teacher must then attune the motivating strategy around these barriers. She can encourage him by explaining how training can bring about a desired outcome, such as a job promotion (Lieb).
Tips for Effective Instruction
The teacher must invest on the value of stimulation of the adult learner's senses (Lieb, 1991). She should use materials that appeal specifically to his strongest sense or appeal to as many senses as possible. She also needs to address and manipulate the critical elements of learning. These are motivation, reinforcement, retention, and transference (Lieb).
The learning process for adults is complex, contextual and highly personal (Corley,
2008). No single theory is applicable to all adults. Various models need to be tried to capture the most appropriate mode. Knowles proposed that adults move from dependency to increasing self-directedness in learning things. They draw from personal life experiences to help them learn. They possess the readiness to learn when they assume new roles. They are problem-centered and oriented and prefer to apply new learning immediately. And they are more internally than externally motivated. Knowles suggested that teachers establish a cooperative environment for adult learning in classrooms; evaluate their specific needs and interests; set up learning objectives drawn from these needs, interests, and their skill levels; come up with sequential activities in attaining the objectives; choose the methods, materials and resources for instruction in collaboration with the learner; and evaluate the quality of learning experiences with a view to making needed adjustments and seeking out needs for further learning (Corley).
Self-Directed Learning (SDL)
About 70% of all adult learning is self-directed (Cross, 1981 as qtd in Corley, 2008). SDL is that type adult learning where the person takes the initiative and plans, implements and evaluates his own learning without help from others (Knowles, 1975 as qtd in Corley). Technically, SDL happens outside the classroom. The learner decides and assumes the responsibility for his own learning. He determines his own needs, sets his own goals and resources. He proceeds to execute his own goals and plans and evaluates their outcomes (Corley).
SDL has the advantage of easy incorporation into daily routines (Corley, 2008). It can be tailor-made after the learner's convenience and learning preferences. He is involved in the separate activities, such as in online research and communication with experts and peers. On the other hand, it is not suitable to adults who do not possess the required independence, confidence, internal motivation or resources. Most learners who use SDL also take more formal educational programs, like teacher-directed programs. The classroom teacher can use techniques to encourage SDL. But this option is recommended only for individual learners or small groups of learners and who are ready to take on self-directed experiences (Corley).
Strategies and Applications
The teacher can help the learner decide on and start a learning project (Corley, 2008). She can assess the learner's learning objectives and match these with available resources. They agree on and set guidelines for learning goals, strategies and evaluation. They also determine appropriate attitudes to direct the learning activity. The teacher encourages, supports and guides the learner through the entire learning process. She presents him with evidence of his learning outcomes. They maintain a learning environment of openness and trust. The teacher acknowledges and rewards the learner's learning achievements. They link up with other learners through networks (Corley).
Transformational Learning or TL
This involves a change in a learner's view of himself and the world. Effective second-language learning, for example, will introduce a new perception of the American culture and a new level of self-consciousness with the knowledge of a new language (King, 2000 as qtd in Corley, 2008). Some theorists view TL as a social process. It enables foreign workers to change their perception about working conditions and incline them to seek social change (Freire, 2000 as qtd in Corley). That change in perception can be emancipating to them. Other theorists, on the other hand, see it as a rational process (Mezirow, 2000 as qtd in Corley). The change in viewpoint occurs as a result of reflection and discussion of assumptions. Discussion exposes a learner to the perceptions of others and the influence of these perceptions. Experts say that those engaging in discussions such as these should be equipped with complete and accurate information. Their discussion should be free of bias and instead be conducted in an environment of trust, empathy and acceptance. Critics have remarked that Mezirow's theory does not consider the effect of race, class and gender or the historical setting of the learning activity (Corley).
Strategies and Applications
The learning environment suitable for TL should induce autonomy, participation and cooperation (Taylor, 1998 as qtd in Corley, 2008). It should provide useful feedback, new perspectives, and opportunities for problem-solving and critical reflection. The teacher should be familiar with the learner's preferred type of learning (Cranton, 2000 as qtd in Corley). The "thinking" type often prefers case studies, debates, critical investigation and analyses. The "harmonious" learner, on the other hand, prefers the discussion format. The "experiential" learner is more inclined to learn more from field trips and simulations. And the "intuitive" learner prefers activities and games, which engage the mind and the imagination. The teacher should introduce activities that will explore the learner's individual point-of-view. Or she may engage the learner in a reflective conversation about an experience. The learner's response will reveal his assumptions and perspective on the experience (Corley).
Experiential Learning Theory or ELT
Experience is central to this theory as distinguished from other types, which emphasize cognition and exclude subjective experience in the learning process (Kolb et al., 1999). ELT is a holistic approach, which includes other aspects of how a person learns, grows and develops. The term also derives from intellectual concepts formulated by Dewey, Lewin and Piaget. These are Dewey's philosophical pragmatism, Lewin's social psychology, and Piaget's cognitive-developmental genetic epistemology. In ELT, learning occurs when experience transforms the learner's mind and creates knowledge as a consequence. The learner must grasp the experience and it must transform or change his perspective before knowledge can form. Learning occurs in four stages. These are concrete experience, abstract conceptualization, reflective observation and active experimentation. The first two are the modes of grasping experience, which are dialectically opposed to the last two stages. The stimulus first presents as a concrete experience, which is subjected to observation and reflection. Reflection produces abstract concepts from the experience. These concepts are then ready to be actively tested and serve as guide to new experiences (Kolb et al.).
This learning model suggests that the learner must continually choose between experiencing the concrete and conceptualizing the abstract (Kolb et al., 1999). He uses sense data when he chooses to experience the concrete and goes right on to active experimentation or implementation. On the other hand, he uses thought faculties when he chooses to analyze, reflect or plan rather than resort to sense data. Physical qualities, past life experiences, inclination and…