Adult Learning Theory

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Contents

Descriptions, definitions, synonyms, organizer terms, types of

An adult is “a person who is fully grown or developed or a person who has reached the age of majority. Are adults and children different when it comes to learning? Does an adult learn the same way as a child or even a young adult? Most adults would answer no to questions such as these and that is where the study of Adult Learning Theory begins.

Adult Learning theory arose out of the realization that adults—throughout their lives—engage in both formal and informal activities designed to satisfy a need or interest. However, adults clearly don’t learn like children do, primarily because they already possess a wealth of knowledge and experience. Theories of adult learning evolved from an initial focus on whether or not adults were truly capable of learning (compared with young people) to the processes adults used to learn. In the 1950s, researchers became interested in how adult learning differentiated from childhood learning. Finally, beginning in the sixties, three central theories of adult learning emerged: andragogy, self-directed learning, and transformational learning (Comings 2004).

Andragogy

Originally used by the German educator Alexander Kapp in 1833, andragogy was developed into a theory of adult education by American educator Malcolm Knowles. Andragogy is a core set of adult leaning principles that apply to all adult learning situations. Adults are self-directed and expect to take responsibly for decisions. Moreover, Adult learning curriculum and instruction needs to contain this basic feature (Taylor, 2008).
Knowles’ made the following hypothesis about the aim of adult learning: (1) Adults need-to-know why they need-to-learn (2) Experiential learning is better for Adults (3) Problem-solving is a good approach to learning for Adults (4)When there is immediate value in the topic an Adult learns best (Knowles, 2005).
Are andragogy and pedagogy different? Knowles (2005) asserted that andragogy, which is man-leading in Greek should be distinguished from pedagogy, which means child-leading in Greek. According to Monts (2000) they differ in four ways: (1) pedagogy views the learner as dependent, where as andragogy understands that individuals more from dependency to ever increasing self directedness (2) pedagogy does not validate the leaner’s previous experiences. The primary techniques in pedagogy are lecture and assigned readings. On the other hand, andragogy uses discussion, problem solving cases, and simulations (2) pedagogy assumes learners are ready to learn a prescribed system. Nevertheless, andragogy asserts learners are ready to learn when they have the experience they need to learn (4) pedagogy assumes that learners today will have a future benefit. In spite of this, andragogy in that it understands education as a process of developing increased competencies.
The six core principles of andragogy are: (1) the learner’s need to know (2) self-concept of the learner (3) prior experience of the learner (4) readiness to learn (5) orientation to learning and problem solving and (6) motivation to learn (Knowles, Holton & Swanson, 2005).
1. The leaner's need to know
Adults need to know why they need to learn something before undertaking to learn it. There are three dimensions to the need to know: (1) How (2) What and (3) Why.
2. Self-concepts of the learner
Adults have a self-concept of being responsible for their own lives. Two conceptions of self-directed learning: (1) Self-directed learning as self-teaching and (2) Self-directed learning as personal autonomy.
3. Prior Experience of the learner
Adults come into an education activity with both a greater volume and a different quality of experiences from youths. Humans develop and grow, learning from their experiences. These experiences accumulate to become diverse resources for learning; for themselves and for others. Additionally, people attach more meaning to learning they’ve acquired from experience than those they gained passively. Subsequently, the most important method in education is experiential ones: (1) laboratory experiments (2) discussion (3) problem-solving cases and (4) field experiences.
The role long-term memory plays in learning has a major effect on how we retain and store information. According to Ormrod (1990) there are four principles of long-term information or memory storage:
1.) Some pieces are selected and others excluded
2.) Meaning is more likely stored than entire input
3.) Existing knowledge is used to process new data
4.) New knowledge will be added to the new data thus allowing more than or different from, the data actually learned.
4. Readiness to learn
Adults become ready to learn those things they need to know. They are open to learning when they experience a need to learn it in order to survive more satisfyingly with real-life tasks and problems. Teachers are accountable to construct settings and tools and procedures for helping learners discover their "needs to know." Curricula must be organized around real life-applications and sequenced according to the learners' readiness to the situation. According to Pratt (1988) there are two core dimensions in each learning situation: (1) direction and (2) support.
5. Orientation to learning and problem solving
Adults are life centered in their orientation to learning. Education is seen as a process of developing increased competence to achieve full potential in life by most learners. In addition, application of knowledge to a skill they gain will help learners live more effectively in the future. Furthermore, competency-development categories are organized around learning experiences. To that end, Kolb (1984) experiential learning model lead him to conclude that there are four steps to experiential learning: (1) concrete experience (2) observations and reflection (3) formation of abstract concepts and generalization and (4) yesting implications of new concepts in new situations
6. Motivation to learn
While adults are responsive to some extrinsic motivators, the more potent motivators are intrinsic motivators. According to Wlodowski (1985) an adult’s motivation to lean centers around four factors: (1) success (2) vaildation (3) value and (4) enjoyment.
Before Knowles death in 1997, he completed the revision of his text, “The Adult Learner, 6e.” In this sixth edition Knowles introduces a new Chapter 17, “Personal Adult Learning Style Inventory.” This “inventory” is for the teacher/trainer to assess their pedagogical or andragogical style. The inventory offers a thirty-item self-assessment. Five items are placed into six categories to form the teachers’ component score. After completing the inventory the teacher is asked to graph their score on the Pedagogy/Andragogy grid to determine, “How Andreagogic Am I?” A score of 120-150 suggests a stronger andragogical orientation. However, if your scores is between 60 and 30 your orientation is more pedagogical. The bottom left side of the grid is marked with a 30 in the corner and “Learner is More Dependent. Additionally, the top left side of the grid is labeled, “ Teacher/Trainer is more Pedagogical. On the right side of the grid the bottom right corner is marked with a 150 and “Learner is More Independent. Furthermore, the top right side of the grid is labeled, “ Teacher/Trainer is More Andragogical.” A Teacher/Trainer with a pedagogical focus is teaching children where as an andragogical teacher trains adults (Knowles, 2005, p.288-293).

Self-Drected Learning

Self-Directed Learning (SDL) originated as an off-shoot of andragogy’s first assumption: the adult learner “has an independent self-concept and…can direct his or her own learning” (Comings 2004). Self-Directed Learning is another model that helped define adult learners as different from children (Merriam, 2001). In 1971, Allen Tough published as study showing that 90% of study participants spent an average of 100 the previous year in “self-planned learning projects.” These projects lacked any formal learning facilitator and dealt with solving problems at home and work, and with pursuing personal interests. Initial focus on SDL emphasized a series of activities that the learner undertakes—from initial discovery to planning to implementation to evaluation. However, as SDL theory developed, researchers began to appreciate the interrelationship of the activities over the course of the learning. In other words, SDL was not necessarily a linear process (Comings 2004).
Lucy M. Guglielmino's Self-Directed Learning Readiness Scale, or SDLRS (http://www.lpasdlrs.com), is a method for evaluating an individual’s perception of their skills and attitudes that are associated with self-directedness in learning. The scale is structured around eight factors, attitudinal and personality, that are linked to self-directedness. Other then learners’ perception of readiness for self-directed learning, this instrument is used for researching the relationship between self-directed readiness and other personological variables (Delahaye, 1995)

Transformative Learning Theory

Transformational Learning: As Merriam has pointed out, “Andragogy, and to some extent self-directed learning, is largely about the personal attributes of adult learners as opposed to children. Transformational learning is more about the cognitive process of [adult] learning. Simply put, transformational learning is how we create meaning out of knowledge and experience as we go through life (quoted in Comings 2004). Transformational learning also emphasizes the idea that learning isn’t cumulative, it’s iterative—i.e., learning is a constant process of revision in the face of new knowledge and experience (Comings 2004).


What is Transformative Learning Theory? Transformative Learning Theory (TLT) helps adults make meaning of their lives. Moreover, it looks at what methods are necessary for adults to indentify, assess, and evaluate different resources of information, an in some cases, reframe their world-view through the incorporation of new knowledge or information into their world-view or belief system. Who created and developed this theory? The father of TLT is Jack Mezirow. Mezirow offers four ways that learning occurs: (1) elaborating existing frames of reference (2) learning new frames of reference (3) transforming points of view and (4) transforming habits of the mind.
TLT goes beyond memorization to emphasize contextual understanding, critical reflection, and assessment of reasons (Wallace, 2010).
The following are four ways a learner uses TLT:
1. They negotiate and act upon their purposes, values, feelings, and meanings, rather than those they have not thought about critically.
2. The learner develops more reliable beliefs and validates their reliability, which leads to informed decisions.
3. When a learner constructs and appropriates new and revised interpretations of meaning based on real world experiences.
4. When a learner uses prior interpretations to construe a new or revised interpretation of the meaning of their experience in order to guide their decision making.
These four ways of making meaning and increasing the acquisition of knowledge help the learner apply knowledge, personalize it, and further apply it to each future learning situation. Besides, it helps a learner to develop more dependable beliefs, which improves decision-making and critical thinking abilities. How does transformative learning fit into the cognitive process? Transformative learning is the third step in cognitive processing.
Three levels of the cognitive processing:
1. First Order Thinking
  • Compute, memories, read and comprehend.
2. Metacognition
  • Monitoring progress and products of first order thinking.
3. Transformative Learning
  • Reflecting on the limits of knowledge, the certainty of knowledge, and the criteria for knowing.
Dr. Patricia Cranston (2010) offers several new perspectives on the process of TLT; each is relevant in different contexts. First, critical reflection is one means by which we work through beliefs and assumptions. It helps to talk to others, not only exchanging opinions and ideas or receiving support and encouragement, but also engaging in discussions where alternatives are seriously considered. Second, connected and relational learning emphasizes connected knowing rather than separate knowing and relationships among learners. Third, social change or social action is described as a goal of transformative learning by some theorists. Fourth, TLT has been applied to understanding how groups and organizations change, and it can be seen as an approach to world views on globalization and environmentalism. Finally, the extrarational approach to transformative learning sees the learning as mediated by unconscious processes beyond the level of rational and conscious awareness. Insight, intuition, emotion, relationships, and personality may also play roles.
Other types of Transformative Learning
Perspective Transformation is focused on educators creating opportunities for learners within and outside the classroom to act on new insights during the process. PT is more inclusive, differentiating, permeable, critically reflective and integrative of experience. Learner’s use transformative learning theory in concert with reflection on an experience, which is perspective transformation. Prospective Transformation is often stressful or painful thus asking the learner to question their core values. There are four types of in and out of class learning experiences a teacher can use to help learners engage in perspective transformation (Taylor, 2008). First, reflective journaling can be a powerful learning tool. The rationale for the use of reflective journals is grounded in adult learning theory. Knowles(2005), a central figure in andragogy, noted that the quality of past experiences, preconceptions, and prejudices has a significant impact on learning and that adults benefit by challenging habitual ways of thinking and acting. Kolb (1984) asserted that people learn from their experiences and that reflection is necessary for engagement in lifelong learning. Second, classroom discourse that is presented in orderly progression of lessons and flows with classroom dialogue can help learners with perspective transformation. Teachers can nominate, invite, or offer turn allocation in the classroom to enhance perspective transformation. Third, critical questioning that uses Socratic methods to get at the heart of critical thinking. It requires students to make assumptions, distinguish between relevant and irrelevant points, and explain points. These questions need to probe beneath the surface of things, pursue problematic areas, help students structure their own thought, help students arrive at a judgment thought their own reasoning. Subsequently, Thoms’ offers six types of questions that students can answer to transform their perspective:
1. A question that ask for clarification
2. A question that probes assumptions
3. A question that probes reasons and evidence
4. A question that probes view points and perspectives
5. A question that probes implications and consequences
6. A question about the question
New Concepts in Transformative Learning
Psychoanalytic Transformative Learning

Psychoanalytic Transformative Learning is a process of individuation, a lifelong journey of coming to understanding oneself through reflecting on their ego, shadow, persona, collective unconscious, etc... that make up an individual’s identity. Boyd and Myers have taken transformative learning forward by discussing TL and add on how the receiver of the message who receives a message and acts upon it. To that end, case studies are one of the best methods of psychoanalytic transformative learning. Furthermore, Constructivist Learning Environments are meaningful interactions that promote exploration, experimentation, construction, collaboration, and refection. CLE emphasizes the student as an active learner mediating their learning. For the instructor, the approaches should all be student-centered to promote ownership. For that matter, the best types of CLE are technology based learning experiences (Meyers, 2008).

Psychodevelopmental Transformative Learning
Psychodevelopmental Transformative Learning is a process across the lifespan, reflecting continuous, incremental and progressive growth. Furthermore, the learner changes how they make meaning, not just change in behavior. Refection is an important piece of psychodevelopmental transformative learning. Therefore, social-emancipatory, this is a process where learners are constantly reflecting and acting on the transformation of their world, is a core principle of psychodevelopmental transformative learning. How can an educator use psychodevelopmental transformation models in and out of the classroom? Emancipatory transformative learning takes many forms that require a teacher to develop lessons aimed at critical reflection, dialogue, critique, discernment, imagination and action. Let’s take a closer look at one aspect, critical reflection.
Critical reflection is the process of analyzing, reconsidering and questioning experiences with a broad context of issues. The types of lessons should require the learner to offer their comprehensive observations aiming for accuracy and breadth; these observations are made through specific instructional frameworks that link to past experiences (Dirkt, 2008). Furthermore, the learner is asked to provide a comprehensive description of what has been observed. Subsequently, they are asked to make meaning of what has been described. As a final point, they are asked to add the depth and breadth to the meanings by asking questions about, and relating meanings to, a spectrum of personal and professional issues.
Neurobiological
Neurobiological is brain-based theory based on brain function. The brain structure actually changes during the learning process. Furthermore, brain research brings to light new insights about a form of long-term memory; that of implicit memory, which receives, stores, and recovers outside the conscious awareness of the individual. From implicit memory emerges habits, attitudes and preferences inaccessible to conscious recollection but these are nonetheless shapes by former events, influence our present behavior, This research brings into question traditional models of learning like behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism (Taylor, 2008). Learning changes how the brain functions, increasing our capacity for innovative, flexible responses to external conditions (Taylor & Lamoreaux, 2008). Furthermore, a neurobiological approach suggests that transformative learning (1) requires discomfort prior to discovery (2) is rooted in students’ experiences, needs, and interests (3) is strengthened by emotive, sensory, and kinesthetic experiences (4) appreciates differences in learning between males and females and (5) demands that educators acquire an understanding of a unique discourse and knowledge base of neurobiological systems (Taylor, 2008).
Teacher’s can try cooperative learning in and out side of the classroom to increase brain-based learning. Cooperative learning is a form of instruction in which students are working together for a purpose. The more an activity requires mutual interdependence, collective problem solving, and striving for a common goal, the more likelihood it will enhance the features of cooperative learning. There are many reasons to use cooperative learning in your lesson plan. First, it has been shown to have a positive effect on student learning when compared to individual or competitive conditions. Second, cooperative learning has the potential to meet more learning style needs more of the time than individualized direct instruction. Third, the interpersonal and collaboration skills that can be learned in a cooperative learning activity teach skills that are critical for later personal and professional success. Forth, it has the potential to produce a level of engagement that other forms of learning can not. Fifth, it can be a powerful tool toward several transformative goals, including building communal bonds, learning conflict resolution skills, learning to consider other’s needs, and learning to be an effective team member (Shindler, 2008).
Cultural-spiritual
Cultural-spiritual is focused on how learners construct knowledge or narratives as part of the transformative learning experience. It recognizes culturally relevant and spiritually grounded approaches to transformative pedagogy. The goal is to foster narrative transformation (Clark, 2008).
The teacher’s role is that of a collaborator. This approach involves reflection, storytelling, and digital storytelling. For the focus of this research we will only look at digital storytelling. Digital storytelling can take a portfolio, audio or video form. For the video form the leaner creates a two to four minute digital video clip. The entire clip is in the first person narrative, told in their own voice, illustrated by still images and a music track to add emotional tone. Besides, teachers can combine storytelling in eportfolios to encourage deep learning. Deep learning includes reflection and is self-directed and lifelong (Barrett, 2005)
Race-centric
Race-centric is focused on non-Eurocentric orientations where race is the predominate unit of analysis. There are three keys to fostering race-centric transformative learning: (1) inclusion (2) empowerment and (3) negotiation. Inclusion is about giving the learner voice to the historically silenced. Secondly, empowerment that is not self-actualization but belongingness and equity as a cultural member. To finish, the learner learns to negotiate effectively between and across cultures (Taylor 2008).
Love (2008) suggests that teachers “think backwards.” First they need to develop the central or essential questions and objectives they want students to be able to answer. Secondly, the teacher will need to think about how they will assess the learner’s ability to do what they want them to do. Lastly, the teacher structures the activity thinking about how they would like them to learn to be able to do what they want them to do. The teacher needs to think about assessment before you think about the activity. For that reason, the assessment needs to be “authentic” and offer “thick” descriptions of community. The transformative activities need to engage the learner in “thick description” that is, to help the leaner shape their thoughts with the inclusion of social justice and multiculturalism. Moreover, it needs to engage the learner in some kind of community involvement. Thick learning moves the learner from superficial to deep learning that is founded in relationship and tension, not in the mainstream or in null messages. Community involvement can be collecting oral histories at a retire community center, attending an art exhibit, activism, and even meeting or petitioning government officials. Other methods include cooperative groups, inquiry, Socratic questioning, direct instruction, small-group and whole class discussion, use of media, embedded questioning, and activities that promote real-world connections.

Brain-based Learning Theory

In 2002 Zull concluded that four pillars of learning occur from sensory input through various integrative functions to finally result in motor output: (1) experience (2) reflection (3) abstraction and (3) testing. First, experience is the brain’s physical responses to the sensory data are recorded, literally. It allows a learner to recreate the experience as memory. Besides, current and prior experiences interact when new activities are unconsciously filtered through what the leaner already knows or think they know, which is why it is important for educators to give their learners opportunities to make conscious connections. To that end, they can insure this by framing the content so that the learner can best understand it. The content must be presented to the learners in a way that draws on related prior experiences. How do educators help a learner link new content to existing knowledge? Teachers can link new content to existing knowledge for students by using concrete examples, analogies and experiential activities. Secondly, reflection is the association between new and past events, which leads to the brain searching for connections that allow it to assemble and categorize meaningful images. Two key pieces of reflection are reframing and disorienting dilemmas:
Reframing is the brain reinterpreting past events in light of newer ones, which alter neural connections and therefore we make meaning on the basis of those connections.
Disorienting dilemmas are when the brain isn’t able to find an existing pattern for a new experience.
Third, abstraction is when the brain is creating, planning, and problem solving. The front cortex of the brain is where these activities occur. What cognitive activities can a teacher provide and adult learning to increase abstraction? Manipulating information, categorizing information, real-life problems, adaptive decision making activities require adult learners to examine issues from multiple perspectives and constructivist approaches challenge learners to make meaning (Taylor & Lamoreaux, 2008).
Finally, testing is not referring to exams, but to the brain’s process of association and categorization of new meaning, which ideally the discovery becomes a start of the learning cycle, leading to clarification and correction. What types of activities or assignment can a teacher use to help learners to start their learning cycle? Synthesizing, pair and group, dialogue, journaling, and self-assessment activities are all types of activities to help learner start the learning cycle.

Narrative Learning Theory

Meaning making is a narrative process, and meaning making is a constructivist definition of learning. Narrative Learning is a uniquely human way of meaning making (Clark, 2008). It is twofold: (1) fostering learning through stories and (2) conceptualizing the learning process.
Learning through stories
Learning through stories is done at the cognitive level for adult learners. Stories draw us into an experience and many times relate to priory experiences. Story telling involves multiple learning styles, but specifically auditory learning. Hearing stories can help learners’ link pervious experience to new ones, thus increasing transfer. Still, connections are made through the story telling helping the learner move from a cognitive understanding of a concept to linking it to his or her own experience. Furthermore, recognizing stories help a leaner gain understanding. Understanding is gained when they also begin to understand that they themselves are narratively constituted and narratively positioned (Barrett, 2005).
Conceptualizing learning
Conceptualizing learning is where the leaner is trying to make sense of the content. They create a narrative about what they are learning, thus “working the story” to make the elements of what they do not fully understand hang together. What type of classroom activities can help a learner conceptualize? First, peer-to-peer teaching can be very effective. With peer-to-peer teaching a student teaches a concept to another student, not only does the peer teacher benefit by creating the narrative but a further benefit comes from having the student learner question or challenge the narrative. Another effect way to help a learner conceptualize a learning situation is writing. Thinking becomes visible to a learner when they can write concepts out. When we write we narrate our understanding of something, which built lasting connections.

Non-Western Learning Theories

These theories recognize that learning is more than formal schooling. In addition, knowledge is more than abstract cognition. These theories are woven throughout the community and the society as a whole (Merriam, 2008). The community can set the expectation for the learner. For example, in lesser developed nations the village may select who among them will become the dentist or doctor for the community. Subsequently, we will discuss the three most researched non-western learning theories: (1) communal learning (2) informal learning and (3) holistic learning.
First, communal learning is just what you would expect. Communal learning is a perspective on learning where, learning is the responsibility of all members of the community, because the community itself will develop (Merriam, 2008). Moreover, learning is not viewed as individual because to learn is for his or her own development, which will benefit the whole. In these non-western societies the individual has an obligation to share what is learned with the collective. Secondly, informal learning is learning that occurs outside of a classroom and is on-going or lifelong. It is always community-based learning. One hundred plus years ago more of this type of learning was popular in the United State. Let’s say you knew how to grow vegetables, but not how to store them for the winter. You may elect to teach someone your talents as a gardener in order to learn how to “can” and store your food. Lastly, there is holistic learning. Holistic learning is somatic knowing. Somatic knowing is experiential knowledge that involves the senses, perception, and mind/body action and reaction. In addition, Learning occurs through observation of others and through practicing what is being learned.

Application in classrooms and similar settings

When it comes to education, adults and children learn differently. Adult Learning Theory is a school of though that is trying to identify exactly how the different age groups learn differently and what is the best approach to educating adults. However, when it comes to applying these theories in a classroom, one runs into difficulties.

Andragogy

Andragogy is a list of characteristics either resident or required for successful adult learning. It should be used to formulate necessary preconditions for adult learning. Andragogy should be applied to classes more in the development stages, not in the classroom. If curriculum developers take the desires of the adult learner into consideration, the students will be more receptive to the course and will gain much more from it.
What are the best andragogical strategies for educators to use with adults? Actitivites like case studies, role plays, simulations and self-evaluation. The focus is less on content and more on process for the educator in an andragogical classroom.

Self-Directed Learning

The best example of Self-Directed Learning is taking classes on-line, since “adults have an independent self-concept and…can direct [their] own learning.” A lot of adults do not have the time or desire to spend hours upon hours in a classroom. They are working full time jobs and raising families. On-line courses offer them the option of learning at their own pace and on their own schedule.

Transformative Learning

Transformative Learning causes the adult to face a new reality which starts the ten-step process in motion. A good example of this would be a teacher/instructor who has his or her students take a test or a performance evaluation at the beginning of a course to evaluate knowledge that students should have prior to coming to the course. Since most students have preconceived notions of how an academic course should proceed—notions that rarely include an initial diagnostic test, their worlds are disrupted. Theoretically, this disruption provides the impulse to learn and thereby avoid similar disruptions later in life—at least as regards the course’s material.
What types of assignments or activities embody Transformative Learning Theory?
The University of Central Oklahoma uses a transformative learning model that focus on five core areas; leadership; research, creative and scholarly activities; servicing learning and civic engagement; global and cultural competencies; and health and wellness. Examples of the types of assignments or activities are:
1. Join Leadership group, association or council
2. Outside of class instructor-mentored projects
3. Classroom-based student-originated projects
4. Classroom-based instructor-originated projects
5. Research Presentations
6. Volunteer or Service Learning
7. Join Community Outreach Program
8. Multicultural Program
9. Study Abroad
10. Personal health and wellness program
What is an example of a Perspective Transformation activity?
Service Learning can be used to help the learner experience and learn about topics and issues outside their normal lives. Service Learning is community based, not classroom based (Simons, 2008). Nevertheless, it provides the student with an experience that links the classroom to the experience. For example, a student that wants to become a teacher could tutor for a semester, a prospective nursing student become certified as a nursing assistant before attending a four year nursing program, or an organized experience that provides the student with opportunities to learn about social disparities, culturally diversity, and lower income communities.
What types of assignments or activities are given to increase Psychoanalytic Transformative Learning?
Case studies are one of the best methods of psychoanalytic transformative learning. Furthermore, Constructivist Learning Environments offer meaningful interactions that promote exploration, experimentation, construction, collaboration, and refection. For the instructor, the approaches should all be student-centered to promote ownership.
What types of lessons exemplify Psychodevelopmental Transformative Learning?
Emancipatory transformative learning takes many forms that require a teacher to develop lessons aimed at critical reflection, dialogue, critique, discernment, imagination and action. Lessons that are organized around critical reflection require the learner to offer their comprehensive observations aiming for accuracy and breadth; these observations are made through specific instructional frameworks that link to past experiences (Dirkt, 2008).
What's an example of the type of activity or assignment that is brain-based?
Cooperative learning assignments in and out side of the classroom can increase brain-based learning. Cooperative learning is a form of instruction in which students are working together for a purpose. The more an activity requires mutual interdependence, collective problem solving, and striving for a common goal, the more likelihood it will enhance the features of cooperative learning. There are many reasons to use cooperative learning in your lesson plan. First, it has been shown to have a positive effect on student learning when compared to individual or competitive conditions. Second, cooperative learning has the potential to meet more learning style needs more of the time than individualized direct instruction. Third, the interpersonal and collaboration skills that can be learned in a cooperative learning activity teach skills that are critical for later personal and professional success. Forth, it has the potential to produce a level of engagement that other forms of learning can not. Fifth, it can be a powerful tool toward several transformative goals, including building communal bonds, learning conflict resolution skills, learning to consider other’s needs, and learning to be an effective team member (Shindler, 2008).
What is the best way to foster cultural-spiritual transformation?
An approach that involves reflection, storytelling, or digital storytelling. For the focus of this research we will only look at digital storytelling. Digital storytelling can take a portfolio, audio or video form. For the video form the leaner creates a digital video clip. The entire clip is in the first person narrative, told in their own voice, illustrated by still images and a music track to add emotional tone (Barrett, 2005).

Brain-based Learning Theory

What is the best way to encourage brain-based reflection?

Journaling is an assignment that can help the adult learner with self-reflection. Reflection fosters greater competence and self-confidence in adult learners.

Narrative Learning Theory

What models of narrative learning are available to an educator (Clark, 2008)?
1. Learning Journals. These create a conversation between the learner and the material they are learning. It enables reflection and allows learners to examine their own learning process.
2. Concept-Focused Autobiographical Writing. This mode helps the learner examine a topic in a course from a personal perspective, which encourages inductive understanding of a topic.
3. Instructional Case Studies. These are stories from professional practice, real or fictional and it has the usual elements of a story: characters, setting, and plot. These help the learner to think like a practitioner, because it includes putting theoretical concepts in conversation with prior experience to come up with new insights and interpretations.

Evidence of effectiveness

Adult learning is being broadly embraced by learning institutions. This is evident in the different educational avenues offered to adult learners. Not long ago, the only way to get a college degree was to go to a university and sit in classes all day. Slowly universities began to adapt by adding night courses, then off campus courses, and now many universities offer their degrees on-line. Educational institutions have realized that adult learners have different needs than other learners. This varies from when they can take classes to what motivates them to learn and what teaching styles work best for them.

Critics and their rationale

Andragogy Critics

Over three decades of literature examining the efficacy of andragogy remain inconclusive. Many feel that andragogy is not a theory; it’s a list of characteristics and therefore can not be used to critique or shape a learning experience (only those participating in it). What many wonder is andragogy just another brand name?

Self-Directed Learning Critics

Are all Adults Self-Directed Leaners? Self-Directed Learning offers models showing the workings of this learning theory are as variable as there are people; everyone approaches learning differently. To that point, researchers argue over learning goals; what should people direct their learning towards? However, what happens when adults do not behave like adults? What happens when Adults start insulting other learners? Sending trashy email messages to other students? How does a teacher respond in the moment?

Transformative Learning Theory Critics

Many feel that Transformative Learning lacks attention to context and has a strong off-putting social justice agenda. Furthermore some feel, it needs to distinguish between normal life cycle stages and transformative learning. Others aiming at it's core, offer the criticism that perspective transformations not always be dependent on critical reflection (Taylor, 1993). Often many wonder, "will the transformation be positive?" Additionally, is it irreversible? Dirks in 2006 asserted that transformative learning should suggest a more integrated and holistic understanding of subjectivity, one that reflects the intellectual, emotional, moral, and spiritual dimensions of our being in the world. Of course Boyd and Myers in 1988 said, "Too much emphasis on a rational approach, which is ignoring the importance of intuition, imagination, and emotion." Will all individuals move beyond the intense emotions of the disorienting dilemma? Finally, is TL an idealized model of Adult learning (Lulee, 2009)?

Brain-based Learning Theory

Is brain-based pedagogy a myth? Recently, a number of scholars stated that brain-based pedagogy is a myth. Furthermore, other critics are targeting the "Mozart Effect" itself and moving on to "brain-based" toys whose benefits remain more mythical than real. A few years back, Daniel T. Willingham stated in the American Educator during the fall of 2006, "Neuroscientists are making great leaps forward in understanding how the brain works. Unfortunately, when neuroscientific claims jump to the classroom, the facts often get lost and the science misapplied. Our cognitive scientist explores a few such misapplications and explains why neuroscience is not likely to provide answers to teachers in the near future."

Non-Western Learning Theories

Non-western theories lack formality and are difficult to assess in the traditional or western style of assessment.

Alternative explanations due to diversity considerations

When teaching Adults all educators must consider the nationality of their students. This is a very important consideration because of their different life experiences. These can vary widely depending on their socioeconomic background and their country of origin. Educators must take these factors into consideration when developing their curriculum, setting up their courses, selecting their textbooks and course-wear, and even choosing their classroom delivery methods (face-to-face, hybrid, or totally online).

Language Ego Principle (LEP) is common with Adult Second Language Learners. LEP essentially is about how learners from other cultures can be sensitive to situations in which they fear "loosing face". The LEP states that, “As human beings learn to use a second language, they also develop a new mode of thinking, feeling, and acting; a second identity. The new language ego, intertwined with the second language, can easily create within the learner a sense of fragility, defensiveness and a raising of inhibitions.” (Brown 2001 p 61).

Transformative Learning
Race-centric Transformative Learning
Race-centric is focused on non-Eurocentric orientations where race is the predominate unit of analysis. There are three keys to fostering race-centric transformative learning: (1) inclusion (2) empowerment and (3) negotiation. Inclusion is about giving the learner voice to the historically silenced. Secondly, empowerment that is not self-actualization but belongingness and equity as a cultural member. To finish, the learner learns to negotiate effectively between and across cultures (Taylor 2008).
Community involvement can foster race-centric transformative learning. Students can collect oral histories at a retire community center, attend an art exhibit, and even meeting or petitioning government officials. Other methods include cooperative groups, inquiry, Socratic questioning, direct instruction, small-group and whole class discussion, use of media, embedded questioning, and activities that promote real-world connections.

Signed “life experiences”, testimonies and stories...

References and other links of interest

  • Brown, H. D. (2001). Teaching by principles an interactive approach to language pedagogy. White Plaines, NY: Addison Wesley Longman Inc.
  • Clark, M.C., and Rossiter, M. (2008). Narrative learning in adulthood. New directions for adult and continuing education, no. 119, Fall 2008, pp. 61-70.
  • Delahaye, B. L. & Smith, H. E. (1995). The validity of the learning preference assessment. Adult Education Quarterly, 45, 159-173.
  • Eriks-Brophy, A. and Crago, M.B. (1994). Transforming classroom discourse, language and education. Vol. 8, No. 3 pp.105-122.
  • Knowles, Malcolm S, et al.. (2005). The adult learner: The definitive classic in adult education and human resource development. Burlington, MA: Elsevier
  • Merriam, S.M. (2008). Adult learning theory for the twenty-first century. New directions for adult and continuing education, no. 119, Fall 2008, pp. 93-98.
  • Merriam, S. M., and Kim Sek, Y. (2008). Non-western perspectives on learning and knowing. New directions for adult and continuing education, no. 119, Fall 2008, pp. 71-81.
  • Meyers, S. A. (2008). Using transformative pedagogy when teaching online. College Teaching, no. 56, No.4, pp. 219-223.
  • Simons, L., Williams, E., and Russell, B. (2007). Cultural-based service learning. Information for Action. Volume 1, Number 2, pp. 19-45.
  • Taylor, E.W. (2008). Transformative learning theory. New directions for adult and continuing education, no. 119, Fall 2008, pp. 5-15.
  • Taylor, K., and Lamoreaux, A. (2008). Teaching with the brain in mind. New directions for adult and continuing education, no. 119, Fall 2008, pp. 49-59.
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