My Philosophy of Adult Education
An explicit personal philosophy of adult education helps an educator synthesize his or her best thinking and beliefs about education in order to implement a sound, integrated practice. It encapsulates all that an educator understands about how adults learn; and perceives about the teaching-learning transaction, including the roles of instructor and learner, and why people learn.
Based on these values, the educator determines:
- organization of class room, sessions, units, and courses
- methods to facilitate student learning
- professional development to pursue to enhance his or her own practice.
As a humanist, I believe that the instructor-as-facilitator prizes, accepts, and trusts learners — and is more effective when authentic and empathic in the classroom — while helping students become all that they can be. I prioritize relationships in the classroom, cooperative group work, and learner self-evaluation. Ideally, learners are intrinsically motivated and will learn what they deem useful.
As a constructivist, I agree that adults learn best from constructing meaning from their own first-hand experiences and reflection, and integrating these new insights and conclusions with things they already know. Learners benefit from exploring perspectives and asking questions with other people.
Listening and reading — as learning methods — are most effective when learners have already experienced related content and can affirm the truth in what they read or hear based on their own prior life events, ask questions to test their comprehension, and immediately practice new knowledge and skills.
The educator’s role is not to recite information so that students will hear it and (automatically) retain it or memorize it by rote before a test.
Strategies for facilitating adult learning
The goal of education is for learners to develop new skills and knowledge that they want and/or need. The facilitator can adopt the following strategies to fulfill the goal:
- Establish a warm, light-hearted, and social learning environment by greeting students and sharing an inclusive sense of humor;
- Elicit what adults already know and find out what they’d like to learn (and why);
- Inspire a desire to learn among unmotivated learners through relationship-building, finding and making a case for “what’s in it for them,” clarifying the rationale for activities and methods, and piquing learners’s curiosity;
- Organize activities that: allow students to experience and reflect on something new related to learning goals; enable students to construct new insights and perspectives; and connect new conclusions to prior knowledge;
- Design activities that enable visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners to succeed; that offer opportunities for both introverted and extroverted learners; and that benefit learners of diverse intellectual and physical abilities;
- Structure class time so that learners can build relationships with, teach, and learn from each other, and so that the instructor also becomes part of the learning community;
- Offer a way for learners to immediately practice (and reinforce) their new learning;
- Provide established frameworks that round-out, clarify, and/or confirm conclusions that learners have themselves drawn; and
- Allot structure, time, and atmosphere for solo reflection during or after the learning event; and
- Evaluate student learning, and seek feedback to plan future classes.