Adult education has been an issue of concern for many years, though not many people did not see the need to pay attention until recently. It is no secret that adult learners have been the most neglected species. It is even surprising that great teachers who were there in ancient times including Confucius and Plato, all focused on teaching adults and not children. Their experience with adult learners changed their perception on learning so that they thought of it as being more of a process of active inquiry rather than passive reception of transmitted content. Even with all these knowledge, many decades later, it still is not easy to find a single answer, theory or model of adult learning that can explain conclusively what we already know concerning adult learners, the different contexts which learning takes place and even the learning process itself. Instead what exists is a mosaic of models, theories, and principles that form the base of adult learning only. The two most important models of theories include andragogy and self-directed learning, all of which will be discussed further in the next discussion.
Learning, for humans, is a continuous process, that gained a lot of significance and at a tremendous speed as it tries to keep up with the changes in the society. The members of the learning fraternity are also almost compelled to keep learning as...
they try to maintain relevancy and also to remain members. This trend is not new because human beings through the centuries have probably had the capacity to learn throughout their lives, though with increased rejuvenation in the present age compared with the former times. The concept of adults returning to education has also gained a lot of momentum in the past two decades. It is however not surprising to find people still equating the term ‘education’ to children. What they do not understand is that education is a lifelong process, that continues all the way through to adulthood. This paper discusses the rationale behind the provision of education for adults.
Whenever a discussion concerning the nature of the society is brought up, it always has to be accompanied by theoretical perspectives that place the society under the social systems driven by continuous change. With the same regard, the educational institution is recognized as a recipient of pressures that try to exert the change, so that the pressures are either technological or economic in nature (Driscoll, 2005). The fact that these forces mold these individuals to a larger extent should be appreciated because they serve a greater purpose of helping individuals to discover their places in the society. Also as people’s knowledge gets outdated, they should strive to get more new knowledge if they want to remain at par with their culture. This is very true for in the case of technology, where individuals have to keep up with the constant evolutions to avoid being alienated and also to help them in adapting to the changes in the society. Continuing education has also become a reality for professionals who need regular updating
to maintain their relevancy across the ever-growing population of people seeking employment.
Pedagogy to Andragogy
For many years, there had only been a single model of assumption concerning learning and the characteristics of learners, one which the educators infer their curricula as well as teaching practices. This kind of model was known as pedagogy; which refers to the art of teaching children. The model, however, faced some major setbacks in the 19th Century when adult education was conceptualized mainly because education had earlier been interpreted as a vessel through which knowledge and skills could be transmitted. Teachers also found themselves in total disarray because pedagogy prescribed fact-filled lectures, quizzes, memorizations, and examinations; things that did not sit quite well with adult students. The model gave teachers a full responsibility of deciding on what would be learned, how it would be learned and also when certain subjects would be learned. The learners at this point had no choice but to submit to whatever instructions their teachers gave them. It was such kinds of discomfort that finally led to the adoption of the andragogy model.
The reasons for proposal of the andragogy or adult learning is because adults differ a lot from children, more so in the case of intellectual development. Also, adults in this case are characterized as voluntary learners unlike pedagogy where the children are considered a captive audience for the teachers. One of the factors influencing adult learners lies on whether the learning is being undertaken voluntarily or involuntarily. Literature also states that whenever adults are directed to take a certain subject, the two major factors that come into play are motivation and participation. The environment around learners in the andragogy model is mostly learner-centered, meaning that it majorly revolves around the self-motivation of the adult learners.
Before embarking on the andragogical model, it is important to understand the meaning of the word ‘adult,’ more so from a psychological view. According to Jarvis (1995), people become adults when they attain a self-concept of not only being responsible for their lives but also having a sense of self-direction. Before coming up with the model, Knowles had discovered through his work that there was a need to attend to the actual interests of the learners instead of only focusing on what the educator’s thought to be the learner’s interests. Knowles based his observations on five assumptions that he thought captured his concept of andragogy.
The first was the need for the learners to have an understanding of what exactly it was that they wanted before undertaking the learning process. This assumption is supported by Tough (1979), who through research came to learn that adults tend to invest more energy in uncovering the gains they have made in learning and also the negative consequences that would have befallen them if they chose not to learn it. The second assumption touched on the wealth of experience that adult learners would have accumulated throughout their childhood.
The past experiences that a person acquires all through to their adult life serves as a valuable resource in a classroom set-up. The third was that the adults were self-directed learners.
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