Adult learning is a complex subject that in recent years has become more of a necessity than a personal pursuit. There are three factors present in the American society today that necessitate the need for adult learning. These factors are: Dramatic changes in demographics, the global economy, and technology. (5) Demographics are concerned with growth and development of adult learners and emerging groups of learners with special needs. There are more adults in our society than ever before and the population will continue to age and increase in the number of older adults.
This fact along with the growing cultural and ethnic diversity existing in America today, although, provides many benefits for the society by mixing talents from many lands, but it also, requires a certain amount of familiarization and education to minimize the risks involved by diversification. The second factor influencing the need for adult learning is the global economy. The birth of global interdependent economy has led to changing work practices, which require different kinds of preparation and training.
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The emphasis has been shifted to improved product and service quality, having more educated workers with more responsibility and stronger team work. This has resulted in control of education shifting more to business. More and more companies opt to provide work place literacy programs, training and development packages, and encouraging their employees to learn how to learn, to keep up with a constantly changing global service based economy. Ethnic make up and increased number of women in the work force are also contributing factors for adult learning. (5)
The third factor that should be considered is the explosion in the information technology sector. With the development and advancement of computers within the last decade or two, an environment has been created in which the settings for a formal training session, has been outdated. The society is experiencing an increase in mental ability which is growing drastically with the availability of horizontal networks and the advancement of telecommunications. Information is rapidly distributed and easily available and accessible. This causes for efficient use of information.
This allows the learner to have better access with those who teach information access skills, it helps the development of higher levels of thinking skills while at the same time, it creates a comfortable environment for the educators. Although consideration must be given to the ethical implication of the information access creates. (1) The three factors above have become intertwined forces. Demographics, the global economy, and technology have come together in adult education in the blurring of the field’s content and delivery mechanisms, dividing up the setting for adult education into formal, non-formal and informal activities.
Blurring is also occurring in higher education sector where older students are now making up for about 50 percent of the college attendees, and finally, a blurring of content and delivery is found in such popular slogans as “workplace literacy” and “critical thinking. ” which focuses on development of skills needed to be productive and informed members of a highly technical society. There are three types of opportunities in which learning occurs for adult: Formal institutional setting, non-formal setting and informal setting.
For most adult, learning in adulthood brings to mind a classroom setting. Yet when we ask these same adult about what they have learned informally over the last year, they typically respond with descriptions of learning activities outside these formal settings. However, the use of technology has increase the delivery of learning programs, expanding our picture of learning in an informal setting.
Informal learning occurs most often in ones natural setting in which we learn things from our daily experiences. On the other hand, non-formal settings have been used most often to describe learning opportunities outside the formal educational setting that complement the needs of underserved adults such as churches. Knowing why some adults participate in adult education does not tell us why many don’t . The two often cited reasons for non participation are lack of time and money. There is no single theory or model that can explain or predict participation in adults education .
The main reasons most commonly used are cite job-related motives, achieving some other personal goal, sake of the activity itself, social relationship (making a new friend), external expectation (complying with the wishes) and cognitive interest engaged for sake of learning itself. Nonparticipation has been from the perspective of the individual’s motivation, attitudes, beliefs, and so on .However they may be social factors that influence the decision . This can also be family-related. 2) Whatever the stated or actual purposes of a learning activity, adult education is usually a form of social intervention that often begins with a problem that needs to be solved . What is seen as problematic depends on one’s values, social position, and perspective. The purpose of adult education today for which there is public support, clusters around the ability of the United States to sustain a competitive edge in the global economy. Purpose of adult education is to improve the self and to improve society. In America all individuals have access and the opportunity to benefit through education. 4) In total the answer to the question of who benefits is clear: It is those who have benefited in the past, and those who have the “cultural capital”. Those most likely to be the recipients of the dominant cultures are those who, as a result of birth and upbringing, have already acquired the cultural capital to receive it and to take advantage of opportunities. Everyone can improve his/her life situation through learning, every adult can choose to participate in any adult learning activity . There are other reason that certain adults have more access to learning opportunities than other adult .
Where one happens to live, what color, age, or sex one happens to be, what one does for a living, all contribute to the participation pattern in adult education (framework) by way of illustrating how these framework conditions can determine who is more likely to benefit from adult learning opportunities. Where and how one lives makes a difference. (3) Individual educators and individual learners are likely to be fairly explicit about why they are engaged in a particular learning activity. Such easily identified objectives are usually aligned with the content of the activity.
Underlying many of the state purposes of adult education in America is the assumption that the idea of a society must be maintained, and that education is one way to do this. Individualism, Independence, and a protestant-capitalist work ethic frame the actual provision of adult education in America. (1) Several things are known about self-directed learning: (a) Individual learners can become empowered to take increasingly more responsibility for various decisions associated with the learning endeavor; (b) Self-direction is best viewed as a continuum or characteristic that xists to some degree in every person and learning situation; (c) Self-direction does not necessarily mean all learning will take place in isolation from others; (d) Self-directed learners appear able to transfer learning, in terms of both knowledge and study skill, from one situation to another; (e) self-directed study can involve various activities and resources, such as self-guided reading, participation in study groups, internships, electronic dialogues, and reflective writing activities; (f) Effective roles for teachers in self-directed learning are possible, such as dialogue with learners, securing resources, evaluating outcomes, and promoting critical thinking. (g) Some educational institutions are finding ways to support self-directed study through open-learning programs, individualized study options, non-traditional course offerings, and other innovative programs. 1) self –directed learning as a process of learning , in which people take the primary initiative for planning, carrying out, and evaluating their own learning experiences, has received a great deal of attention in the literature. This form of learning can take place in both inside and outside institutionally based learning programs. (2) Staff development that improves the learning of all students applies knowledge about human learning and change. No matter the age at which it occurs, human learning is based on a common set of principles. While adults have more life experience to draw on than younger learners and are often clearer about what they want to learn and why it is important, the means by which the learning occurs is remarkably similar.
Consequently, it is important that the learning methods used in professional development mirror as closely as possible the methods teachers are expected to use with their students. It is essential that staff development assist educators in moving beyond comprehension of the surface features of a new idea or innovation to a fuller and more complete understanding of its purposes, critical attributes, meaning, and connection to other approaches. To improve student achievement, adult learning under most circumstances must promote deep understanding of a topic and provide many opportunities for teachers and administrators to practice new skills with feedback on their performance until those skills become automatic and habitual.
Such deeper understanding typically requires a number of opportunities to interact with the idea or procedure through active learning processes that promote reflection such as discussion and dialogue, writing, demonstrations, practice with feedback, and group problem solving. Because people have different learning styles and strengths, professional development must include opportunities to see, hear, and do various actions in relation to the content. It is also important those educators are able to learn alone and with others and, whenever possible, have choices among learning activities. Another important dimension of adult engagement in change processes is the feelings that such change often evokes in individuals.
Even under the best of circumstances, pressure for change, no matter what its source, may produce feelings of anxiety, fear, and anger. Such feelings are most effectively addressed through skillful listening and problem solving within a respectful and trusting school culture. It is helpful for educational leaders to appreciate that, to some degree, such feelings are natural and an inevitable part of the change process. Such appreciation is aided when leaders have a deep understanding of the change literature, particularly the Concerns- Based Adoption Model, and are able to apply its insights when planning and implementing new practices in schools.
A third dimension of change is the life stage of individuals engaged in the change process. While recognition of life stage differences would not alter expectations for performance, it may affect an individual’s availability and interest in additional work responsibilities during different phases of his or her life. Recognition of life stage differences may also help staff development leaders in tapping educators’ strengths and talents, such as asking skillful veteran teachers to serve as mentors or coaches for their peers. Electronic forms of learning may prove particularly helpful in providing alternatives that respond to differences in learning styles and availability due to life stage issues.