2 Course Project Theories in Adult EducationIn chapter 11 of ―Learning in Adulthood‖, 5 key learning theories are outlined. I will brieflyintroduce and explain a few of these theories and relate them to my experiences as an adultlearner. I will then conclude with the theory that I find most true for myself and give reasons tosupport my conclusion of adult learning and the process involved. The five key theories introduced are Behaviorist, Humanist, Cognitive, Social Cognitive,and finally the Constructivist Orientation. We will go in order starting with the BehavioristOrientation to adult learning. This theory was incorporated by John B. Watson and also hascontributors like Thorndike, Tolman, Guthrie, Hull and Skinner. This theory is comprised ofthree assumptions which I will briefly outline now. The first being, ―Learning is manifested by achange in behavior. Second, the environment shapes behavior; what one learns is determined bythe elements in the environment, not by the individual learner. And third, the principles ofcontinuity (how close in time two events must be for a bond to be formed) and reinforcement(any means of increasing the likelihood that an event will be repeated) are central to explainingthe learning process.‖ (S. Merriam, R. Caffarella& L. Baumgartner). I would have to say that I most wholeheartedly agree with the behaviorist orientation toadult learning. Our behavior is shaped by our environment which is prescribed by our culture(meaning our behavior can change from place to place, country to country or even in differentneighborhoods). I also agree with the notion that occurrences are vital to shaping our educationalattainment. Without occurrences (in our environment) we might be totally different people.
3 Course Project The next theory we will discuss is that of the Humanist Orientation. This orientationstates that, ―Humanists refuse to accept the notion that behavior is predetermined by either theenvironment or one‘s subconscious. Rather, human beings can control their own destiny; peopleare inherently good and will strive for a better world; people are free to act, and behavior is theconsequence of human choice: people possess unlimited potential for growth and development‖(S. Merriam et al, 2007). This is basically iterating the fact that people choose to learn forinternal reasons without influence from the outside. It is in my humble opinion that the behaviorist orientation is inherently foolish. While themajority of human beings would like to make the world a better place, they can only do so withthe tools which they are given. They can build on the tools they are given, which are rooted intheir environment. Without an environment, human beings cannot flourish, therefore humanbeings cannot learn. Learning for the sake of learning is an idealist perspective, but for themajority of human beings making it day to day and surviving is more important. This theorywould be the least applicable to me however certain aspects of this theory, as explained aboveare notable, but I just don‘t see them as applicable to today‘s days and age. The third theory which we will discuss is the Cognitive Orientation. The CognitiveOrientation stipulates, ―That the memory system is an active organized processor of informationand that prior knowledge plays an important role in learning.‖ (S. Merriam et al, 2007). Thistheory was developed by psychologists and is opposing that of the first perspective we discussed,the Behaviorist Orientation. This perspective further stipulates that, ―perceptions, insight andmeaning are key concepts in cognitivism…‖ (S. Merriam, et al, 2007). The BehavioristOrientation focuses more on events which is why there is disagreement between the two theories.
4 Course Project Reflection Learning more about adult education will help me both as an adult educator and as anadult learner. Learning about these theories helped me to conceptualize the different perspectiveson how adult learners learn. What resonates the most for me this week is that by simplyexpressing my ideas on adult education, I believe I might have offended one of my classmates.For me, expressing my beliefs is the first step in realizing and finding myself as an adult educatorso I was a bit taken back by the response that I had on a comment made on my thread for thisweek‘s discussion post. I wholeheartedly believe that educators, philosophers and people alikeshould be able to theorize without having their theories attacked but on the other hand it‘s a goodway to make those theories more concrete by providing more examples or clarifying points thatmy classmate clearly misunderstood. I would have to say of all the theories we went over this week, I agree with aspects ofboth the Behaviorist Perspective as well as the Cognitive Perspective in adult learning. Brieflystated, the Behaviorist perspective iterates that, ―observable behavior rather than internal thoughtprocesses is the focus of study; in particular, learning is manifested by a change in behavior.Second, the environment shapes behavior; what one learns is determined by the elements in theenvironment, not by the individual learner. And third, the principles of contiguity andreinforcement are central to explaining the learning process‖ (S. Merriam et al, 2007). Weemulate what we learn; therefore, our behavior can be studied and shown to change after learning
5 Course Projectas an adult. I‘ve had students in the past whose behavior worsened because they weren‘t studyingand with the classes progressively getting more difficult, they felt they had no way out. But onthe contrary, students who studied on a regular basis, asked more questions and listenedtentatively in the lessons. I have one last and reminding example. I was working at John CabotUniversity in Rome doing work study last summer, while a classmate of mine was imputing datafrom teacher evaluations. Most of the teacher evaluations which were negative came fromstudents who had poor attendance and did poorly in the classroom, while the students with goodattendance and a B- or better in the class generally gave good teacher evaluations. This just goesto show you that behavior is evident in the learning process and the intake of new information. The Cognitive perspective has two important factors which are, ―that the memory systemis an active organized processor of information and that prior knowledge plays an important rolein learning‖ (S. Merriam et al, 2007). This is absolutely true. Without or prior knowledge base,we wouldn‘t be where we are now and we wouldn‘t be able to continue learning. We structureour decision making on learning. That learning can be little every day things, situations or evenby other means and once we learn them we are able to use our cognitive capabilities to put intopractice what we‘ve just learnt. In order to help other adult learners learn, I can use thisknowledge and put it into practice like I‘ve just said. I can pay attention to the behaviors of mystudents and make adjustments accordingly. Possibly I am boring or not teaching appropriatelyfor my students, or for particular students so it could just be a matter of changing everything up abit.
6 Course Project Learning Through Wisdom and Cognitive Development Wisdom can be defined as the characteristic trait in people who are knowledgeable anduse their knowledge for a greater good.Wisdom is the way in which we describe people in ourlives, or who‘ve impacted or lives. Wise people, as we say, are people who have used their builtup knowledge towards a social good. One person we can all agree on, weather believed in or not,is Jesus Christ. He used his knowledge to unite the Jews and bring them to God. Nelson Mandelawas a wise man. He ended apartheid. Other notably wise people include Oprah, the Dali Lamaand Pope John Paul II. What do they all have in common? They all used their knowledge for thesocial good. Therefore wisdom is using knowledge to help people and by people, I mean allpeople. In this paper we will discuss this notion of wisdom and how it relates to our cognitivedevelopment and capacity for learning. According to Dr. Cozolino in, ―Attaining Wisdom, Part 1‖ wisdom is exactly that;applying your knowledge and using it in a social context. Of all the people in this world, onlypeople like Jesus Christ, Nelson Mandela and I do have to say, Oprah, are considered wise. Butwe can also say that people are wise who help out on a smaller level, like someone‘s grandfather,whose life experiences are bountiful. The person whose life experiences are bountiful thus goeson imparting that wisdom on other people, whether it be on a large or small level. These are thepeople we consider to have wisdom. These people all have a common characteristic – they areusing their knowledge to help other people and in a social context. As Dr. Cozonlino pointed out,we should not get wise people mixed up with those people who we considered to be learntpeople.
7 Course Project Learnt people on the other hand encompass those who have surpassed the educationalattainment for a given society. Such people might include Bill Gates or maybe even a famousneuroscientist. These are the types of people who have by cognitive development reached a levelthat the majority of society has not yet met. To give you an example of whom I consider to be wise, I would have to say that JesusChrist was the wisest man ever born on Earth. He may have been the Son of Christ but He wasalso a man amongst other men who walked as we did. He used his knowledge to lead the Jews toGod and out of an evil dictatorship that inflected pain and death on the masses. He gave themhope of one day attaining freedom in life and soul. So the type of person who is wise is one whois able to inspire people and create change. Jesus Christ had created so much social change thathe is still recognized as the Son of God today which has evolved our Christian way of living tothat of one of Charity and Compassion and Love for the masses. Wisdom has greatly altered my life. Jesus has been my great spiritual leader and withoutgetting too spiritual, I would have to say that it is our Christian notion of loving life which hadgave me reason to change my life. God only gives us one life and we have to make what we haveof it. Therefore, with this wisdom being imparted on me, I chose to follow my dreams aftergraduating college. I had a dream since I was a little girl to move to the country of my forefathersand I made that dream come true. I moved to Italy a year and a half ago. I returned to the UnitedStates last month due to economic reasons but I vow to myself to move back once I am able tosecure a good job because of the wisdom previously imparted on me. I don‘t want to waste thislife and my heart lies in Italy; therefore, so do my body and soul. If I were to ever be able toimpart wisdom on somebody else it would be exactly that: to follow your dreams because you
8 Course Projectonly live once. So to me, I would not consider myself to be wise, but I can in turn, impartwisdom I have learnt on somebody else. Wisdom is spread by word of mouth, revelations as wellas verse. So those wise people‘s wisdom is kept alive by the masses as it was intended to be. The experiences I had from this message were quite scary to be honest. Wisdom requiresyou to go outside of your comfort zone. It requires you to go against what family and friends tellyou to do. Wisdom requires you to think critically about your actions and make thoughtfuldecisions. Moving to Italy was difficult. I hardly knew the language. I was nearly broke when Ileft and had no job moving there. Once I moved there however, I knew following my dreamswas the correct path for my life. Money is not the root of all happiness. In fact, for me, it‘s thedemise. Happiness comes from following your dreams so this is the lesson that has been taughtto me from a very wise Man. How do I apply this wisdom to being an adult educator? To impart this, I wouldconstantly emphasize to my students to follow their dreams, try their hardest, to be happy andenjoy life. I will be a nurturing teacher as well as someone my students could confide in. I wouldemphasize real world learning strategies in the classroom or whatever learning environment I amin and have them incorporate these new learning experiences into following their dreams. New Directions and Discoveries The question posed for this part of the assignment is as follows, ―Are thereinterdependent relationships that exist between emotion and reason, exhibited in how the brainfunctions, that are crucial components of how adult s learn? If so, what are the impacts of these
9 Course Projectrelationships on learning, and how can adult educators best facilitate these impacts?‖ (S.Merriam, et al, 2007). Thinking critically about this, I go back to the module we watched thisweek with Dr. Cozolino. He relayed a very good point about movies and stories. When a movieis critically acclaimed, it‘s because the movie both relays emotion and reason, connecting bothour left and right side of the brain, each responsible for something quite different, but when bothsides of the brain are stimulated, then that‘s when it all comes together. Dr. Cozolilno‘s example of a good movie to me makes sense the most in answering thisquestion. It made me further think about the film I just recently went and saw; Drive. The moviesparked light in both side‘s of my brain like no movie before. That is how a good movie issupposed to be. Likewise, in learning a good lesson is when both sides of our brain have beenstimulated. In order to do this, as adult educators, we need to add personality to our lessons,using real life situations so that the side of the brain which deals with processing emotions isstimulated and the other part of the brain that deals with processing information is stimulated.When both parts of our brain light up, true learning occurs. As well are able to retain and applythis new knowledge. The next question which is posed is how do I relate this to being a more effectiveadult educator? To answer that question honestly, I must note that, ―much of our knowledgeabout the brain is currently only in the form of working hypotheses‖ (S. Merriam, et al, 2007). Ican only hypothesis on what would be good as an adult educator but what I can‘t refute is theunderpinnings of people‘s experiences as essential to our cognitive development. Therefore,―The learning style models are developed and used in various educational contexts to explain andaccommodate individual differences in learning. Learning styles are generally defined as
10 Course Projectrelatively stable and consistent. It is however acknowledged that the characteristics of thelearning environment and learning experiences influence their development‖ (S. Merriam, et al,2007). Therefore what I need to do is mentally stimulate people by evoking their emotion andcritical thinking skills which is usually done by using real world situations in an educationalcontext.
11 Course Project My Personal Development in Adult Learning In this section of my paper we will discuss my personal development as an adult learner andan adult educator. We will talk about the perspectives and models in adult learning and I willgive personal examples from my life and how I have transitioned and grown as an adult learner. The biological perspective, ―acknowledges the role of nature in our development‖ (S.Merriam, R. Caffarella, & L. Baumgartner, 2007). If I were asked to describe myself using thisperspective, I would say that I am still relatively young, have good hearing and eye sight (withmy glasses of course) so aging factors are not effecting me yet. I would also have to say that it‘smuch more difficult for me to learn now as opposed to when I was in grade school. Mymetabolism has changed and I have gained a bit of weight and have problems concentrating. Allof this equates into me using different methods and adapting to new methods in my learningprocess. Because it‘s hard for me to retain info, I usually highlight and come back, continuallyrevise etc. As stated, the psychological model of development explores the internal experiences ofthe individual. Considering Levinson‘s Age-Graded Model, I have come to agree with it. Itstipulates that people patterns and designs change at transitional periods in people‘s lives andstay stable during stable times (S. Merriam e. al, 2007). I decided to go back to school because Iwas at a transitional period in my life which was my motivation. I don‘t usually make suddendecisions in stable periods like now (except for buying that new car yesterday!). It‘s just intransitional periods like the one I was in, I choose to start going back to school because I felt lost.If I hadn‘t have felt lost, I wouldn‘t have made a decision like that. I feel like this is the case formost people, specifically most adult learners.
12 Course Project I feel like I was dealt a bit of a bad hand at life relative to social roles and the timing ofevents in my life. I spent a good portion of my childhood in foster care and had a harder timelearning growing up. As an adult learner this motivated me more because of the low expectationsthat society has for foster children. Changes in society have also greatly influenced me and mygeneration when it comes to learning. I grew up with computers and have thus becometechnologically savvy and have an easier time when it comes to learning in a technologicallyadvanced classroom. As per my emotional reactions, I would say on good days I learn better andon bad days I don‘t learn as much. One thing I have learned: not to go to bed upset, drink plentyof water and get 8 hours of sleep for optimal learning. I think my intelligence is the result of biological traits as well as my environment andexperience. My father was very, very intelligent, as well as all of the people on my dad‘s side. Iam related (in Italy) to many doctors, of whom some are quite famous in their educational work.However, my father‘s intelligence is what I believe lead to his demise in the years leading up tohis suicide. My environment and support system helped me educate myself, putting togetherthose biological factors that are at my fingertips. I believe all of this comes together and one doesnot exist without the other. We are not inherently intelligent. A baby cannot raise itself, and Isurely did not raise myself. Therefore, some people are more gifted biologically, but it‘s how weput it to work, and what‘s been thrown at us, that makes a difference.
13 Course Project Reflection To be quite honest, I never really thought about hearing or vision disabilities in adultlearners, as an adult educator. I have never come into this problem but it is something BIG totake into account. My aunt is blind so what would I do if I had to teach her? How might I changemy lesson plans to make sure she was able to take in just as much information as a learner whowas not sight impaired? As an adult educator we must take into account biological aspects oflearning and how that affects each of our students. Other things we might take into account couldbe lighting issues, and hearing issues. I had one professor who would use a mike at all times andshe was clearly audible in all parts of the classroom. Considering the four theories which were presented in chapter 12, we need to, as adulteducators, be aware that learners learn differently because of a number of reasons. Biologicalfactors including age play a role, as well as environmental factors including socioculturalbackgrounds. Psychologically, adult learners can be at different points in their life, which plays amajor role in the way in which they learn and their reasons for being there. As an adult educatorwe need to make sure to take these into consideration. Not all learners learn the same way, theycome from different backgrounds and some have learning disabilities. We need to make thelearning environment an environment structured for each student, as if they were each beingtaught individually. I think one way to broaden my understanding, or for any adult educator, would be to takea class on how to deal with this: how to lead a classroom with different learners and how to
14 Course Projectoptimize it for each student. For many of us, we don‘t think of eye sight or sensitivity as adisability, so taking a class on optimizing the learning environment for students would help a lotbecause we just don‘t think about this.
15 Course Project Learning Styles Jamal, inSlumdogMillionare was a self-directed learner. In this paper we will discuss thedifferences and similarities between the main character, Jamal, in SlumdogMillionare with me aswell as the other type of learning styles. We will conclude this part of the paper with someconcrete learning examples from the film as well as my life as they relate the learning styles inthis week‘s module. In the film, Slumbdog Millionaire, Jamal Malik faced many hardships from a very early age.He grew up in a Muslim community in the very slums of Dubai before it became the economichub it is today.. His mother was murdered by a group of extremists and his brother, him andLatika all got away, well barely. The three Musketeers as Jamal put it, went on to meet apowerful gangster who took them under his evil wing. Jamal was forced to learn on his own,which is why his brother and him escaped this bizarre prison-like camp. This was depictedthrough a series of flashbacks after Jamal won the game show, ―Who Wants To Be aMillionaire‖. No-one thought that someone of his class would be smart enough to answer thequestions on the show, and after proving everyone wrong, he was set up and accused of cheating.He had to prove, by means of explaining his own self-directed learning, how it was that he cameto know and understand what it was that he knew. I wouldn‘t say that my childhood was nearly as bad as Jamals but at times they were muchthe same. We both felt very alone and secluded from the world, like no-one was there to help us,which forced us to direct ourselves. I grew up in foster care and at times in my childhood, my
16 Course Projectsisters and I were homeless, hungry and deprived. I began to start teaching myself and it was agoal that I made at such a young age. I can‘t even begin to examine why or how I was able tomake such a goal for myself. I didn‘t want to be like my drug addicted parents who would rathersell my sister to a pedophile to get their fix of cocaine. It came inherent to me when I was 6 yearsold that it wasn‘t okay for a grown man to touch the body of a young girl. I would say my first steps at self-directed learning came when my mother and her thenboyfriend, Mark, decided to have a bunch of friends over and shoot up heroine. I took it as a signfrom Jesus, and can claim to this day, that I remember that dream as vivid as it was on that day,that Jesus had come to me and told me how to dial 911. The next day when my mother lockedmy sisters and I in our room for the day while her and her friends were downstairs shooting up, Iinstructed my older sister to dial 911 and give the police our address. I must have been 5 yearsold and I remember tugging on the cops coat and telling him that Jesus told me to call him. Evenat such a young age, we are still equipped to know that some things are just wrong and the onlyway to set them right is by directed ourselves in making the right decisions for our lives.However, I don‘t think a 5 year old should have to make that decision. My second big step in my own self-directed learning came when I was 17. My sisters and Iwere adopted by an abusive family, I think partly in favor of just being a muse for my then fostermother who had many psychological issues. She slowly got sick of us, started drinking heavilyand beating my sisters and I, burning our clothing, our toys and anything else that meantsomething dear to us. My eldest sister was eventually removed from the home after accusationsof beatings that could not be proven, but CPS didn‘t remove my younger sister and me. At 17, afew years later, I took one huge leap of faith and confided in my school counselor to all of the
17 Course Projectatrocities that were happening at home, partly due to the safety of my youngest sister, Angelina.My foster mother had been binge drinking on end for months. Starting at 6 o‘clock in themorning, fully blazed by 8 am when Angelina was getting a ride from her to our school, some 25miles away (we went to a small Catholic school). The day I confided in my counselor, I knew my sister and I would end up back in foster carebut I thought being in foster care would be better than having my sister dead at the hands of adead beat drunk. Approximately 2 weeks went by. The school administrators observed mymother and contacted the Battle Creek police department and CPS and she was pulled over. Thepolice found a fifth of Vodka under her seat, completely gone and my mother 3 times over thelegal alcohol limit. They didn‘t understand how she had gotten that far everyday being that drunkwithout a car accident. I took my sister home that night and we immediately were put back intothe foster care system. My mother and father never spoke to us again. They accused us ofmaking her drink to the brink of death. They accused us of making her beat us until we wereblack and blue. We went without food, without clothing, without toys and were constantlyridiculed and I just knew that somewhere, somehow it would get better. That is how my self-directed learning started. In self-directed learning, ―educators of adults in formal and nonformal settings need to shiftto learners as much control as possible in the learning process‖ (S. Merriam, R. Caffarella& R.Baumgartner, 2007). In Jamal‘s and my case, we both experienced self-directed learning at itsheight. We were given all of the control over our individual learning process, which we thenused in good ways to develop in our learning process by applying what we learned.―Transformative learning occurs when there is a transformation in one of our beliefs or attitudes
18 Course Project(a meaning scheme), or a transformation of our entire perspective (habit of mind), (S. Merriam,et al, 2007). I feel like my transformation started when I had that dream and has continued on thesame prefix. For Jamal, his transformation began when he started having flashbacks when he wasbeing interrogated at the police station. We all have a transformational learning point and it cancome at different stages and for different reasons in our lives. Under the experience and learningmodal, we see ―our unconscious as interfering with our conscious experiences. As a result, wemust work through psychic conflicts to learn‖ (S. Merriam, et al, 2007). Unconsciously I haveused what I have learned from my experiences in the past to shape my experiences now. I havefound that forgetting the past and thinking about the future is the biggest hurdle for me and I dothis unconsciously every day. I believe Jamal to some extent was the same way. He didn‘t let goin the movie, therefore unconsciously using what he learned over the past 17 years of his life athis fingertips. I have already went in detail on how I self-directed my own learning but now I wanted toshed some light on how I have used the transformational way of learning in my life. In previoussections of this course project, I have touched upon some close to home issues. One of whichwas achieving my dreams. I really feel like transformation is everything and like I‘ve saidbefore, we only live once, so let‘s not waste the precious time we do have on this earth. I took ahuge leap of faith, which transformed my being. I came out of my skin and moved abroad. I haveseen enough heart ache and pain in my life to want something more. I didn‘t want my life to bein vein, so to conquer my inner daemons; I had to fulfill my dreams. That dream was to go andstart a life in Italy and although I have temporarily put that to a halt, I do feel that in a few years Iwill be ready and secure with my decision to make that dream come true and I am hoping thatonce I am finished with this degree in Adult Learning, I can apply what I‘ve learned in the
19 Course Projectclassroom once again both in Italy and in a distance learning program as I am in right now. Jamalwas the same way, he followed his dreams and his dreams were just a little bit different; to findhis long lost love, Latika, which he did in the end of the movie. Now comes the question, how has this impacted me as an adult learner? Well as an adulteducator we need to understand the fundamentals of adult learning, so it has taught me a lot thisweek. I reflected a lot on things I normally try to forget but found it very useful in my quest tobecome (again) an adult educator. I am not teaching at the moment, instead working ineducational sales, but for my future I will know that each person comes to the classroom (orwhatever learning environment they are in) with a unique perspective on learning. I know thateach student comes with different reasons and different backgrounds and that all of ourexperiences have helped shape the way we learn, what we have learned and how we willtransform this learning later on. Simply by understanding these intricacies will help me betterunderstand where my students are coming from which makes for a better learning environment. InterviewDuring my interview, I interviewed a friend of mine who had agreed to do this as long as hername was kept anonymous. I asked her a few questions about learning as it relates to life and gotsome responses that are beneficial in telling the story of adult learning. Adult learning doesn‘tnecessarily need to occur in a classroom setting, it needs only to occur. My first question posedto the subject was, ―What are some of the most important lessons you have learned during youradult life? These lessons need not have been learned in a formal classroom, since much authenticlearning takes place at home, on the streets, among friends and family, etc. Please describe whatyou learned and why.‖ The subject stated, ―That people aren‘t always out to get you and you
20 Course Projecthave to let yourself be worry free. I have had a difficult time letting people in but now I realizeeveryone wonders what others are thinking of them. I was so scared to let people in it hadaffected me in every aspect of my life. Now as I slowly let people in, I enjoy life.‖ I thought thisto be true for my life as well and a good learning point for all adult learners. My second question to my subject was, ―Have any of your learning experiences beenhighly dramatic? Describe an event that led to a fundamental change in how you view yourselfand/or the world around you (transformational learning).‖ My subject responded by saying,―Have any of your learning experiences been highly dramatic? Describe an event that led to afundamental change in how you view yourself and/or the world around you (transformationallearning). I found this quite intriguing because a lot of people just give up but she has hope in agloomy circumstance. It gave me hope in someday fulfilling my dreams which is what everyadult learner needs, hope. My third question posed to my subject was, ―Have you ever learned through anexperience that completely captured your attention in the moment? Describe a learningexperience that engaged you mentally, physically, and/or emotionally (experiential learning). Mysubject stated she had. ―I did so by going outside of what I knew. I started dating a guy becausehe was so persistent and although it didn‘t work out, he helped me become more open andaccepting of what could be. It was a real eye opener for me and a turning point in mydepression‖. If every adult learner was able to just broaden their horizons a little bit by thesetypes of experiences, we would in a much better state. Finally, but not leastly, I asked my subject to, ―Describe a time in which you learnedsomething on your own—outside of a formal educational setting and without the assistance of aninstructor (self-directed learning)‖. My subject replied by stating that, ―Driving while talking on
21 Course Projecta cell phone catches a cop‘s attention but not in a good way so having your big growly dog in theback seat doesn‘t help. Won‘t do that again and I learned it on my own for sure‖. Although wecan get a good laugh out of this, little everyday things like this are examples of how we learn asadults in a self-directing manner. So I would , as an adult educator, tell my students to takesomething out of each day, whether it‘s something minute or something big, store it in a book ora diary as something they have learned and they can turn back to later on. I think it‘s these littlethings too, that make the most difference in our learning. They happen most often and take upmost of our time, so why not learn from them?
22 Course Project Critical, Postmodern and Feminist Theories in Adult Education Today is my first day after having accepted a position as an Adult Literacy Instructor here inHillside, Il. My students are all very diverse and I have a difficult class to prepare for. I need totake into consideration the vast differences that my students have brought to the class. A lot ofstudents are ESL students, whose first language is Spanish. A few students are developmentallydelayed and or behind. I also feel like some of my students are gifted. All of my students comefrom different cultural and are socioeconomically diverse. The first and most important questionis how am I going to structure a classroom dedicated to all of my students? What I would like to discuss first are the critical theories in education which help answer thequestion I posed above. These questions are critical and nature and so is critical adult educationwhich is an approach which, ―critiques and raises questions about the assumptions we makeabout the world around us, including those underlying the practice of adult education‖ (S.Merriam, R. Caffarella& L. Baumgartner, 2007). So to answer my question above, I would dojust that: use a blended approach applicable to all groups of people. Behavior (in general, and inlearning is based on a person‘s personal disposition multiplied by his or her environment and theenvironment can be all of those different factors associated in socio-economic growth includingrace, culture, the amount of money one makes, where they come from, as well as personal traits(which is not a conclusive list). So, there are many factors that affect each students personalgrowth and learning style; therefore it is best to take a blended learning approach in theclassroom.
23 Course Project The types of assumptions I might have on that first day of class, in order to be respectful aswell as mindful of all the learners is that we live in a multi-cultural environment so everyone willhave a different story, a different way of learning and different learning abilities. So theassumptions I need to have is that I might have to drastically changed plans to meet my student‘sneeds and expectations in this course. I would like to be particularly mindful of minoritiesbecause I am not one. The most common themes to be mindful of are race, class and gender. Iwould like to promote a classroom conductive for all learners so being mindful of minorities, isimportant to ensure everyone feels that they are in an environment conducive to learning.―While discussions of race focus primarily on African Americans, it should be noted that peopleother than White European Americans are also marginalized in our society‖ (S. Merrian, et al,2007). It is vital to challenge your assumptions and previous beliefs when interacting with peopledifferent from yourself because all people are different. You can‘t categorize people by the colorof their skin, the way they present themselves or other characteristics because all people aredifferent. Preconceived assumptions are just that; preconceived and hold no bearing. I alsobelieve there is no place for these types of notions in academia. We are here to grow and to learnnot to hold prejudice. Furthermore, it is essential to critically examine issues related to race, classand gender because it paints a broader picture, allowing educators to take the big picture intoconsideration. So in effect the, ―camera moves from the individual learner to an analysis of thecontext where learning takes place. Considered are the larger systems in society, the culture andthe structural and historical conditions that shape learning, and the structural and historicalconditions framing, indeed defining, the learning event‖ (S. Merriam, et al, 2007). So, it is in my
24 Course Projectopinion as a White European American, it would behoove me to invest more time inunderstanding the socioeconomically differences to better assist my future students. Some specific ways of reaching out to students do exist. Using Critical Theory I would, as aneducator, study critiques on the current and past social arenas which have contributed to thestatus quo. I would also like to create my own study as there are very few studies within thisrealm to broaden the Critical Theory perspective in Adult Learning. I would really like to holddiscussion panels with students to get them to voice their concerns in an educational mannerconducive to adult education. I think it would help me as an educator but also get studentsthinking about these issues also in a positive manner. The Postmodern Theory in Adult Education states that, ―in a postmodern world, everything iscontested, up for grabs. What has been or is considered true, real, or right can be questioned;there are multiple interpretations depending on where one is standing and what factors are injuztaposition with one another‖ (S. Meriam, et al, 2007). One thing I would like to experimentwith is what I saw in Europe. What is considered correct in America is to hand out written tests. Idon‘t think this is totally conducive to adult learning. In the Italian university system, studentshave both written and oral tests and the oral tests are usually open to the public. In this literacyclass, I would like to have oral tests and allow other students to give feedback during exams. Ibelieve this will ultimately stimulate students to study more and gain valuable public speakingexperience. I would also like to challenge other elements in the classroom maybe giving studentsthe teacher‘s seat or doing other non-traditional things to really get students involved. Finally, Feminist Pedagogy in Adult Learning focuses on, ―the concerns of women in theteaching-learning transaction. Per this perspective I would like to incorporate public-speaking
25 Course Projectassignments designed at raising awareness of feminist issues in today and in the past to get anopen discussion happening. I believe this would be particularly useful because it is an adultliteracy class and it is a very important issue in adult education and society. These three theories, critical, postmodern and feminist theories have helped develop myunderstanding of the different ways to approach learning in the classroom. I really do believe in ablended approach to learning because not all people learn the same way, so encompassing thesethree critical theories is vitally important to our multicultural society and the development ofmyself as an adult educator.
26 Course Project Critical, Postmodern and Feminist Theories in Adult Education Today is my first day after having accepted a position as an Adult Literacy Instructor here inHillside, Il. My students are all very diverse and I have a difficult class to prepare for. I need totake into consideration the vast differences that my students have brought to the class. A lot ofstudents are ESL students, whose first language is Spanish. A few students are developmentallydelayed and or behind. I also feel like some of my students are gifted. All of my students comefrom different cultural and are socioeconomically diverse. The first and most important questionis how am I going to structure a classroom dedicated to all of my students? What I would like to discuss first are the critical theories in education which help answer thequestion I posed above. These questions are critical and nature and so is critical adult educationwhich is an approach which, ―critiques and raises questions about the assumptions we makeabout the world around us, including those underlying the practice of adult education‖ (S.Merriam, R. Caffarella& L. Baumgartner, 2007). So to answer my question above, I would dojust that: use a blended approach applicable to all groups of people. Behavior (in general, and inlearning is based on a person‘s personal disposition multiplied by his or her environment and theenvironment can be all of those different factors associated in socio-economic growth includingrace, culture, the amount of money one makes, where they come from, as well as personal traits(which is not a conclusive list). So, there are many factors that affect each students personalgrowth and learning style; therefore it is best to take a blended learning approach in theclassroom. The types of assumptions I might have on that first day of class, in order to be respectful aswell as mindful of all the learners is that we live in a multi-cultural environment so everyone will
27 Course Projecthave a different story, a different way of learning and different learning abilities. So theassumptions I need to have is that I might have to drastically changed plans to meet my student‘sneeds and expectations in this course. I would like to be particularly mindful of minoritiesbecause I am not one. The most common themes to be mindful of are race, class and gender. Iwould like to promote a classroom conductive for all learners so being mindful of minorities, isimportant to ensure everyone feels that they are in an environment conducive to learning.―While discussions of race focus primarily on African Americans, it should be noted that peopleother than White European Americans are also marginalized in our society‖ (S. Merrian, et al,2007). It is vital to challenge your assumptions and previous beliefs when interacting with peopledifferent from yourself because all people are different. You can‘t categorize people by the colorof their skin, the way they present themselves or other characteristics because all people aredifferent. Preconceived assumptions are just that; preconceived and hold no bearing. I alsobelieve there is no place for these types of notions in academia. We are here to grow and to learnnot to hold prejudice. Furthermore, it is essential to critically examine issues related to race, classand gender because it paints a broader picture, allowing educators to take the big picture intoconsideration. So in effect the, ―camera moves from the individual learner to an analysis of thecontext where learning takes place. Considered are the larger systems in society, the culture andthe structural and historical conditions that shape learning, and the structural and historicalconditions framing, indeed defining, the learning event‖ (S. Merriam, et al, 2007). So, it is in myopinion as a White European American, it would behoove me to invest more time inunderstanding the socioeconomically differences to better assist my future students.
28 Course Project Some specific ways of reaching out to students do exist. Using Critical Theory I would, as aneducator, study critiques on the current and past social arenas which have contributed to thestatus quo. I would also like to create my own study as there are very few studies within thisrealm to broaden the Critical Theory perspective in Adult Learning. I would really like to holddiscussion panels with students to get them to voice their concerns in an educational mannerconducive to adult education. I think it would help me as an educator but also get studentsthinking about these issues also in a positive manner. The Postmodern Theory in Adult Education states that, ―in a postmodern world, everything iscontested, up for grabs. What has been or is considered true, real, or right can be questioned;there are multiple interpretations depending on where one is standing and what factors are injuxtaposition with one another‖ (S. Meriam, et al, 2007). One thing I would like to experimentwith is what I saw in Europe. What is considered correct in America is to hand out written tests. Idon‘t think this is totally conducive to adult learning. In the Italian university system, studentshave both written and oral tests, and the oral tests are usually open to the public. In this literacyclass, I would like to have oral tests and allow other students to give feedback during exams. Ibelieve this will ultimately stimulate students to study more and gain valuable public speakingexperience. I would also like to challenge other elements in the classroom maybe giving studentsthe teachers seat or doing other non-traditional things to really get students involved. Finally, Feminist Pedagogy in Adult Learning focuses on, ― the concerns of women in theteaching-learning transaction. Per this perspective I would like to incorporate public-speakingassignments designed at raising awareness of feminist issues in today and in the past to get an
29 Course Projectopen discussion happening. I believe this would be particularly useful because it is an adultliteracy class and it is a very important issue in adult education and society. These three theories, critical, postmodern and feminist theories have helped develop myunderstanding of the different ways to approach learning in the classroom. I really do believe in ablended approach to learning because not all people learn the same way, so encompassing thesethree critical theories is vitally important to our multicultural society and the development ofmyself as an adult educator.
30 Course Project Spirituality in Adult Education I wanted to share a story of a girl and how she found inspiration through attending churchand spiritual development. This is my story. My sisters and I were very young when we weretaken away from our biological parents. I was merely 5 when the state of Michigan decided myparents were unfit. My mother was schizophrenic with a wild cocaine addiction and my fatherwasn‘t far off. There are many times that I can recollect being homeless and hungry sleeping onpark benches with my sisters and dad. It was hard. People looked at us like we were rats and itwas hard to think much more of myself. Then came present time: we would get gifts from charities and my dad would go andexchange the gifts for in store money and booze. He would drink so much that he would pass outand the police had to be called many times because nobody could wake him up, while he had usthree girls. He even tried to sell my sister for money to a sex offender when I was in the 1st gradeand even then I knew it was wrong. I loved my dad but knew that God did not want this for us. Ihad a lot of spiritual dreams at this age. Maybe it was messages from school coming back to mein dreams but the turning point was after one dream I had when my mom had custody of mysisters and I. She locked us three girls in a room without food all day while her and her friendswere getting high on cocaine downstairs. I can still remember the dream to this day. Jesus cameto me and told me to call the police and told me it was not okay. I instructed my older sister todial 911 and give them our address. The police came and my mother was immediately taken intocustody which was the start of our time in foster care. Foster care wasn‘t much better than my parents. We weren‘t fed. We weren‘t givenadequate clothing and we were often times abused and neglected. Our final placement, even after
31 Course Projectserious allegations of child abuse, the State of Michigan allowed them to adopt us because wewere considered ‗problem‘ children. Rita, our foster mother, would often beat us with wips. Iwas in the 3rd grade when I first moved there. I would often times go to school and show mychildhood best friend (and currently still my best friend) the welts on my back and body. Ritareally took her frustration out on my older sister, Jennifer. She would beat her relentlessly whenshe was drinking. Jennifer was removed from the home in the 9th grade after Rita sat on top ofher and punched her until she was unconscious. My foster mother was never prosecuted on thesecharges that I can validate, they simply took my older sister away and left Angelina and I. I don‘thave anything that ever belonged to me. Rita burned all of our belongings including ourfurniture. She locked cabinet doors for food, didn‘t let us do our laundry and usually grounded usto our rooms for no reason. I really needed a place to turn and had always considered myself to be spiritual. Iattended church regularly as a pre-teen and teen on my own. I needed guidance and wasn‘tgetting it at home. I didn‘t want to fall into the same footsteps as my past and present conditions.I started taking a spiritual approach to life when I was about 16. Eventually as my foster motherscondition got even worse I was able to confide in a guidance counselor at school of my mom‘scondition and what was going on at home. Two weeks later Rita was in jail for drinking anddriving and child endangerment. We were immediately removed from the residence as the statefinally understood she was ill in body and mind. I clung to God and spirituality and got reallyinto philosophy at that point. I was 17, in foster care again and without a family or supportsystem. It was really hard but I couldn‘t have survived without letting God in and making Him apart of my life.
32 Course Project These experiences I had in my childhood coupled with my spiritual sense of being havealtered my adult life. I think I would be a dead beat just like Rita had I let her get to me and notfound myself at that time. Entering the adult education system was a challenge for me as well,which I have struggled with because of my trust issues and I clung to spirituality to keep megetting ahead and finishing my bachelor‘s degree. Dr. Keen was talking about spirituality inadult education and how vitally important it is. Spirituality in essence is interwoven with allother parts of learning. Having some sort of spiritual beliefs gives us a stronger sense of self anda stronger sense of understanding. So, even though our educational systems have been secularand independent of religion, for students to really grasp a true and fundamental understanding ofconcepts presented, it‘s imperative to weave in spirituality. Without it, faculty cannot bethemselves and nor can students. There are many things we can do to develop a deeperunderstanding and it is those classes where teachers allowed me us to create this type ofunderstanding that I truly developed a sense of self and excelled. There are many different definitions of spirituality but I really like number two on page201 of Learning in Adulthood; ―Spirituality is about an awareness and honoring of wholenessand the interconnectedness of all things‖ (S. Merriam, R. Cafferella, & L. Baumgartner, 2007).In my instance I was able to connect the dots of my life by turning to God and to church. In Ms.Merriam‘s case, she visited a temple in Korea where she was met with extreme spirituality whichopened her up to understanding the complete picture. Every learner will encounter spirituality ina different way, but it‘s that connecting of the dots that matters in the end and why it is soimportant inside the classroom.
33 Course Project Narrative learning is also really important in learning as it connects dots for us in anotherway. A story says a thousand words. It paints a picture in our heads. It gives us another way tounderstand complex points, other than by simple words. The book gives an example of the 2004earthquake and how it was relived and understood by people across the world through individualstories. These stories are equally important to actual facts. The facts of a situation don‘t paint acomplete picture for learners to understand. It‘s through narrative passage that learners are ableto put these learning points into perspective (S. Merriam, et al, 2007). Furthermore, ―culturalnarratives or myths are those that define the socio-cultural milieu in which we live; the form thetaken-for-granted assumptions on which we live our lives in the way that we do‖ (S. Merriam, etal, 2007). It is vitally important to include narrative learning in higher education because thestories of history are just as big, if not bigger than the philosophies we study. These philosophieswe are currently studying are based on many narratives and can tell a lot of stories. One of theworld‘s oldest books, The Bible, is based on narratives and these narratives translate into biggermessages. Therefore making reference to any kind of narrative in the classroom is conducive tolearning on every level and will also help students remember material better because it paints apicture in their head. As an adult educator, you can use, ―curriculum, storytelling and autobiography‖ (S.Merriam, et al, 2007). The curriculum model uses texts of narration painting pictures for studentsas the teacher helps them focus on the bigger picture and material. The second is storytellingwhich can consist of case studies, and other material that paints a picture for a student by othermeans. Real life situations are often used in this type of incorporation and are probably the mostpopular form in adult education. The third form is autobiography, which is what I did for thispaper. It tells a self-story and is one of the oldest forms of story-telling. It paints a personal
34 Course Projectpicture for people who help learners really remember the circumstances and also the material, inother words, the bigger picture. These are the three ways I can incorporate narrative learning inadult education. It is equally important as presenting material and should take precedence overmaterial in a learner focused environment.
35 Course Project Final Reflection During week 1 we studied the basic theories of adult education and how these theoriesare applied to adult learning. The theories included are Behaviorist, Humanist, Cognitive, SocialCognitive, and finally the Constructivist Orientation. I developed my personal understanding ofeach of these theories and how they have developed adult education. As I stated in part 1, ―Iwould have to say that I most wholeheartedly agree with the behaviorist orientation to adultlearning. Our behavior is shaped by our environment which is prescribed by our culture(meaning our behavior can change from place to place, country to country or even in differentneighborhoods). I also agree with the notion that occurrences are vital to shaping our educationalattainment. Without occurrences (in our environment) we might be totally different people. One thing that I have taken when it concerns this perspective is what my teacher asked usto remember in one of my undergraduate classes at Western Michigan University, B-P*E.Simply stated this equation means Behavior is a factor of personal disposition and environment.Our behavior is grounded in personal disposition but that personal disposition is thus influencedby our environment and those factors which surround us. In part two we went over wisdom and cognitive development. Again I put that equation(B=P*E) into my thoughts to create that picture and learned about wisdom and how wisdomeffects our learning in higher education. Wisdom is the lessons that are passed down,traditionally through verse or story-telling from people we consider to be wise. Typically wisepeople are people who have done something to help a social good. People who are famous today
36 Course Projectand considered to be wise would be Oprah, Nelson Mandela, Pope John Paul II and countlessothers. Typically wise people are those who have a message to give that helps make society abetter place. We typically hold these people in high respect and their stories are often passed inhistory. In part three, we went over our own individual development as an adult learner. We alsowent over theories in adult learning one of which was the biological perspective which givesweight to behavior and learning styles to nature or biological makeup. Another perspective wasthe psychological perspective which gives weight to individual learning to internal experiencesof the individual. I truly believe in a blended approach to learning and teaching. I would have tosay that there are certain parts of theories such as these that I agree with, but theories are just thattheories and are not theoretically sound. I also believe things that we consider to be theoreticallysound should be questioned. We should be able to think outside the box and not subjectourselves to a certain way of learning, which is what I am coming to identify with. It might alsobe due to the fact that I am not an educator yet. I am merely theorizing on hypothetical situationsand my brief teaching experience abroad, isn‘t enough experience for me to make judgments on. In part four, we went over different learning styles, of which I identified closest with wasself-directed learning. In week four we were asked to watch a film. I chose Slumdog Millionaire,which was a film about a Jamal, a boy of a low social class and stigma that came to adulthoodthrough extreme self-directed learning. I identified with his character as I too was forced to beself-dependent at a very young point in my life. There are different types of learning styles butthis one resonated with me most which I described through my story as a child and how itaffected my adult learning style.
37 Course Project In part 5 we went over critical, postmodern and feminist theories in adult education.These different theories really made me think of how the traditional education system wasflawed. If we use a critical scope, as in the critical theory to traditional methods, raisingquestions to what is good, bad and ugly in education, we will broaden our horizons in how andwhat we learn. In the last two, postmodern and feminist theories, I really got a feeling of whatmost teachers don‘t think about; how to create a conducive learning environment for all learners,specifically minority students and what we can do to produce those kinds of environments. Ithink it is particularly difficult for adult educators to understand this when they are part of themajority but I also have some objections to these theories that focus on non-European Whites inAmerica. I feel that there is reverse racism also in the workplace and school environment and Iwould like to be an educator that does not base decisions on anyone‘s status or give anyonespecial consideration because of the color of their skin. I think our society is making this racegap worse and it can‘t be blamed on merely European-White citizens in the United States. Is anAmerican problem, not a European-White problem and is being fueled by all people. Whatpeople of minorities also don‘t take into consideration is the prejudices against certain groups ofWhite-Europeans who have also been oppressed, particularly those of Roman Catholic, WesternEuropean decent. Finally, in part 7 we discussed spirituality and storytelling in adult education. I shared mystory of my childhood and how my spirituality helped me get through these times which in turnhelped funnel my education and growth. For me it came in the forms of dreams, church and God,for others this could consist of meditation, religion or other deep thought. Spirituality has oftenbeen transformed into storytelling and storytelling is usually a narrative explanation for aparticular view. In society, one of the oldest forms of education has been through storytelling. It
38 Course Projecthelps to paint a bigger picture of us and helps us remember much easier. Storytelling is just asimportant in adult education as theories because stories, such as in the Bible are rooted intheories and spirituality. I believe everything is interwoven and we should not have a closedmind when it comes to progressive forms of education. Traditional classrooms just don‘t workand these classrooms don‘t make much sense when considering our history. I believe using whatwe have available is just as important. What we have available is a whole world full of differentviews, both Western and non-Western and we need to explore all of them, apply them and thendecide what works best for us. I have learned a lot about myself and opened up to myself which has been particularlyuseful over this course. I have learned that there are so many ways of approaching adulteducation and I have decided over this course that I would like to try each and every way ofapproaching it to gain a further understanding of what works, doesn‘t work and gain student‘sfeedback through each step. I think this would be a great dissertation for the end of the courseonce I am able to start teaching. I am very excited to embark on my teaching career and tocontinue learning about these fundamentals.
39 Course Project ReferencesCozolino, L. (2008). The healthy aging brain: Sustaining attachment and attaining wisdom. NewYork, NY: W. W. Norton.Merriman, S. B., Caffarella, R. S., & Baumgartner, L. M. (2007). Learning in adulthood: Acomprehensive guide (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.