Critical Thinking And The Adult Learner


Published on

"Critical Thinking and the Adult Learner" is an overview of the research and best practices in the field of adult education.

Published in: Education
  • Be the first to comment

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Critical Thinking And The Adult Learner

  1. 1. Critical Thinkingand the Adult Learner<br />Presentation Conducted By:<br />Dr. Vera Lee Byrd<br />Thursday, January 14, 2010<br />
  2. 2. A Brief Overviewof Adult Education<br />In the early 1980s, Darkenwald and Merriam distinguished adult education from traditional modes of learning.<br />The perspective that was presented by Darkenwald and Merriam (1982) gave us a broader view of education (lifelong learning) and put “adult learning” within a social context.<br />
  3. 3. Lifelong Learning<br />Education is a process, some might even contend, a lifelong process, that is never ending (Darkenwald and Merriam, 1982, pp. 2-3).<br />Within a broad social context, one could argue that the greatest impact on modern society has been the economy, social forces since the end of WWII, and technological advances.<br />
  4. 4. What is Adult Education?<br />Adult education is defined as “a process whereby persons whose major social roles are characteristic of adult status undertake systematic and sustained learning activities for the purpose of bringing about changes in knowledge, attitudes, values, and skills” (Darkenwald and Merriam, 1982. p. 9).<br />
  5. 5. Historical Overviewof Adult Learning<br />In a classic study, Edward L. Thorndike concluded that “one’s learning ability increases to age 25 and declines thereafter only very gradually” (Darkenwald and Merriam, 1982, p. 25).<br />At the time (in 1928), this was a profound finding because Thorndike’s study found that “adults could learn as well or better than children” (p. 25).<br />
  6. 6. Influential Developments<br />In the late 1940s and in the 1950s, Kurt Lewin’s body of work focused on group dynamics and change theory (Darkenwald and Merriam, 1982, p. 25).<br />At that time, “group discussion was widely advocated as the preferred method of adult education” (pp. 25-26). <br />
  7. 7. Influential Developments(continued)<br />Given that adult education is seen primarily as an eclectic field of study, many of the influential developments came out of economics, education, psychology and sociology.<br />In other words, many behavioral psychologists and social scientists had a great impact on the development of adult education, research on adult learners, and adult education settings.<br />
  8. 8. Influential Developments(continued)<br />Some of these behavioral psychologists, humanists, and social scientists include Abraham Maslow (human motivation, self-actualization), Carl Rogers (“the fully functioning person”), Carl Weinberg (“five principles of adult learning”), John Dewey (“learning by doing”), Robert Havighurst (“early adulthood, middle age, and late maturity), and Erik Erikson (“stages of adulthood”), just to name a few (Darkenwald and Merriam, 1982, pp. 79-99).<br />
  9. 9. Influential Developments(continued)<br />In the 1950s, Bernice Neugarten and Robert Havighurst did pioneering work on adult psychosocial development (Darkenwald and Merriam, 1982, p. 26).<br />Adult Education in Transition was a groundbreaking study by Burton Clark whose “analysis of the causes and effects of institutional marginality is still of value in understanding administrative roles and organizational processes” (p. 26).<br />
  10. 10. Influential Developments(continued)<br />In the 1960s and the 1970s, studies on adult development and learning increased substantially (Darkenwald and Merriam, 1982, p. 26).<br />In the mid-1960s, there was a landmark publication titled,Volunteers for Learning, which was the first comprehensive analysis of participation in adult education.<br />
  11. 11. Influential Developments(continued)<br />Through the 1970s, 1980s, the 1990s, and beyond, the work of social scientists continues “to make important contributions to our understanding of adult education” (Darkenwald and Merriam, 1982, p. 2) adult learners, with one such study being published in 2001 that looked at adult participation from 1994 through 1998 for those adults who were between the ages of 16 and age 65. <br />
  12. 12. Demographic Changes<br />The influential developments in adult education came to us, in part, because of demographic changes in America (Cross, 1981, p. 3).<br />“The United States is becoming a nation of adults” (p. 3) In this nation of adults, a “learning society” (p. 1) has been created.<br />
  13. 13. Lifespan Development<br />As Cross (1981) contends, a learning society is made up of adults and their lifespan development.<br />Within this lifespan development, educators must understand adults as learners.<br />This understanding of adult learning takes adult education from what is known in education as ‘pedagogy’ to ‘andragogy’ (Darkenwald and Merriam, 1982, p. 76).<br />
  14. 14. ‘Andragogy’<br />Malcolm Knowles proposed the term ‘andragogy’ to be distinguished from ‘pedagogy’ so that adult learning could not be confused with the instruction of children (Darkenwald and Merriam, 1982, p. 76).<br />“Andragogy is grounded on four assumptions that pinpoint some of the salient features of adulthood” (p. 76).<br />
  15. 15. “Four Assumptionsof Adulthood”<br />Assumption #1 –“As a person matures his or her self-concept moves from one of a dependent personality toward one of a self-directing human being” (Darkenwald and Merriam, 1982, p. 76).<br />Assumption #2 – Adults accumulate “a growing reservoir of experience, a rich resource for learning” (p. 76).<br />
  16. 16. “Four Assumptions of Adulthood” (continued)<br />“For an adult, personal experiences establish self-identity and so are highly valued” (Darkenwald and Merriam, 1982, p. 76).<br />Assumption #3 –“The readiness of an adult to learn is closely related to the developmental tasks of his or her social role” (p. 76); and<br />
  17. 17. “Four Assumptions of Adulthood” (continued)<br />Assumption #4 –“There is a change in time perspective as individuals mature, from one future-application of knowledge to immediacy of application; thus an adult is more problem-centered than subject-centered in learning” (Darkenwald and Merriam, 1982, p. 76).<br />
  18. 18. A Model for Workingwith Adult Learners<br />The four assumptions of adulthood, as well as many other assumptions, and the theoretical framework drawn together by behavioral psychologists, humanists, and social scientists, allows educators to develop a model for working with adult learners (Cranton, 1992, p. 19).<br />
  19. 19. A Model for Working withAdult Learners (continued)<br />Cranton (1992, pp. 19-20) concludes that “the learner and the educator work together within a learning environment which is itself within a social context” . Within this social context, one is presented with three things: the learning environment, the educator, and the learner [the adult learner].<br />
  20. 20. The Adult Learnerand Adult Educators<br />According to Cranton, “the learner and the educator, each with their own set of experiences, characteristics, values, and beliefs, work together in a learning process which includes change as a part of the process, with an outcome of changed thinking, values, behaviors, and actions. All of this takes place within a learning environment and within a social context” (1992, p. 20).<br />
  21. 21. The Learning Environment<br />As educators assist in developing adult learners, the learning environment is comprised of many settings. One of those settings is in college and the classroom, even though it is recognized that adult learning can occur in formal and informal settings, higher education is among the most common through the form of college teaching (Brookfield, 1990, p. 20).<br />
  22. 22. Developing Critical Thinking<br />Brookfield (1992, p. 20) proposed “the development of critical thinking (cited in Brookfield, 1987a) as the underlying rationale for college teaching, providing both its method and its organizing vision.”<br />Brookfield gave three reasons for making this argument:<br />
  23. 23. Developing Critical Thinking (continued)<br />Reason #1 –“Critical thinking is one of the intellectual functions most characteristic of adult life” (Mezirow and Associates, 1990).<br />“Since college students are on the verge of, or fully immersed in, adult life, critical thinking seems an entirely appropriate leitmotif [a dominant and recurring theme] for their education” (Brookfield, 1992, p. 20).<br />
  24. 24. Developing Critical Thinking (continued)<br />Reason #2 –“Critical thinking is necessary for personal survival. It is a lived reality pressing in on us in the shifting contexts of the personal, occupational, and political changes we experience. As we try to make sense of our intimate relationships, we are emotionally disabled if we cannot interpret our actions…in a critical manner” (Brookfield, 1992, pp. 20-21).<br />
  25. 25. Developing Critical Thinking (continued)<br />Reason #3 –“Critical thinking is a political necessity in a democratic society [therefore] an entirely appropriate aim of college teaching is to encourage students to develop a healthy attitude of critical scrutiny towards the actions and justifications of elected and unelected political leaders” (Brookfield, 1992, p. 21; cited in Brookfield, 1990a).<br />
  26. 26. Developing Critical Thinking (continued)<br />“For these three reasons the development of critical thinking is an overarching aim of college teaching [and adult education] that crosses curricular contexts, educational settings, and the disciplinary identities with which teachers ally themselves” (Myers, 1986; cited in Brookfield, 1992, p. 21).<br />
  27. 27. Developing Critical Thinking (continued)<br />“Critical thinking is not a separate subject taught in a compartmentalized way. Instead, developing critical thinking is a process underlying all educational activities. Helping learners acquire a critically alert cast of mind—one that is skeptical of claims to final truths or ultimate solutions to problems” (Brookfield, 1992, p. 21).<br />
  28. 28. Developing Critical Thinking (continued)<br />Developing critical thinking “…is open to alternatives, and acknowledges the contextuality of knowledge—is the quintessential educational process. It is as appropriate an aim for teachers of natural science and mathematics as it is for specialists in the humanities or social sciences” (Brookfield, 1992, pp. 21-22).<br />
  29. 29. Critical Thinking and Practical Approaches in Adult Education<br />Stephen Brookfield (2006) has provided a detailed application of his approach to developing critical thinkers. <br />These supplementary materials are copyrighted and cannot be used, without the expressed written permission of Brookfield. They clearly demonstrate a step-by-step application of developing critical thinking in adult education.<br />
  30. 30. Critical Thinkingand the Adult Learner<br />In closing, it is my belief, that our ability to develop critical thinkers, to challenge their thinking in general, while providing supportive services within our learning environments, will enable adults to pursue adult education. Within this pursuit of education, our delivery of services in a variety of formats will help develop critical thinking in adult learners that will thrive in a complex, technological and multicultural, society.<br />
  31. 31. References<br />Brookfield, S. (1990). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom. Adult and Continuing Education. The Jossey-Bass Higher Education Series. San Francisco, CA.<br />
  32. 32. References<br />Brookfield, S.D. (2006). Developing Critical Thinkers. Supplementary Materials. An on-line paper developed from the text, Brookfield, S.D. (1987). Developing Critical Thinkers: Challenging Adults Alternative Ways of Thinking and Acting. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.<br />
  33. 33. References<br />Cranton, P. (1992). Working with adult learners. Wall & Emerson, Inc. Middletown, Ohio.<br />
  34. 34. References<br />Cross, P. (1981). Adults as learners: Increasing participation and facilitating learning.<br />
  35. 35. References<br />Darkenwald, G. and Merriam, S. (1982). Adult education: Foundations of practice. Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. New York, NY.<br />
  36. 36. References<br />Tuijnman, A. and Boudard, E. (2001). International Adult Literacy Survey. Adult Education Participation in America: International Perspectives. ADULT EDUCATION AND LITERACY MONOGRAPH SERIES. The U.S. component was funded primarily by the United States Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.<br />
  37. 37. References<br />The Canadian part was funded primarily by Human Resources Development Canada, Applied Research Branch and National Literacy Secretariat. Publication of this monograph was supported by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education, and Statistics Canada, Social and Institutional Statistics.<br />