Thursday, May 03, 2007

Philosophies of Learning

As a teacher/trainer we have inbuilt concepts and philosophies that guide us in the beliefs we have on education, and how we should train, teach or facilitate learning. We may not realise what these philosophies are and will act automatically on a day to basis without realising we have them, by identifying our philosophies we can locate a vast amount of information to assist us gaining a holistic understanding of adult education and obtain a framework for us to utilise as an adult educator to ensure we understand the needs of the learners.

Why should we have a philosophy? Well, some of the reasons noted by Hiemstra (1998) have been that having a philosophy can highlight an understanding of human relationships, it can help us to be sensitive and realise the requirements for positive exchanges towards other people, it can provide us with a framework for understanding personal values, and promotes flexibility and consistency when working with adult learners. All these principles are imperative to realising the intricate balance we as teachers/trainers require when involved in the education of adult learners.

As educators we should practice the art of reflection on all aspects of training not just the action of delivery, but ourselves, our views and beliefs, what influences us and how we influence the students. With regards to creating and understanding your philosophy try asking yourself;

• What are your perspectives on adult education,
• What is the role of the teacher and that of the learner,
• What are your ethical beliefs around standards of practice, certification and standards of teaching/ training?
• Why have a philosophy?

Once you have answered these questions have a look at the table below , you may identify where you believe you sit within the educational philosophies, however to gain a true indication I suggest you fill in the Philosophy of Adult Education Inventory by Lorraine M Zinn, PhD. This inventory assists you in truly determining where your philosophy lies and can be found at .

Below is a table adapted from Galbraith , M(1990) outlining Philosophies and Traditions of Adult Education;


Hiemstra, R. 1998, Translating Personal Values and Philosophy into Practical Action, in R.Brockett (ed) Ethical Issues in Adult Education, Columbia University, New York, pp.178-191.

Galbraith, M. 1990 Adult Leaning Methods, Ed. Kreiger, Florida.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

What Adult Educators need to remember

An adult educator needs to be mindful of the variety of situations that can come up when dealing with adults in the training environment as well as the psychological perspectives that can occur. There are many external and internal factors that influence and impact adults as they go through their daily lives, there are obstacles such as past learning experiences, work related conflict, changing life events and poorly ran training courses from school days or private enterprise to name a few. It is a huge achievement for any adult and takes great courage to step through the doors on to further eduction whatever the reason.

Therefore educators need to understand where the student is coming from and ideally be empathetic to the needs of their students. The way in which adults learn has become of great importance through out the training industry, should we lecture to our students, is demonstration and practice applicable, via multi layered learning, or experiential learning to name a few.

All these are effective ways of training but consideration must be taken into account on the type of course we are running, it is not very effective just lecturing to a group of carpenters on how to make a table, they need to actually build it themselves with a degree of theory thrown in at the correct place to embed the learning.

Cultural Issues and experiences

In our multi culture society we need to take into account the backgrounds, culture and experiences of our students, there are such a myriad of questions we need to ask ourselves before we even step into the training environment.

Some of the questions we might ask ourselves are:

• How big is the group of students?
• What is the cultural mix of the students and are there any special requirements I will need if I training one type of cultural group from another;
• What is the age group as this can affect the ability for students to retain information
• Do we have activities to really get the group engaged?
• Have we catered for the different types of learning styles, pragmatist, activist, reflector and theorist (which have been designed by Honey and Mumford. UK);
• Are there any special needs required and how might I deal with this e.g. dyslexia, deafness;
• How should we set up the training environment?

However, we should try and remember that in a classroom of 20 students it is difficult to fill the needs of all, but as trainers we should endeavor to do so.

Too successfully transfer knowledge takes a mixture of education, life experiences and the well being of our bodies, these all contribute to how adults learn and how much we can take at certain stages of our life. As educators when we are delivering our programs we should think about age group and other circumstances, such as cultural background and gender to ensure we select activities to cater for these groups, this will help enhance the learning.

Our students have a great wealth of experience that should be encouraged to be shared as this will draw out a vast amount of knowledge for the group to digest and sharing this will encourage the students to participate. As students we can also realise our limitations and what can affect us as we grow older, we can then adjust our processes to help us embed the learning.


Before you start your training course set up a safe environment with your students, get them to brainstorm some rules for the session and write them on a flip chart for all to see. You could even get someone ton police them and change the person every couple of hours to involve everyone.

Useful resources for adult education:

Knowles,M. Holton,E and Swanson R.A. (1998) The Adult Learner The definitive Classic In Adult Education and Human Resource Development.USA: Buttworth Heinmann

Lefrancois,G.R (2000) Psychology for Teaching.(10th edn)
Belmont, C A :Wadsworth Publishing

Sofo,F (1999) Human Resource Development. Perspectives, Roles and Practice Choices,Sydney: Business and Professional Publishing.