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The Importance and Effectiveness of Adult Learning

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When it is talk about education, the first thing comes trough in mind it is children. In fact, quite often, is thought that the study and the teaching involve just the childhood. This is what usually is called Pedagogy: the art or science of teaching children. But what happens when adults receive knowledge and teachings instead of children?

Actually, already in the past, some philosopher like Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, such big names of world Philosophy, used to teach to adults instead infants. This happened because they recognise in the adult person the need to continue to learn, to improve himself and to know more.

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After that period age, the pedagogy suddenly become Andragogy, from -andr (man), that literally means leading man (Andragogy, 1. Wikipedia).

The first to coin a real term for adult education has been Alexander Kapp, referring to the Plato’s learning theory, defining it “Andragogy” (1833), but without any success to bring the right importance to the topic; Only after almost a century, precisely in the 1926, someone else started to talk about adult learning. He was a professor, Eduard C Lindeman, whom acknowledged in it, the possibility of people to take an advantage from an adequate preparation, especially in problem solving and without seeing the acquiring of knowledges as something aimed at the abstract, on the off chance to occur relevant and useful for any situation.

After bringing the matter to the fore, during the years others experts have given life to a series of studies related to the subject, resulting at the end in some theories such as behaviourism for which learning is based on the idea that all behaviors are acquired through conditioning. Conditioning occurs through interaction with the environment. Behaviorists believe that our responses to environmental stimuli shape our actions (Krapfl J. E. Behaviourism and society. Behav Anal. 2016; 39 (1):123-9. doi:10.1007/s40614-016-0063-8); Cognitivism which approach focuses on the mental activities of the learner that lead up to a response and acknowledges the processes of mental planning, goal-setting, and organizational strategies (Shuell, 1986);

Constructivists, meanwhile, is a theory that equates learning with creating meaning from experience (Bednar et al., 1991). Do not share with cognitivists and behaviorists the belief that knowledge is mind-independent and can be “mapped” into a learner. Constructivists do not deny the existence of the real world but contend that what we know of the world stems from our own interpretations of our experiences (Peggy A. Ertmer and Timothy J. Newby.Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing Critical Features From an Instructional Design Perspective, 2013;55)

But what’s the real importance of these theories in the nowdays world?

First of all the actual impact on the real life of the adults routine, where individuals have to deal with the changing world and its continuous progress.

Second, the need to ensure a positive adaptability to any eventuality that arises at work or in the private life because the result is not just a personal satisfaction, but could give a value in monetary terms.

In the book ‘Valuing the Impact of Adult Learning’ of Daniel Fujiwara, founding Director of Simetrica and holds research positions at the London School of Economics, there is an analysis of the effect of adult learning on different domains of life such health, social relationships, volunteering, and employment/ employability. The result has been a significant impact of the value of taking part in a part-time adult learning expressed in monetary terms.

Agreeing with the research, broaden your knowledge and learn new things, provide an increase of quality of life that is easily convertible in better positions, an easier career progression and a general well being. Also, economic increase is not just about money, but more in a better quality of life and good prospective for the future.

Having seen the demonstration of the importance and effectiveness of learning in adult age, it would be good to make sure that more and more people have the possibility to access it and use it and when is not personally possible, then the employers should find a solution, or provide for a help, when this is possible because not only the employees would benefit, but also the owners with a significant improvement in performance and the value of the employees works.

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