Roger Hiemstra, Session Facilitator

Sectional Advanced Organizer


The past two decades have witnessed significant changes in the landscape of education. Traditional student bodies have given way to wider membership, full-time study has been eclipsed by part-time attendance, and the notion of education has broadened from mere preparation for life to a lifelong endeavor. Indeed, education has been "revolutionized" during this period and at the heart of this revolution has been the adult learner. Congratulations for being an important part of this revolution.

Research on the adult learner has grown immensely, too. Studies related to what, where, how, and why adults learn as well as how they develop and mature throughout the lifespan have been conducted. Much of this research has signaled the need for new approaches to teaching and learning. Some of these approaches have been developed, but continued research and development are needed.

Current research and thinking on such areas as learning styles, information processing, women's ways of knowing, self-directed learning, creative techniques for enhancing adult learning, and the learning environment hold significant future promise. As this future unfolds, it will become increasingly important for professional educators, teachers, and trainers of adults to become more effective at facilitating learning throughout the lifespan.

In view of the above, the American Society for Training and Development leaders conceived of this Train-the-Trainer Program. You are participating in the first session entitled, Adult Learning. The general purpose of this session is to introduce you to various concepts, theories, knowledge bases, and literature related to adults as learners. The focus will be to help you think about how to apply such information in real adult learning, teaching, and training situations. Attention also will be paid to how this session will relate to the subsequent sessions.

During the session I will present ideas, suggest ways you can use the information, and provide follow-up resources for you to pursue as needed. You also will be asked to provide an evaluation of the session so I and ASTD leaders can make better informed decisions related to future training opportunities. Feel free to contact me after the workshop if you have specific questions or needs.

I hope you have an enjoyable experience and wish you much success in your efforts to become more effective as a trainer or educator of adults. Roger Hiemstra

Some Definitions and Concepts

Adult - A person who has reached the maturity level where a personal assumption of responsibility for self and sometimes others takes place. This typically assumes financial responsibility as well. In much of the adult education literature, the age of 25 is used as a criterion although many people have some difficulty putting an age limit on it.

Adult Learner - Any adult who engages in some type of activity, formal or informal, for the acquisition of knowledge or skill, in an examination of personal attitudes, or in the mastery of behavior.

Adult Learning - The acquisition of knowledge, attitudes, and skills, often resulting in behavioral change of some sort in an adult.

Aesthetics - Study of the human potential to perceive the use of all senses. This is concerned with making an environment pleasing or artistically correct and often involves attention to color, lighting, and or mood creation.

Andragogy - the art and science of helping adults learn. If you are interested in some of the better materials related to andragogy, from your bibliography see Knowles (1980), Knowles and Associates (1984), Podeschi (1987), Pratt (1988), and Younge (1985). In addition, in the Brockett and Hiemstra (1991) book, one appendix is devoted to summarizing most of the writings related to andragogy.

Anthropometry - Study of the measurement of the human body. For our purposes, this is concerned with the comfort, size, and arrangement of chairs or tables in a learning environment.

Categories of Learning Barriers - Some scholars have placed learning barriers into three categories: Situational, those arising from one's situation in life at any given time; institutional, those bureaucratic practices and procedures that exclude or discourage adults from participating; and dispositional, those related to attitudes and feelings of self-worth or self-concept.

Creating the Ideal Learning Climate - There are several elements of an ideal climate or setting: Comfortable physical furnishings, few emotional distractions, both dialogue and privacy permitted, letting learners be themselves, collegial relationships, few performance or time pressures, a feeling of mutual trust and respect between instructor and learners, a prepared setting, name tags or cards, knowledge of each other as individuals, feeling of informality, attention to learners' special needs, building of group cohesiveness, letting learners know something about the instructor, a needs assessment process, and active involvement in even the initial learning activities.

Devices - these are instructional aids that extend or increase the effectiveness of methods and techniques but do not teach by themselves, although this distinction has become somewhat blurred as a result of the sophistication of much of today's instructional technology. Devices may be classified by the function they perform in the instructional setting. For example, they can have an illustrative function (overhead transparency or film), an environmental function (seating arrangements), a manipulative function (tools or equipment), and so on.

Education - The deliberate, systematic, and sustained efforts to transmit, evoke, or acquire knowledge, attitudes, values, or skills. Some agents of education are schools, colleges, families, churches, workplaces, media, libraries, and individual teachers or trainers.

Ergonomics - The art and science of designing spaces for people. This involves the actual shape and size of the learning environment and is concerned with the comfort of those occupying a space for learning purposes.

Learning Environment - All the physical surroundings, psychological or emotional conditions, and social or cultural influences affecting the growth and development of an adult engaged in some educational enterprise.

Methods - methods refer to the ways in which a group of participants are organized for the purpose of conducting an educational activity. There are individual methods such as independent study, correspondence study, internships, and computer assisted instruction, as well as group methods such as classes, seminars, workshops and institutes.

Proxemics - The interrelated observations and theories pertaining to learners' use of space as a specialized elaboration of their culture. This involves such features as posture, body orientation, gestures, seeking or avoiding touch, desired distances between learners, and seating arrangements.

Psychological/Emotional Issues - There are several psychological or emotionally-laden issues that can affect the learning environment, such as various barriers to learning, how to help learners feel at ease, how to help learners take control or responsibility for some of their own learning, and how to ensure all facilitators are appropriately trained or sensitive to meet learners' needs.

Self-Directed Learning - A learning activity that is self-planned, self-initiated, and frequently carried out alone. For further definitions and discussion on self-directed learning see Brockett and Hiemstra, 1991.

Social/Cultural Issues - There are several social or cultural issues that also can impact the learning environment, including such potential problems as gender discrimination, age discrimination, racial discrimination, and misunderstanding various cultural contexts.

Socio-Fugal Seating Patterns - Seating patterns designed to discourage interaction among people such as in an auditorium or a classroom where the chairs are arranged in rows. This kind of setting is used when instructors wish to create a focal point at the front of the room where they are seated or standing and usually lecturing.

Socio-Petal Seating Patterns - Seating patterns designed to orient learners toward broader or multiple focal points. Usually this means placing learners in circles or "U" shapes so that interaction and conversation are facilitated.

Synaesthetics - Study of the ability of an individual to perceive something or someone by use of many senses simultaneously. This is involved with understanding how the learning environment is perceived in a polysensory manner and how such perceptions can affect learning. An effort should be made to appeal to various learning modalities whenever possible.

Techniques - these are the ways in which instructors can establish a relationship between themselves, the learners, and the learning task(s). Techniques may be classified according to their main purpose or function, such as imparting knowledge (the lecture or speech), teaching a skill (demonstration or simulation), changing attitudes (role playing or group discussion), and encouraging creativity (brainstorming or self-analysis and reflection).

The Most Common Barriers to Adult Learning - There are several barriers to learning found to be the most common among many adult learners, such as a fear of failure, a dislike of school, a perception of being too old, a competition for time and energy, some interfering past experiences, a lack of study opportunity, and a lack of fundamental learning skills.

Steps to Consider in Planning for Effective Instruction

Step 1: Preplanning Activities Step 4: Learning Activity Identification
___ Learning rationale described? ___ Self-directed learning concepts emphasized?
___ Potential learners understood? ___ Learning contract process understood?
___ Instructional options considered? ___ Learning objectives identified?
___ Learning competencies determined? ___ Necessary timelines established?
___ Necessary support materials and resources considered? ___ Needed learning resources and strategies discussed and located?
___ Workbook or study guide materials collected and learning objectives prepared? ___ Needed evidence to show achievement discussed?
___ Organizational constraints discussed and approvals negotiated? ___ Necessary validation and evaluation strategies identified?
Step 2: Creating a Positive Learning Environment Step 5: Putting Learning in Action and Monitoring Progress
___ Physical environment examined? ___ Optimal instructional techniques decided?
___ Ice breaker activities considered? ___ Variety of instructional techniques used?
___ Opening activities decided? ___ Conducting formative evaluations understood?
___ How to make learners feel at ease decided? ___ Frequent feedback to the learners provided?
___ Personal comforts of learners considered? ___ Feedback from learners encouraged and received?
___ How will learning materials, contracting examples, examples, learning resources etc. be introduced? ___ Feedback from learners used to make ongoing adjustments in the instructional process?
Step 3: Developing the Instructional Plan Step 6: Evaluating Individual Learner Outcomes
___ Suggested learning activities determined? ___ Appropriate summative techniques selected?
___ Appropriate needs assessment tools created and used? ___ Competency and the transfer of learning to skills emphasized?
___ Responded to related questions and concerns about the learning experience? ___ Various linkages from the learning activities and materials made to practice?
___ The role of experience emphasized? ___ Ensured that mastery of learning took place?
___ How learners will be helped to feel comfortable with the process determined? ___ Assessed that quality learning and critical thinking took place?
___ Learning plan laid out and matched with resources? ___ Prepared for the next instructional situation?


Adapted from Hiemstra and Sisco, 1990, pp. 172-173.

Adult Motivation toward Learning


Some Research Findings


- Intelligence does not decline after age 30 or 35, but continues almost unchanged until about age 65.

- If new material is based on their past experience, adults learn faster than children do.

- Adults may have problems unlearning some things and restructuring some of their values, but, under supportive instruction, are capable of doing so.

- Adults do not like competitive class situations. They do not like to be compared with others, nor do they respond well to disciplinary measures. Adults work better in cooperative, noncompetitive, non-evaluative settings. They have a great deal of training and experience to offer and a lot of adult dignity to lose if they feel they are failing.

- Many adults come to their classes with a good deal of insecurity and anxiety about their ability to succeed in a new learning situation. Anxiety must be reduced for learning to be maximized.

- Adults learn best when they take an active part in the teaching and learning process.

- There is a relationship between the physical condition of the adult learner and a personal ability to learn. Research evidence shows that the basic ability to learn changes little with age. The changes that do occur as people grow older are not changes in ability to learn but changes in the physical state.

These findings about adults as learners should be given major consideration by those who develop, implement, and teach adult education programs.

Psychology of Adult Learning

Prepared By Dr. Burton R. Sisco, Rowan University

Adults as Learners

Can adults learn? This was a question of primary concern to teachers and administrators of adult education until fairly recently. There are still some who ask this question. However, they are fewer in number and are, mainly, newcomers to the field of adult education who are learning quickly through experience that the answer, is very definitely YES.

Researchers have established that countless numbers of men and women demonstrate year after year their ability to acquire new skills in reading and writing and knowledge in the basic areas of living. Renewed emphasis on this enlivening factor is helping educators put new value on some features of past experience. Despite the "old dog" adage, we can safely say there are some tricks "old dogs" can learn better--provided they want to learn. Something in their experience--something practical--often comes to their aid and makes new ideas or new facts easier to grasp. To rouse people to an acceptance of the idea that education can and should go on throughout life is a major purpose of adult education. This is but a sample of what is taking place in program after program across the United States.

More than 60 years ago, Edward L. Thorndike published the results of his research and studies on aging and adulthood in his book, Adult Learning (1928). This work helped to revolutionize our thinking about adult learning and has been the basis for further study and research in the psychology of teaching adults. Since the publication of Adult Learning, numerous other researchers have continued to study adulthood. In general, they have found that adults continue to learn throughout their lifetimes with ease and proficiency.

Adults participate in education to:

  1. increase their job security;
  2. find sociability;
  3. fill in the gaps between their past schooling (if any) and the present;
  4. secure help in meeting some emergency such as the acquisition of citizenship, the urgent need to write letters, and to read the newspaper.

For our purpose sthere are five factors of fundamental significance which affect the learning of adults:

  1. Physiological changes;
  2. Learning ability;
  3. Interests;
  4. Memory;
  5. Power-speed.

Physiological Changes

In many adult classes, a large number of the participants are in their middle or later life. Probably the most obvious changes in adults of this age are the physiological ones and, as learning involves the physiological well-being of the learner, these changes are important to educators of adults. The changes which most affect the planning and methodology of working with adults are those affecting the visual and auditory acuity of the students.

1. Visual acuity--the clarity with which we see--reaches its maximum at about 18 years of age, then declines slowly until about the age of 45. From then on until about 55, there is a sharp rate of decline which levels off again and proceeds at a slower but steady, decline.

2. Auditory acuity--our ability to hear--is at its peak at about 14 years of age. From then on it declines at a rather slow rate.

Learning Ability

The ability to learn does not vary through life, but the rate of performance does. At about the age of 30, the performance rate begins a slow decline at the rate of approximately one per cent per year. The individual retains or maintains the power to learn but gradually loses the speed at which it is accomplished.

The response or possibility of success must be available to a person in order for learning to take place. In other words, the item to be learned must be related to the level of the individual's knowledge and personal desire to learn. Adults bring their own background of experiences to a learning situation.

We can assume, then, that adult learning depends upon the following individual aspects:

Moreover, there is very little demonstrated difference between men and women in learning ability. The mere opportunity to learn can provide adults with more than adequate motivation and seems at times to propel them along without other visible means. This leads us to suspect that the acquiring of a skill or the learning of a fact provides adequate motivation for additional effort.


The interests of adults do not tend to change much but the value or depth of an interest varies. From the age of 20 until 65, there is only a slight decrease in the general amount of a person's interest and none at all in those interests which are needed for adult learning. An adult may not learn because they are lazy or tired, or because the subject does not appeal. Again, it may be due to the fact that many people have had little or no opportunity to engage in learning situations since they were 20 or 25 years of age. Carelessness also may be a factor which hinders learning.


Adults seem to surpass children in immediate memory. However, they tend to forget the most in the first 48 hours after learning. A few weeks after the original learning, memory is very poor. Memory is selective even though the ability to remember declines. Things best remembered are those which are presented with the greatest initial force or intensity.


The rate of speed at which adults learn usually begins to decline after the age of 20. However, research seems to indicate that an increase in the amount of what is being learned or an increased amount of schooling tends to offset this decline. There may even be a small increase in speed up to the age of 30 or 35, but from then on, there is usually a steady decline. This is evidenced by an adult's feeling of frustration if hurried in a learning task or situation. There is ample evidence, however, to demonstrate that adults can and do learn.

Characteristics of Adult Students

There are some fairly general characteristics which adult students possess:

The motivation for adult learning is closely related to the problems encountered by the learner in daily community life. The content of what is taught must help prepare adults to use at once what they have learned or experienced in class and to assist them in the problems they face from day to day.

One of the primary objectives of the learning situation should be to provide a satisfaction of achievement for the learner. Expansion of the immediate horizons of the adult and personal growth in the acquisition and use of the skills needed for effective citizenship should pervade the objectives of the entire program.

Adult Learning

Adults have peculiar problems of learning and the conditions imposed by these peculiarities make the teaching of adults unique. Therefore, special training is needed. Learning, in general, is governed by the same principles but special adaptations must be made when working with adults. Many of these principles remain the same for children and adults:

Factors which are Different in Working with Adults

There are several factors which are peculiar or special in working with adults as learners:

  1. Attendance is often voluntary and conditioned by a practical motive; adults are free to walk out if they feel they are not getting what they want.
  2. Students bring a mature, rich experience to class which conditions the learning by making it easier at times, but imperative, that new facts be related to this background of experience.
  3. Learning is conditioned by the general decline in learning capacity.
  4. Since the adult usually has a ready-made motive or purpose when coming to school, learning is of greater consequence and more personally worthwhile.
  5. The adult has handicaps which can be overcome--physiological changes, psychological handicaps of prejudice, set patterns and habits, fatigue resulting from a full days work prior to class.
  6. Many adults will need more time to learn.
  7. The adult needs to see immediate personal benefit in what is learned.
  8. The adult is always ready to learn if the material presented bears upon personal needs or deals with the concrete, practical problems of community life.
  9. The adult is not content to be a spectator; a need exists to participate in the activities of the class frequently during a session.
  10. The adult feels a sense of hurry; shortness of time in which to learn.
  11. The adult must acquire and retain a high degree of self-confidence and must have a feeling of success to a far greater extent than children.
  12. The wide variation in the experience, age, and education of adults accentuates the role played by individual differences in adult education.
  13. Adult learning experiences are, in most cases, supplementary or complementary to some major occupation other than education.
  14. Adults, like other learners, need to see a reason for learning if they are to gain much from the opportunities provided. Somehow they must see that the experience will fit into and enrich their everyday living.
  15. To be meaningful, education has to meet an individual's need at each stage of maturity which is not measured just by the years lived.
  16. Finding incentives to keep adults wanting to go on learning is in part the responsibility of those who plan adult education programs.
  17. Simply to say they "do not want to learn" is to evade responsibility.

You and I as adults have these same needs and desires. Therefore, we have a common place where we can work together, not as master and slave or even teacher and student, but as companions in learning; companions in learning to help ourselves as well as to help others.

Checklist for Analyzing the Learning Environment

Following is a checklist for analyzing various aspects of the learning environment. I recommend it for analyzing the setting for a meeting or training session in terms of whether or not these concerns seem to exist.

___ Adequate lighting                 ___ Adjustable seats or alternative choices
___ Absence of glare ___ Adequate cushioning if devices used for long periods
___ Lighting adequate for A/V ___ Can person's legs be and decorations crossed comfortably
___ Attractive/appropriate colors ___ Straight back and flat pan for people with back problems
___ Adequate acoustics ___ Adequate sturdiness/size
___ Adequate sound amplification ___ Easily moved around
___ Any noise to be reduced or eliminated ___ Seat height from floor
___ Temperature adequate for season of the year ___ Left handed learner provided for
___ Adequate ventilation or air adequate conditioning
___ Adequate table or writing space ___ Adequate access/egress to site for learners
___ Can furnishing be rearranged for group work ___ Adequate signage to direct learners to appropriate sites
___ Table space available for refreshments/resources ___ Lavatory/cafeteria/refreshment machines nearby
___ If sitting at tables can the learners cross their legs ___ Adequate parking nearby
___ Can tables be arranged in square, circle, or U shape ___ Adequate lighting in parking area and building hallways
___ Absence of ragged or sharp edges on furnishings ___ Adequate space shape and size in learning site
___ Adequate sturdiness for all furnishings ___ Breakout rooms/areas available if needed
___ Can learners see each other okay when seated ___ Does the learning site have flexibility and provide for learner movement if needed


Adapted from Hiemstra and Sisco (1990).

Preparing an Adequate Space

Vosko (in Hiemstra, 1991) suggests that there are several things teachers or trainers of adults can do to prepare an adequate space for the learning experience. He urges such professionals to regularly do a space needs assessment, extend an invitation for learners to get comfortable, be sensitive to the needs of quiet or shy learners, and regularly check for space- related problems. He provides the following checklist that can be used for what he calls a space audit.

Outside the Classroom

1. Clear signage showing identification and direction

2. Barrier-free access along walkways and in the building

3. Adequate lighting for safety and security

4. Availability of coatrooms, restrooms, and vending machines

5. Emergency exits marked and clear directions to them visible

Inside the Classroom

6. Adequate lighting for evening classes

7. Availability of emergency lights

8. Cleanliness of classroom acceptable

9. Barrier-free accessibility to and in the classroom

10. Classroom painted with cheerful colors

11. Windows and blinds or shades that are operable

12. Adequate control over ventilation, heating, and cooling

13. Flexible furnishings available

14. Available media equipment and devices

15. Adequate sightlines for everyone in the classroom

Rearrangement of the Classroom

16. Familiarized yourself with all aspects of the space

17. Set up the room to suit your needs as a facilitator

18. Explored the options to suit class members' needs

19. Imagined which arrangements will work best

20. Checked for sightlines, glare, lighting, and access


21. Searched for another space if yours is not right

22. Conducted a space needs assessment with the learners

23. Invited learners to help rearrange the space

24. Encouraged comfort, informality, and friendliness

25. Did a formative evaluation of the space performance

26. Did a summative evaluation for the administration

27. Thanked learners for helping create an effective space


Fulton (in Hiemstra, 1991) has developed what he calls the SPATIAL model. Each letter in the acronym stands for some aspect of the learning environment.

S atisfaction - an intrinsic measure of how pleased or fulfilled a learner is with an activity.

P articipation - a measure of how engaged a learner is with an activity.

A chievement - a measure of progress toward any learning goals.

T ranscendent - aspects of the physical environment which transcend the individual learner's control.

I mmanent - several immanent or inherent perceptions an indivi-dual has of an environment are subjective and unique to each person.

A uthority - the power of learners to assess the adequacy of a place of learning and to change certain attributes.

L ayout - the various structural attributes of an environment.

Fulton suggests several questions to help guide a facilitator's evaluation of a learning environment via the SPATIAL framework:

Satisfaction, Participation, and Achievement

1. Have learners been asked how satisfied they are with the space being used?

2. Have distracting physical features been removed or eliminated whenever possible?

3. Can learners stay on task in their setting?

4. Does body language indicate a desire to leave or change the learning environment?

5. Does the space permit learners to use appropriate learning strategies?

6. Can auditory, tactile, and visual learning styles be used in various ways?

Transcendent and Immanent

7. Are the location and room size appropriate for the planned learning activities?

8. Do the furnishings "fit" the people who will be using them?

9. What messages about learning could be assumed by learners from the condition of the space?

10. Is there potential for some individuals to be challenged or offended by any aspect of the space?

Authority and Layout

11. Can changes be made in the learning environment?

12. Who can or should take responsibility for making various of the needed or required changes?

13. Does the space meet various minimal safety and comfort standards?

14. Are necessary special requirements met such as having appropriate audiovisual equipment available? Importance of Initial Contact with Learners

Importance of Initial Contact with Learners

Sisco (in Hiemstra, 1991) talks about the importance of the initial contact with a learner and proposes several guiding questions:

Sisco also described four icebreakers or introduction techniques (besides participants introducing themselves) that he recommends be used at the beginning of the first session to reduce tension and anxiety, help learners become acquainted, foster involvement, and assist the instructor in getting to know class members.

  1. Partner Introductions. Divide the group into pairs. A short interview of each other is conducted and then the partners introduce each other to the entire group.
  2. Name Chain. Participants introduce themselves one at a time to the group, each by saying her or his name and an adjective that begins with the same letter as the name. Each person in the chain must repeat all previous names and descriptors.
  3. Six Critters. Display six different signs around the classroom, each with the name of some animal or bird. Ask each person to select the sign that best describes a personal personality style. Divide people in the six groups, have them introduce themselves, and then list the qualities of that critter that attracted them to it. Ask a recorder from each group to report the findings to the larger group
  4. Character Descriptions. Have participants write down their favorite foods, TV programs, celebrities, animals, and musical artists. Then, one by one, have each person relate these descriptions to the group and give their name. Have them give reasons for each choice. The Potential Impact on Learning of Various Obstacles

The Potential Impact on Learning of Various Obstacles

Mahoney (adapted from his chapter in Hiemstra, 1991) has developed "rises in temperature" as a metaphor for understanding how various barriers, obstacles, and life events can affect a person's ability to function, especially in terms of learning. He calls it "temperature" changes, due to significant life events, by time interval since the event occurred:

Event 0-3 Months 3-6 Months 6-12 Months
Death of spouse         5         4          3
Death of child         6         5          4
Death of parent         4         3          2
Divorce         4         4          4
Lost job         4         3          3
Terminal illness         4         4          4
Substance abuse in family         5         4          4
Denied job promotion         5         4          3
Personal conflict with spouse         4         3          2
Loss of 1/3 or more of family income         4         3          2
Unwanted or unexpected pregnancy         5         4          2
Involved in a lawsuit         5         3          1
Forced relocation to a new city         4         3          1
Work schedule change unacceptable         3         2          1
Child charged with felony crime         4         2          2

Mahoney believes that the "temperature" values should be conceived as indices of the amount of interference a learner may experience at stated time periods after an event has occurred. Extending the thermometer metaphor and using body temperature as a reference point, addition of the suggested values shown above to a baseline of 98.6 degrees for a given event can help a teacher or trainer understand how that event may affect any learner at that moment. In addition, a teacher can examine the nature of the interference in order to devise strategies to minimize an event's impact on learning, that is to "lower" the temperature.

For example, assume that as a literacy volunteer you discover your student has just experienced a divorce and has a teenage child who is serving time in jail for a felony. This "rise" in temperature of about six degrees to approximately 104.6 indicates that the learner is under considerable stress, which is likely to interfere with any learning activities you might try to facilitate. If any learning efforts could be channeled temporarily toward lessening the stress, such as helping the student find appropriate support groups, some relief should be experienced. Hopefully, the literacy tutoring eventually can move forward.

Potential for Racism as Interference

Colin and Preciphs (adapted from their chapter in Hiemstra, 1991) believe that many teachers and trainers of adults inadvertently exhibit racist characteristics. The notion of inadvertently stems from various circumstances, including years of socialization, the way society is structured, stereotypes that prevail in our society, and our country's financial structure. They believe there are five stages each teacher or trainer of adults should go through to examine and confront their own potential for racism:

Stage One: Acknowledgement of Racism - Acknowledge the existence of racism in yourself and/or in the system with which you work.

Stage Two: Commitment to Address Racism in the Learning Environment - Become more conscious about subtle and direct forms of racism that you are capable of conveying through your language, jokes, non-verbal messages, etc.

Stage Three: Sharing Information About Other Cultures and Histories - Make sure your curriculum is inclusive regarding the culture, history, and contributions of non-white groups.

Stage Four: Utilization of the Affective Domain of Learning - Go through critical and sometimes painful reflection and recognition of how you are linked to all of humanity.

Stage Five: Assessment of Learning Experiences - Become more sensitive to how perceptions are formed and become distorted.

Colin and Preciphs offer a checklist for countering the effects of perceptual deprivations that can be manifested through racism of some sort:

1. Your curriculum, assigned literature, and course content reflect different racial groups.

2. The contributions and perspectives of nonwhite learners are invited, respected, and valued in your learning environment.

3. The issues of white racism receive appropriate attention in your learning environment.

4. You communicate the importance of addressing racism as a part of your educational process.

5. You examine how negative perceptual patterns can foster biases about other racial groups.

6. Your learning projects include nonwhite sociocultural histories, orientations, and interpretations.

7. In your learning environment learning experiences about racism are ongoing and not confined to a few comments.

8. You strive to become more aware of the subtle forms of racism that can be perpetuated through your instructional activities.

9. You constantly exhibit sensitivity toward and awareness of other cultures.

10. You become more sensitized to the pain and hurt experienced by nonwhite learners in our society.

Many of the ideas presented above could also be translated to issues of gender discrimination, age discrimination, lack of inclusivity, etc.

Making a Commitment to New Practices as a Teacher or Trainer of Adults

The information presented in this session suggests that teachers and trainers of adults can and must make several new commitments if their effectiveness is to be improved. For some of us, this improvement process will entail examination of our daily behavior to see if we inadvertently practice techniques or administer policies that inhibit certain learners in various ways. Others of us may need to even confront the bureaucracy or traditions in our institutions and organizations that somehow diminish our effectiveness by impeding learners and teachers or trainers.

As you leave this session and return to your roles as teachers, trainers, administrators, etc., or as you think about future sessions in this series, I have done my job if you now have some new things to think about in terms of your roles. The value of training like you will experience through this sessions is to promote such thinking.

I challenge you to reexamine what it is you do and how you think regarding your educational roles. If you discover some things that can be changed or improved, make a contract with yourself to affect such changes. You cannot make lots of changes overnight, but a recognition of what is needed will make gradual changes, corrections, or improvements possible. All of this will, I anticipate, make you more effective as a teacher or trainer of adults.

I leave you with a few recommendations for changing and improving your practice as a teacher or trainer of adults:

1. Help learners take more control of and responsibility for what happens in their learning environments. Unlocking the potentiality that is within each learner may be the very best achievement you can ever facilitate for another person.

2. Analyze and control the learning environment. Don't take for granted the learning environment thrust upon you by your institution or organization. Most bureaucrats, administrators, and space designers do not understand adult learners' needs, limitations, and potential for change.

3. Find ways of incorporating the best of technology into the learning environment. Although this is not a topic covered in this session, it is very important because the improvements in and power of technology to support adult learning are growing each day.

4. Discover how "you" can best work with learners. This means understanding your own strengths, finding ways of helping learners take more control, and sometimes even going against the norms or standard expectations for a trainer or teacher.

5. Become proactive in bringing about change. Often you can help colleagues and agency administrators understand what is needed to create more effective learning situations, but it will take effort, courage, and determination. This also may mean helping recalcitrant learners discover the potential that is within them.

6. Finally, make a personal commitment to change. Determine to practice what is preached about effective work with adult learners.

It will make a difference and you can be a part of improving the overall educational system.


Belenky, M. F., Clinchy, B. M., Goldberger, N. R., & Tarule, J. M. (1986). Women's ways of knowing: The development of self, voice, and mind. New York: Basic Books.

Brockett, R. G. (Ed.). (1988). Ethical issues in adult education. New York: Teachers College Press.

Brockett, R. G., & Hiemstra, R. (1991). Self-direction in adult learning: Perspectives on theory, research, and practice. New York: Routledge.

Brookfield, S. (1986). Understanding and facilitating adult learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Brookfield, S. (1990). The skillful teacher. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Candy, P. C. (1991). Self-direction for lifelong learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Cross, K. P. (1981). Adults as learners. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Daloz, L. A. (1990). Effective teaching and mentoring: Realizing the transformational power of adult learning experiences. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Elias, J. L., & Merriam, S. (1980). Philosophical foundations of adult education. Huntington, NY: Robert E. Krieger Publishing Company.

Galbraith, M. W. (1990). Adult learning methods: A guide for effective instruction. Malabar, FL: Robert Krieger.

Galbraith, M. W. (1991). Facilitating adult learning. Malabar, FL: Robert Krieger.

Gilligan, C. (1982). In a different voice: Psychological theory and women's development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Hayes, E. (1989). Insights from women's experiences for teaching and learning. In E. Hayes (ed.), Effective teaching styles (New Directions for Continuing Education, no. 43). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Hiemstra, R. (ed.). (1991). Creative environments for effective adult learning (New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, Number 50). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Hiemstra, R., & Sisco, B. (1990). Individualizing instruction for adult learners: Making learning personal, powerful, and successful. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Houle, C. O. (1988). The inquiring mind (2nd edition). Norman, OK: Oklahoma Research Center for Continuing Professional and Higher Education.

Knowles, M. S. (1980). The modern practice of adult education (revised and updated). Chicago: Follett Publishing Company.

Knowles, M. S. (1986). Using learning contracts. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Knowles, M. S., & Associates. (1984). Andragogy in action: Applying modern principles of adult learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Knox, A. B. (1986). Helping adults learn. San Francisco: San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Merriam, S. B., & Caffarella, R. S. (1991). Learning in adulthood: A comprehensive guide. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Peterson, D. A. (1983). Facilitating education for older learners. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Tough, A. (1971). The adult's learning projects. Toronto: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (there also is a 1979 edition).

Wlodkowski, R. J. (1985). Enhancing adult motivation to learn. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

In addition, following is a list of journals you should consider reviewing.

ADULT EDUCATION (US) (past issues; no longer being published)


ADULT LEADERSHIP (past issues; no longer being published)



LIFELONG LEARNING: THE ADULT YEARS (past issues; no longer being published)

LIFELONG LEARNING: AN OMNIBUS OF PRACTICE AND RESEARCH (past issues; no longer being published)

NEW DIRECTIONS IN CONTINUING EDUCATION (past issues; no longer being published under this name)




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