BULLETIN††††††† April 1951
††††††††††††††††††††† Special issue for the
†††††††††††††††† ADULT EDUCATION DEPARTMENT
EDITORIAL: THE STATUS AND THE PROMISE OF
ADULT EDUCATION,†††††††††††††††††††††††† 97
SCHOOL RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE EDUCATION
OF ADULTS,†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 99
Howard Y. McClusky
STUDENT MOTIVES AND TEACHING METHODS IN FOUR
INFORMAL ADULT CLASSES,†††††††††††††††† 103
SOME PROBLEMS REPORTED BY TEACHERS OF ADULT
STUDENTS AND SOME SUGGESTIONS FOR THEIR
ON EDUCATING ADULTS,††††††††††††††††††† 110
David H. Jenkins
CONTRIBUTORS TO THIS ISSUE,†††††††††††† 102
VOLUME 22†††††††††††††††††††††† NUMBER 7
Published on the fifteenth day of each month from October to May
J. B. Edmonson, Chairman
Warren R. Good, Secretary
Willard M. Bateson††††††††††† †††Howard C. Leibee
Robert S. Fox††††††††††††††††††† Willard C. Olson
"Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to
good government and the happiness of mankind, schools
and the means of education shall forever be encouraged"
ENTERED AS SECOND CLASS MATTER AT THE POST OFFICE AT
Address all Communications to
THE STATUS AND THE PROMISE OF ADULT EDUCATION
†The field of adult education is amorphous, sprawling and rich in
vitality.† Highly functional, it does not depend on the compulsion
of credits to attract its customers; and, disdainful of precedent, it does
not conform to the grooved patterns of formal instruction. At the,me
time, one falls to find in the movement evidence of programmatic and
institutional design.† This feature stems in part from the special and
temporary character of much of its activity, and from the large amount
of adult education which occurs without identification as such.
†That is to say, adult education is the
unlabeled task of many
agencies, and it is only one (although usually a major one) of several
tasks in which the agencies are engaged.† It is rarely the exclusive
function of one organization, nor is it usually the exclusive job of the
organization to which it belongs. Thus, much adult education takes
place in a shared program of part-time activities appearing in a variety
of forms. This fact places its stamp on the movement and accounts for its
†It is not surprising that this state of
formlessness has led some writers
to call adult education an unclassifiable jumble. Such terminology,
however, should not mislead the reader into adopting a low view of the
field.† From all points of the pedagogical compass comes a growing
recognition of the urgency of adult education in the historic period in
which we live.† Stress on its importance has ranged from the urgency
of making literate the illiterate on the one hand to educating the
educated on the other. Also from a variety of sources comes evidence of
vigorous expansion. The consensus of data indicates that over forty million
adults in 1947-48 Were interested in continuing their education,
while in an increasing number of communities more adults than children
are taking part in some form of instruction.
†Also illustrative of significant development,
and even more crucial,
is the impending formation of a new nationwide organization of adult
education. As a result of deliberations covering a period of over a
year-and-a-half, representatives of the American Association for Adult Education
and of the NEA Department of Adult Education, together with
persons representing many other phases of the movement, will hold a
constitutional assembly in
single national association which will include all agencies and groups
interested in the field.† It will be a historic occasion for the movement.
†As the field of adult education achieves more
structure and grows
into self-conscious maturity it should exert a growing influence on education
as a whole, especially on departments of formal instruction.
†If elementary and secondary school teachers
were thoroughly convinced
that their pupils would continue some systematic pursuit of
learning throughout the remainder of their lives, they would approach
their task of educating children and youth much differently.† They
would be justified in placing much greater stress on the location of
curricular tasks according to maturational level.† Grades, credits, and
promotions would be reduced in importance, if not transformed.† The
role of such accretions as a stereotyped, unvarying prerequisite to post-graduate
study would be practically eliminated, since education could
be had at any time in the life of the student and on his own terms.
it would be incumbent on teachers to deliver their pupils at
the ninth, twelfth, or sixteenth grade to postgraduate living thoroughly
equipped to continue their education with undiminished zest.† These
gains would result from a release from the compulsion to cram everything
a person should know into his years of formal instruction as if these
were his only opportunity for learning.
†Other gains would accrue to formal
education.† The demand of
adults for instruction on their own terms has forced the invention of new
forms of content and method. The rigid patterns of curricular organization
have again and again given way to new units of subject matter. The
town-meeting type of symposium-forum, the panel discussion, the group
interview, the buzz session, role playing, and the applications of group
dynamics are all products of fresh attacks on the methods of adult
instruction. In fact, the writer predicts that more and more adult education
will stimulate significant forms of experimentation in new patterns of
instruction which will modify practice at all levels of the educational
SCHOOL RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE
EDUCATION OF ADULTS
Howard Y. McClusky
†NOW, and even more in the years to come, the education of adults
must be a central concern of the school.† For one reason, adults
want and need to keep on learning. For another, the education of adults
is necessary for the education of children and youth.
†The need of adults for lifelong learning is
based on three kinds of
fact.† First, the period of formal schooling includes only a fragment of
educational experience available at any point in time. For example, in
1948 the median years of school completed by persons twenty-five years
of age and over was nine. The first nine grades of school provide a very
thin slice of the total educational cake. This small amount of schooling
would be little enough if things were static, but it is tragically inadequate
when society is as dynamic as it is today.
†The adult needs to keep on learning because,
in the second place,
the world and all that is in it, is changing.† Compare the standard
encyclopedias of 1910 with those of 1930 and 1950; while many articles
are identical, others are different, and in later editions wholly new topics
appear. To be specific, you will find no mention of
standard work of reference printed before 1950, but already that nation
is one of the major countries of
the United Nations. The U.S.S.R. was unknown before 1917. Television
was unknown commercially in the
atomic bomb exploded first in 1945. So swift is the rate of change that
the nine years of schooling possessed by the average adult is soon rusty
†Thirdly, the person changes.
Many of us have been deceived by the
curves of child growth and development. We see their steep advance in
childhood and their deceleration at the approach of maturity. We have
naively assumed therefore that maturity is an unvarying plateau of
changelessness and unchangeability. But this assumption is not supported
by the facts, for adults do change.† In no department of their
abilities, performances, involvements, and responsibilities are they the
same at thirty, as they are at twenty, or the same at forty as they are
at thirty, and so on. To be twenty-five and single is one thing, to be
thirty and married is another, to be forty and have children is yet another
thing, and to be sixty-five and face unknown years of retirement
is still another.
†So the school cannot avoid the education of
adults, because adults
want and need to keep on learning; and they need to keep on learning
because their formal schooling covers only a fraction of the total educational
potentials, because society is changing at an ever-increasing rate,
and because adults change to the very end of their life span.
†A second reason why schools cannot avoid the
education of adults is,
that their education is necessary for the education of children and youth.
Let us begin our case by citing one of the basic facts of social control.
constitute the power segment of the population age range. Adults
vote. They earn money and hold property.† They have prestige, wield
influence, and make the crucial decisions of governing bodies.† In contrast,
the power of children and youth is prospective and not actual.† In
the proper context, therefore, the education of adults may constitute an
education for the redirection of power.
†Let us continue the argument by appealing to a
point which persons
affiliated with schools often fail to respect. For purposes of this discussion
we will divide all adults into two groups. One group will consist of
parents with children of school age; the other group will include single
adults, married persons without children, and married persons with
children not of school age. It will surprise many to learn that the first
group (those with children in school) is often a minority of the total
adult population of a community.† This point attains significance for
our argument when we consider the involvement which each group has
with the school
†To illustrate: If a school supports no program for the education of
adults, the involvement of those who are parents of school children is at
best second-hand, while the involvement of the remaining persons is at
most third-, fourth-, or fifth-hand.† In neither case is the involvement
†On the other hand, if a school does support a
program of continuing
education, and if thereby adults take part in forums, discussion groups,
study committees, night-school classes, and related activities, they automatically
achieve a personal identification which transforms their school
†Those in the second group (without children of
school age) change
from remote to direct ties with the school, while those with children in
school increase their involvement not only as participants in educational
activities but also through a grasp of their children's school program
which their own participation provides.
†So far, this discussion may leave many readers
may concede the need for lifelong learning, but reject the addition of
adult education to an organization already overburdened by the responsibilities
of elementary and secondary education. They may admit
the desirability of a program of continuing education but still urge that
it is incidental to the school's primary concern for the nurture of children
and youth. In fact they could argue that schools can avoid the education
of adults because most of them do. Such an acceptance of the† status quo
of continuing education opens the door to the most cogent phase of our
case. In rebuttal the writer proposes that the education of parents for
productive home-school cooperation is an essential co-requisite for the
effective education of children.' Also, the education of the adult public,
and especially the sub-publics which pressure the school, is a condition
essential for creating a climate favorable to the support of public education.
†Some day teachers, principals,
superintendents, board members and
the general public will catch up to the fact that the teaching power of
parents exceeds by far that of any other instructor and that that power
should be cultivated for school purposes.
†When this realization finally penetrates
policy and program, the
school will be prepared to erect an edifice of instruction far superior to
anything now commonly known. It will constitute the grand facilitation
of learning. If this is true, and every scrap of evidence supports it, the
school will more and more engage in parent education as an indispensable
adjunct of its service to children. In other words, if it is to discharge
its obligation to young people the school will ultimately be compelled to
educate parent -- not so much for the sake of the parent as an individual
but for the sake of the parent as a co-teacher of the child for which the
home and the school have a joint educational responsibility.
†Again, some day teachers, principals,
superintendents, and boards of
education will catch up to the fact that the public, as Well as special
sub-publics, contains the forces which set the limits to what the school
can do. When these forces go on a rampage, curriculums suffer, budgets
decline, morale breaks, and heads roll. It should take few powers of
observation to understand that a public campaign of mis-education can
cripple a school program for years, while a program of widespread citizen
study can forestall crises and build a constructive undergirding for
a sound educational program commensurate with the requirements of
a dynamic society.
†Our failure to exploit the implications of the
preceding case is attributable
in part to our failure properly to diagnose the nature of the
situation in which the school finds itself. We have too often been guilty
of compartmental thinking from which We act as if the school were apart
from and education unrelated to the community forces with Which both
†Moreover, in those moments of concession When
we admit the relevance
of extramural forces, too often the best we can propose for their
management is a superficial approach to the practice of public relations.
diagnosis is often elementary, our target confused, and our procedure
frequently consists of nothing more than expedient tricks of
salesmanship and advertising.
†Perhaps we suffer from a stereotyped view of
the function and
processes of education. Perhaps we are still in the "figurine painting,
English for foreigners, and classes in upholstering" stage of adult education.
†Legitimate and sometimes useful as these
activities may be, they
do not represent the most productive and relevant resources at the disposal
of the educator. As educators we need to take a more basic view of
our situation and devise more basic methods for its management. In
effect, we need to face the fact that the fundamental barrier to the development
of good schools is the mis-instruction of adults concerning
the function, practice, and potentialities of education. In other words
the proper education of adults is essential for the effective education of
children and youth.† The implication of this fact is a challenge to
†The limitations necessarily imposed on this
discussion have led us to
be more general and declarative than detailed and explanatory. But this
is the skeleton of our case. And while it needs filling out, anyone close
to the field can easily complete the picture from the mass of evidence and
experience that is emerging from all quarters of the educational world
at an accelerating rate.
TO THIS ISSUE
†Howard Y. McClusky is Professor of Educational Psychology, Mental
Measurements, and Statistics, and Consultant in Community Adult
Education. Alvin Zander is Associate Professor of Educational Psychology,
and Program Director of the
Leestma, a teacher in the
an assistant in Community Adult Education.† David H. Jenkins is
Lecturer in Education and Field Consultant in Community Adult Education,
STUDENT MOTIVES AND TEACHING METHODS IN FOUR
INFORMAL ADULT CLASSES
†MANY teachers place a high value on meeting the needs of their
students. At the same time they must feel the impact of forces
which prevent them from fulfilling this aim to any great degree. Thus,
they may ignore the motives of their pupils because persons with power
require that they dispense standardized information. Or, it may be because
they lack the skill to teach in such a way, or they could not "find"
any motivation in their classroom members.† It could be because both
they and the students feel that teacher knows best, or that teacher's interests
must be followed so that the student knows the proper line at
examination time. Whatever the reason, many teachers find a personal
conflict centered in their desire to consider the motives and growth of
their students on the one hand, and the opposing forces working against
this wish on the other.
†In the teaching of adults this conflict should
be Weaker.† Adults
attend school because they want to do so. Their motives must be strong
to overcome the end-of-day fatigue, weather, family responsibilities, and
other distractions. There may be no grades to channel their varied interests
into conformity, and probably few standardized courses to inhibit
the ingenuity of the teacher. The adult school instructor, therefore,
should be able to consider the needs of the class member with a much
freer hand, with fewer personal conflicts, and with greater satisfaction
than a teacher who is in a more restricting environment.
†But this may not be true. It was not true in
four night-school classes
we studied closely. We cannot generalize beyond these four classes of
course, but what we learned in observing them causes us to Wonder about
other night-school groups and indicates some places in which further
study is needed. This article is a summary of part of a study in the teaching
of adults. The purpose of the investigation was to explore the nature
of the problems in teaching adults, specifically in regard to the way in
which these teachers dealt with the motives of the students.
†The findings we will describe were obtained by
observing four courses
for twelve hours each. The classes met in the high school of a middle-sized
midwestern city.† The observers were trained to use objective
methods and recorded the frequency and nature of class participation by
all class members and the teacher, as well as the teaching method used.
teacher and the students (including those who had dropped out
during the year) were individually interviewed concerning their purposes
and their satisfactions and dissatisfactions with the course. These interviews
occurred outside the class hours. The four courses were: Painting
and Drawing, Auto Shop, Creative Writing, and World Problems.
were selected because the classes were small enough (from eight
to fifteen members) to allow the teacher to know the students, and to
make it possible for student-to-student interaction to occur easily. They
were also courses in which it was likely that the students might attend
for reasons beyond information per se, and in which the teacher might
have little obligation to adhere to a standard curriculum.
†A summary of the findings must be brief here
and will be presented
in three areas:† (1) the motives of the students and teachers, (2) the
procedures in the classes and (3) evidence on the fulfillment of these
motives.† Theoretically, these three categories correspond to the goals
of the groups and the teachers, the paths followed to reach these goals,
and the degree to which we perceived that they were successful in reaching
†Over two-thirds of these students attended
night school for reasons
other than the course content.† They expected for example, to make
friends, to get away from the house, to learn something about their
latent talent, or to have some kind of escape experience. However, four
out of ten indicated that acquiring information was an important motivation
in attended these classes. Only about 10 percent had both content
and non-content motives.
†The teachers recognized that many students had
interests other than
information.† They felt that these interests were best described as
"social" or "recreational" and found it difficult further to define these
vague terms. For the most part they believed that students joined their
class, to acquire information and skill.† Concerning their own aims as
teachers, all of them expressed a strong feeling in one way or another that
they should try to meet the needs of their adult students. To do this they
strove to create an informal atmosphere, they said, and to stimulate the
thinking and creative efforts of their class members. They preferred a
discussion method of teaching, in which there was a maximum opportunity
for teacher-student and student-student interaction. They hoped,
in short, to increase the opportunity for each student to get what he
wanted out of the course.
†Our records show that the teachers did, in
fact, use the discussion
method more than any other. They led the class into group discussions
over 40 percent of the time observed by us. They lectured 27 percent
of the time, and divided the rest among five other methods, including
demonstrations, administrative matters, and individual work.
However, some facts about the presence of discussions are of interest.
the discussion the teachers participated at the rate of (almost)
one comment for every comment made by any student. Over half of the
teachers' contributions were "giving information and ideas"; about one-quarter
of the time they "questioned, prodded or evaluated." One-third
of the students did almost all of the talking in each class. They directed
two comments to the teacher for every one they made to a fellow
†Thus, even though these teachers aspired to
teach in a way that was
dictated by the needs of their students, and described their teaching
methods as those which offered a maximum opportunity for student
participation, their class discussions were closer to a process in which
a few students quizzed or listened to the authority. The significance of
this is heightened by the following findings: (1) almost nine out of ten
decisions to move to a new topic or activity were made by the teacher;
(2) almost no time was spent on teacher-student planning of course
direction; (3) only one teacher inquired about the students' interests
in the course, and he did not use this purpose-inventory in planning the
course content; and (4) one class meeting was held in the home of a
student -- other than that almost no time was devoted to the "social interests"
Which these teachers felt the students had when they entered
†In the interviews the students were asked what
they liked and disliked
about the classes. A significant majority of them liked their fellow
class members more than they liked the information content of their
courses.† They disliked the teaching method more than the content.
teachers told the interviewers that any difficulties they had in
using effective teaching methods were directly the fault of the students.
pointed to the wide diversity in the ability of the students, their
lack of ability, their unwillingness to participate, their defensiveness, or
their inhibited nature. These characteristics in the persons attending
their courses were seen as serious obstacles to effective teaching.
†We cannot presume to judge, from data like
these, whether these are
good teaching methods or bad. What interests us parenthetically, is the
disparity between the aims and self-described methods of these teachers
and the ways in which they performed in reality. We can, however, get
some indication of the adequacy of the process used in these courses by
examining the response of the adult student.
†When they were asked what they were getting
out of the course two
persons described information they had acquired for every one who
described noninformational needs which had been fulfilled or who said he
got nothing from the course. Similarly, the majority were most interested
in the content and wanted more. Although a majority had wanted to
learn things about themselves, make new friends, or escape their mundane
daily life when they entered the course, by the end of the semester
they were thinking primarily in terms of the information they had obtained,
and relatively seldom about these unorthodox needs they had
earlier felt were important.
†As the teachers reflected over what their
students might say concerning
what they had been getting out of the course they opined that
the students would most mention the social contacts they had made, the
skills they had developed, and the stimulation their thinking had received.
None of the teachers expected the students to put primary
emphasis on the information they had learned.† The teachers hoped
that the students might say that they had developed new understandings,
new skills, and an awareness of What is good procedure in creative
thinking and activity.
†To sum up: A majority of students in four
small night-school classes
had strong motivations to acquire something beyond information. The
teachers said they knew that many students had such purposes but
assumed that the majority would attend for the information or skill they
would acquire. They described their teaching methods as informal and
intended to help the student meet his needs. The methods they actually
used were not as flexible as those they described themselves as using and
were probably of limited value in moving them toward the goal of meeting
student needs. What the students said they were getting from the
courses was primarily information and quite different from what they
had hoped to get.
†If the findings in these four classes are
typical of any great number
of others in this country, We are presented with a polylateral problem.
number of questions can be posed: What should be the function of
adult education classes? Should adults be "taught" in classes? Should
adult courses place a higher value on the needs of their students than do
other educational activities?† Why did these teachers value the motivations
of their students outside the classroom but find it difficult to consider
them when before the students?† Do we equip teachers of adults
with the values and skills which make it possible for them to deal seriously
With the strong and varied motives of adult learners?
SOME PROBLEMS REPORTED BY TEACHERS OF ADULT
STUDENTS AND SOME SUGGESTIONS FOR
†A personís conception of his problem is important. His picture may
or may not conform to the reality, but the way he looks at the
problem is important in any attempt to understand or solve it.
†This point is especially applicable to the
teacher of adults. He faces a
unique task. Teaching adults in a voluntary situation is different from
teaching children in a compulsory situation. Some report by the teacher,
therefore, on difficulties in working with adult students should be helpful
in improving his performance.
†It is this conviction that led the writer to
request leaders of adults in
from 234 persons were returned.
†The problems which appeared most frequently
are listed under five
major categories below. The figure refers to the percentage of the total
number of items listed which were classified under each category.† For
example, 50 percent of all the difficulties reported were related to the
characteristics of the adult student.
of the Adult Student (50 percent)
Lack of outside preparation for class
Maintaining self-confidence in face of the student's failure to do as well
as he thought he would
Set ideas on the† part† of adults -- reluctance to follow suggestions or accept new ideas
Lack of desire to work at learning -- belief that should everything come easily and
Interest of adult students only in specific, practical, immediate goals -- not interested
in† background and theory
Size of and Time of Classes (26 percent)
Time for course too short-too few meetings
No time for teacher preparation outside of class
Class periods too short. Classes too large
Meeting Individuals Needs and Differences (26 percent)
Wide variation in background and abilities of students
Wide variation in desires and interest of students
Attendance and Dropouts† (23 percent)
Irregular attendance. High dropout rate
Inadequacies of Equipment and other facilities (20 percent)
Lack of adequate equipment
Lack of suitable† text† and study materials
Lack of space
Insufficiency or lack of audio-visual aid materials
†In addition to the above inventory of problems, the inquiry revealed
other interesting outcomes. In the first place, only four of the teachers
complained about the low pay they were receiving. This is a significant
comment on their motivation in teaching adults. In the second place,
in all but two cases the respondents indicated that the problems they
reported originated outside of themselves. In the third place, teachers
who had received training for the elementary and secondary teachers'
certificates reported a concern greater than that of their noncertificated
colleagues for the necessity of identifying and adjusting instruction to the
wide range of individual differences in ability, background, and interest
represented by the students they were teaching.† Neither the sex of
the teacher nor the length of teaching experience was associated in unusual
frequency with any problem category. Finally the outstanding
result was the concern on the part of all types of teachers with the characteristics
of the adult student as a learner.
†In proposing an alleviation of the problems
raised by the teachers
we are not without resources. At the outset it is obvious that the reduction
of difficulties related to equipment and to size of and time for classes
is largely a matter of administrative arrangement.
†In the next place, the individual needs of
students can be met by a
variety of measures. Instruction should be arranged to allow each student
to progress at his own rate and toward his own goals. Working
by pairs or small groups would also enable every student to participate
overtly in class activities, and at the same time would help greatly in
disclosing his unique pattern of needs. Obviously, small classes would
constitute the teacher's most effective asset in the individual treatment
of his students.
†All the preceding measures would relieve the
problem of attendance
and dropouts.† But additional procedures are available. The attack on
this problem should begin at registration. Great care should be taken to
discover the real motive of the adult student in seeking instruction. He
should also be assisted to discover the course best suited to his abilities
and interests. This calls for guidance for proper class placement.
†After the student finds the class best adapted
to his needs, the teacher
must start with him as he is. The method and content must be sufficiently
compelling to compete with the fatigue of a full day's work, the pull
of family responsibilities, and the counter attractions of commercial
recreation and organizational activities that are commonly available
during the evening hours. As far as possible each class period should
consist of a self-contained unit of work. And students should be encouraged
to evaluate the instruction they receive in order to search out possibilities
of future improvement.† Finally, a committee of colleagues
and/or the teacher should keep in touch with absentees or dropouts to
discover what can be done to facilitate and maintain their affiliation
with the class.
†Much could be said about the characteristics of the adult student.
is sufficient here to point out that his maturity is his major characteristic
as a learner. This the teacher should always remember. Specifically
he should bear in mind that adults frequently bring much from their own
experience to a class, and that their experience can be a valuable resource
in instruction. They should therefore be given ample opportunity
for verbal expression. For this purpose discussion is an important method
†In evening school adult education the student
must set the pace, not
the teacher. The teacher's job is that of a guide and a consultant, and
his goal should be the satisfaction of the adult student, not the completion
of a prearranged course of study.
†The preceding presentation of measures
designed to alleviate the
problems of individual differences, dropouts, and the adult student as a
learner suggest the importance of some form of inservice training for
teachers of adults.† For example, a mere reduction in class size is no
guarantee that the needs of students will automatically be better served.
exhortation about keeping in touch with absentees, evaluation of
courses, use of discussion methods, the organization of curriculums in
self-contained units, and the use of student resources will assure
neither confidence nor competence in exploitation of these measures.
†Frequent opportunities should be arranged for
teachers of adults to
come together for mutual assistance in the diagnosis of their problems
and in the exchange of successful practice.† These and other measures
of inservice training are an inevitable sequel to the situation outlined
in the preceding paragraphs.
†In conclusion, it appears that problems of
teachers of adults need not
be accepted fatalistically as beyond alleviation. But as stated at the outset,
the first step in their alleviation is some data on the way the
problems appear to those who have responsibility for their management.
David H. Jenkins
†EDUCATING adults is a tough problem. We find that many of the
things we do when we teach children and young people do not seem
to work very well when we start teaching adults.† Educationally speaking,
what are adults like, and how do they differ from other students?
†Several factors seem to make problems for the person untrained in
working with adults.
†Adults are independent. They usually do not
have to stay in the learning
situation, and therefore, if they do not find their interests or needs being met
they will turn to other activities.
†Adults resist the learner role. They demand
some autonomy in their learning
and thinking. They are not readily "told."
†Adults have a background of life experience.† They will use this background in
the learning situation. The teacher how attempts to ignore it will find strong
resistance form his students. If it is utilized, it may be a valuable asset in learning.
†Adults come to learning situations with a
variety of motivations, the least of
which may be to learn.† One would err in believing that the basic motivation of
his adult students is to learn. Instead, their aim may be to avoid a difficult home
situation, to meet friends, or to have a social good time.
†Much of adult learning is relearning rather
than new learning. Because it requires
that old learning be discarded or reworked, relearning is undoubtedly more
difficult than learning "something new." We all have strong resistances to being
shaken up in that manner and we will do many things to avoid rethinking previously
closed issues or problems. Relearning is likely to be accompanied by more
anxiety and frustration than is usually found in the new-learning situation.
†Adults come to a learning situation with
definite expectations about method
and learning goals which they do not readily change. The expectations about how
they will learn may cause them to avoid or resist any educational methods different
from those previously experienced. Their expectations about what they will learn
may present similar problems of resistance. Inasmuch as there will be wide differences
within a particular group of adults on this issue, one sometimes finds it
very difficult to help adults find learning goals which are agreeable to everyone.
†Most adult learning involves changes in
attitudes if it is to be effective. By
the time they are adults, people have established many general attitudes toward
themselves and their world. They will resist learning which challenges their
presently held attitudes because of the many adjustments which a shift in any
one of them may involve.
†At first glance, these factors may seem to be
limited to those operating
in formalized adult classes such as one finds in public evening school
programs. But they also affect other adult learning situations, although
perhaps in different ways. For example, the director of a museum may
have as a crucial problem the expectations adults have about how they
learn. Adults who perceive learning as possible only through a lecture
will probably find a casual visit to a museum quite unprofitable.† They
may see "interesting displays," but they do not know how to learn from
them. The librarian has a similar problem in trying to help adults learn
from books and reference materials.
†Several of these factors dog the public health
nurse in her attempts
to educate adults to better health habits. Her job is primarily one of getting
relearning to occur -- the changing of old, perhaps culturally sanctioned
habits, attitudes and prejudices. Similar problems must be dealt
with by the social worker, whether he works with individual clients,
or in group activities.
†We must not forget that these factors are
equally important in the
many other areas where one finds adult education in action. The educational
activities of the church, the worker's educational programs of labor
unions, and the foreman and training programs of industry and business
face these same kinds of problems. Colleges and universities, to the
extent that they perceive themselves as working with adults, are equally
involved. And the community organization such as the League of
Women Voters and the American Association of University Women are
faced with them in active educational programs. All of these, and many
more, represent adult education in action.
†What are some of the important attitudes
toward adults which an
adult educator, regardless of his particular job, needs if he is to work
effectively with adults? Basically, we must treat adults like adults. To
do so we must:
†1. Respect their independence. Make it clear to them that nothing
is being imposed on them.
†2. Respect their maturity. Give them real
responsibility for participating
in decisions about what and how they learn and in carrying out
†3. Respect their background of knowledge and
experience. Do not
appear to disregard it by using fancy vocabulary. Help them discover
how their experiences and their desires are related to the present learning.
†4. Respect their motivations. If they are in a
learning situation because
of personal needs, recognize those needs and try to see that they
are dealt with in some fashion in the situation. Otherwise, the adult will
be too frustrated to learn.
†5. Respect their resistance to change.
Recognize that the relearning
process and attitude change are likely to be accompanied by emotional
reactions -- hostilities, appeals for dependence, anxieties, etc.
that these reactions are normal symptoms of learning in
many situations and accept them as a matter of course.
Respect them as co-learners.† Let
the learning situation be marked
by mutual participation and mutual respect.† Expect them to help you
learn at the same time you help them learn.
†We do not often realize how large the field of
adult education really is,
and how many of us are spending all or a major share of our time working
in it. We tend to forget that whenever† we are dealing with adults
in† a learning process we are adult educators.† Instead, we identify ourselves
either by the particular subject-matter field, such as public health,
or by the learning materials or methods, like libraries or museums, or
by a particular clientele, like foremen or union member or college
students. To the extent that we give our primary attention to our differences,
rather than recognize the much larger areas we have in common,
we will be unable to help ourselves do the best job of which we are
†Suppose, for example, an
adult teacher, a person dealing with worker's
education, and a social case worker were to spend an evening together.
It would take them some time, perhaps, to overcome the artificial
barriers of special language and to be able to find a common vocabulary.
once that was begun each should have a wealth of understanding
and experience to contribute to the other. The social worker, for example,
might make his greatest contribution through the understanding
he brings of background factors which affect attitudes, and of the relationship
of the individual's personal needs to them. The adult teacher
would have abundant case material from his adult classes about how
such attitudes and needs showed themselves in a classroom learning environment.
The person from the field of worker's education would be
keenly aware of the effects of social and economic pressures on attitudes.
such discussion, each of them would gain much greater insight
into the particular adult education job he was trying to do.
†Working together in this manner has another
value. As adult educator we will find our morale increasing as we find
others in the community who are having to meet the same kinds of problems
we meet, and who are fundamentally interested in the same kinds of
goals that we are. We will come to feel ourselves working together as
part of a larger team, rather than as members of agencies who feel
themselves competing for customers when the task ahead is far bigger
than the agencies combined.
Department of Adult Education
†THE† Department of Adult Education in the University's
whose first administrative emergence was a unit known
as the Adult Education Program, which for exploratory purposes
was in 1938 initially attached to the office of the Vice-President
in charge of University Relations.† After several
years of semi-autonomous existence, the program was assigned
as an integrated operation to the Extension Service and
†In this partnership the Extension Service
for a program of field services and the
and instruction. This arrangement provided nurture for the
academic functions of the field and at the same time assured
a laboratory situation, which for adult education was a rough
functional approximation of the laboratory experience afforded
elementary and secondary education by the University's
Elementary and High Schools.
††† At present the credit program in adult education contains
two kinds of courses. One includes selected education and
cognate courses slanted to adult education interests, and the
second consists of courses (B182, B282, and H120) composed
specifically for instruction in adult education.† These
courses serve the
many students from the fields of public health, library science,
social psychology, social work, etc. indicates that they also
serve other divisions of the University.
††† The Department is now engaged in a number
projects, and it cooperates with the Extension Service in issuing
a community newsletter, a directory of
councils, a community score card, and reports of
community projects, and it conducts conferences for community
leaders and engages in numerous consultative roles.