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Centering Race Within Adult Education Theory in the United States  

Sydney D. Richardson

Higher education in the United States operates as it was originally designed: to benefit traditional-aged, middle-and upper-class White men. People of color and White women were meant to adapt to this structure and persevere through the higher education structure in order to succeed (i.e., graduate). This structure continues to exist. Institutions were originally designed for one student demographic; any student who does not fit this image is presented with barriers and obstacles as they matriculate, especially when the student is nontraditional (i.e., adult) and a person of color. As universities take on the challenge of creating diverse, inclusive campuses, one cannot help but realize how far education has to go to create this utopia for racially minoritized adult students. When reviewing many popular theories of adult education, it becomes easy to see that andragogy, self-directed learning, and transformative learning were not created with the Black and Brown student managing nonacademic adversities in mind. The theories were designed based on the ideal adult student at the time of development: White, young, middle or upper class, and needing education in the classroom. This ideal is very different from the Black or Brown student facing discrimination while walking to class due to societal microaggressions and preconceived stereotypes. However, reviewing adult education theories using components of critical race theory as a framework makes it possible to understand how racially minoritized adult students are at a disadvantage on college campuses.

Article

Adult Learners  

Mark Tennant

Adult learning is described as learning undertaken by adults in natural educational settings as opposed to the experimental settings often undertaken in psychological research on learning. As such, the theory and research on adult learning referred to in this article primarily draws on applied educational research reported in adult education journals. Much of this research is informed by psychological and social research and theory, and this is acknowledged in each of six adult learning themes outlined in this article. These themes are self-directed learning, experience and learning, learning styles, the development of identity in the adult years, intellectual and cognitive development, and transformative learning. While these themes focus on adult learning in a general sense, our understanding of adult learning also needs to be seen in relation to the context in question; contexts such as health, the third age, indigenous knowledge, literacy and numeracy, the environment, disability, community education, gender equity, race, and migrant and refugee education. The literature on adult learning offers very few prescriptive bridges linking research, theory, and practice. This is partly because there are competing theories posing different questions and offering opposing interpretations of research findings, but it is also because the purpose and function of education and learning is a contested field. In these circumstances the best approach for practitioners is to interrogate and improve their practice through engaging with research findings, competing models, and competing theories. In this way they are aware of the variables at play and can formulate practices that are consistent with their educational aims and purposes. The link between research, theory and practice is conceptual rather than prescriptive, with practitioners interrogating and improving their practice by engaging with the issues and the competing claims of theory and research.