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The learning process never ends: specific training ways dedicated to adults

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Adult Learning

Introduction

The discussion about adult learning has a great impact on the educators who engage in the training of adults. In the discussions provided in the course book “Brookfield”, the discussions about adult learning are compressive and provide a detailed discussion on how to proceed with learning education programs. In this text, educators learn the main themes discussed in each chapter to improve their competence in lesson delivery with the adult learners. Through this coursework, we understood how adults learn, the importance of self-directed learning, benefits of adopting informal settings, and motives of learning among the adult learners and their implications in practice. The coursework is important because it enabled me to understand how to handle the training of soldiers in the filed because all the soldiers are under the adult learners’ category

Chapters’ analysis

Adult learning has become a major centre of focus for most educators as more adults engage in classes for various reasons. The chapters in Brookfield’s text comprises of the major themes in the area of adult learning. The most important theme discussed in chapter two of the book focuses on understanding how adults learn. This is important, especially because adults learn differently and their motivating factors are different from those of the young learners (Brookfield, 1986). It would be important for every educator to understand this factor before engaging adult learners in any form of training or learning. Chapter two talks about “intellectual quests” among adults that make them seek training. Forces example, in the army, training involves adult learners and unless a trainer understands the concept of adult learning, he or she would not deliver the best training to these new soldiers.

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The chapter 3 covers the theme of self-directedness in learning. In exploring self-directness in learning, the theme focuses on encouraging educators to focus their efforts on improving self-directedness learning (Merriam & Bierema, 2013). Self-directness in learning refers to the learning process where the learners take initiatives in coming up with their own learning experiences, engaging in the diagnosis of their needs, location of training resources and evaluation of their learning. The chapter also mentions that self-directed learning as a learning process that involves the learners assuming the responsibility for their learning.

In the same example provided above about training of new recruits in the army, self-directed learning would help the new recruits learn and understand technical training much better. Soldiers need to understand the technical aspects of their training because whatever they learn would require application on the battlefield or any other area that requires the applications of these skills (Foote, 2015). It would require them to have the ability to assess every situation and act according to the requirements of that time. Through the self-directed learning, the trainees gain the skills of identifying needs in each situation, generating appropriate goals, and make an accurate evaluation.

Chapter 1 discusses the implications for practice and motives for learning among the adult learners. This theme looks into the factors that drive adults to learn and strive to achieve their best. In this chapter, active engagement among adult learners, free exchange of ideas, practices, and beliefs makes it possible for them to have a close connection with one another (Ozuah, 2016). The concept is one of the most effective ways of achieving high learning outcomes especially among adults from diverse backgrounds when they engage in free exchange of beliefs and ideas with the rest of the trainees (Brookfield, 1986). It also creates a healthy, democratic, and open environment that enables all members to participate without fear of what others may think about them.

In the army, recruits come from diverse backgrounds and it is necessary that they learn to work together in achieving their collective goals. This is important especially in the army where teamwork is everything. Teamwork is only possible when the team members have no prejudice against one another and consider each of them as an equal member of the group. The strategy helps new recruits and other soldiers to take advantage of the benefits of diversity in a group. Every member learns that his or her strong points are of great value to the team members and are significant in the group.

Chapter 7 looks at the theme of learning in the informal settings. Unlike in the normal classrooms, adult learning does not require confinement of the adult learners to the room. The adults should engage in activities that involve explorations and learning about their future engagement. The types of skills that most of the adults seek are those that involve hands-on activities (Foote, 2015). The examples of informal settings provided under this chapter include correctional education in the prisons, health education, armed forces education, propriety schools, voluntary organizations, industrial training among others.

All the training occurs in unstructured environments where the training is according to the particular needs of the trainees. No strict adherence to the lesson plans, and schemes of work. The training of the new recruits in the army mainly occurs in informal settings including campsites, abandoned buildings, forests on air among other places (Merriam & Bierema, 2013). The adoption of such settings helps the learners to have a good idea of what to do in every situation, which would not be possible in the formal setting. The informal settings also provide real-life experiences to the adult trainees such as the new recruits and they get to understand how to apply the skills they learn in real life scenarios.

Chapter 8 involves the continuation of the discussion in chapter 7 about learning in the informal settings. The main connection between the chapter and the previous chapter is that it provides a continuation. In both chapters, the author focuses on demonstrating the importance and the need to have an informal setting when providing adult education. It looks at the different types of the informal settings where adult learning could occur (Brookfield, 1986). The settings decided upon in any training program must accommodate the views of the trainees even when it mainly involves the decision of the educator. It must be an environment that enhances learning among the trainees without much distraction from the things in that environment (Merriam & Bierema, 2013). The chapter also introduces the commercial aspect of adult education given that a huge number of adults are still illiterate and seek areas where they could improve their education levels.

Unfortunately, most the institutions that offer adult education have failed to adopt the right strategy in their teaching. Most of these institutions mainly focus teaching the adults under formal settings that hinders their general learning outcome. Some of these institutions even hire the services of volunteers without enough qualification to engage in the adult education activities (Foote, 2015). The chapter encourages the use of volunteers who have experience in various fields related to what the learners learn in the program.

The Common Factor between the Chapters

All the themes discussed in the chapters in the book have one thing in common; they provide information about adult learning. Adult education is rapidly gaining momentum and there is a need to have a good understanding of the concept, and how to handle the adult learners. The themes focus on solving the problem of subjecting adult learners to formal settings that do not bring out the best in them (Ozuah, 2016). Chapter 8 of the book discusses the weakness of the formal setting including the inability of such setting to meet the needs of the adult learners. Every theme in the book contributes towards improving understanding of the adult educators. The themes complement one another to develop the entire concept of adult education.

Every topic discussed in the book has its own importance in understanding adult education and how to help the learners reach their educational goals. Chapter 2 discusses “understanding how adults learn” and has other major sub-themes such as the principles of adult learning, which discusses the main principles that every adult educator must know to improve his skill in education or training delivery. It also brings out the importance of applying and utilizing new research instruments when dealing with adult learners. Adult education is still a new area with lots of interests and research going on (Brookfield, 1986). Educators should not only concentrate on the available literature but should seek more new research findings. The researchers also need to engage new research instruments to establish their suitability in the adult education.

According to the chapter, numerous methodological approaches in the field have confused many researchers. It also notes that there are some principles invented in the recent past that provides better guidelines on how to proceed with research on new areas such as in adult education (Merriam, 2018). Institutions offering adult education to their clients should utilize these new research instruments to establish whether their programs or teachers behave as effective facilitators or not. These measures would help such institutions hire only the qualified adult trainers and utilize only the programs that give the desired outcomes among the adult learners.

These instruments could help institutions to identify when the teachers support and enhance collaborative-learning among the students or not. Chapter 2 also mentions that these research instruments are important because any training program should be learner-centered. Among the research, instruments mentioned in the chapter include PALS, which is common in many workshops involving adult learners including hospital education, management training, and cooperative extensions (Brookfield, 1986). The research tool has also revealed that those who train as adult trainers always ensure to adopt collaborative principles in their professional activities.

Another tool discussed in this chapter is the API, developed by Suanmali in 1981. The tool’s focus is enabling adult learners to improve their skills as self-directed learners. The resource has great importance to the adult educators because it directs their activities including the need to gradually decrease the dependence of learners on their educators (Merriam & Bierema, 2013). The instrument also helps the adult learners to understand how to utilize the learning resources including the experiences of their educators and colleagues. They also learn how to engage with others in reciprocal learning.

API also enables the adult learners to define their own learning needs. These needs mainly revolve around the psychological and cultural assumptions of the learner as well as his or her immediate needs (Brookfield, 1986). The tool also plays a crucial role in enabling learners to gradually and increasingly assume responsibilities of their learning objectives, learning programs and evaluate their overall progress.

Through the utilization of the API, adult learners are able to improve their problem solving and problem-posing skills including problems that require implementation of the collective and individual actions. The learners also improve their ability to recognize the relationship between the public issues and their personal problems (Merriam, 2018). API works better in reinforcing the self-concept among the adult learners by providing them with a means of progressive mastery. It provides a supportive climate for the learners as well as encourages their behavior and attitude changes.

Exploration of self-directness

The theme of self-directed learning in the book discusses the need to have learners have more say on what they learn and their learning experiences. Self-directed learning is an outside factor that is possible to see among the learners. The learners develop skills that enable them to make crucial initiatives in their learning process including designing their own learning experiences, diagnosis of relevant needs, and the location of their learning resources as well as in the evaluation of their overall learning (Foote, 2015). The learners slowly assume responsibility for their learning and in directing the learning path. It encourages autonomous learning among the learners, which is very crucial in learning of technical skills. The self-directness in learning improves the ability of the learners in identifying learning needs, generation of learning needs, and evaluation of the learning criteria (Merriam & Bierema, 2013). The strategy enables learners to plan, conduct, and evaluate their own learning experiences independently.

In areas such as the armed forces, field independence is necessary. Self-directness learning has proved to yield great results when learners are able to apply their skills while on the field. Field independent learners have improved analysis skills, and are socially independent. These learners also learn to become more individualistic and inner-directed and their sense of self-identity increases largely than other learners exposed to other teaching strategies (Brookfield, 1986). These learners have a clear contrast to those that are field dependent who are extrinsically oriented, aware of the context and recognize the impacts of the learning on other people.

Field dependent learners would always seek the services of a mediator to improve the learning and training experiences. The army is one of the institutions where democracy and openness are of great importance. Field independent learners would prosper in such institution than their field dependent counterparts. Field independent learning styles work best with the mature adults than the field dependent styles. The field independent inculcates among the learner’s aspects of self-concepts, detailed clarity, and self-control.

These are critical skills in the army and any recruit joining the army must score highly on the factors before training commences to sharpen these skills. The style enables the learners to become experts in their area of interest with great motivation to always learn new things concerning their profession (Foote, 2015). It proves that learning occurs best when initiated by the learner through his or her own decisions. Studies show that exposure of adult learners to the self-directed learning, improves their memory of most of the things they went through in their learning experiences.

Educators must understand that self-directness learning would only be possible in a group when enthusiasm exists across the board. When only an individual follows this path then his or her motivation would be low as compared to a situation where everyone engages in the same learning style. Chapter 1 implies that the transmission of knowledge becomes the common factor among the learners and they make the transfers even orally during their free time (Merriam, 2018). The learners form their own networks where they do not only engage in sharing information but also act as their platform for evaluation their learning experiences and outcomes.

Adult learners prefer knowledge they could apply in their lives. These arenas enable them to measure their own progress with those of their colleagues and seek ways to improve in areas where they are still doing poorly. Through these arenas, the successful learners find a platform to function as the skills models and help others to reach higher competence levels (Brookfield, 1986). In this manner, self-directed learning is important in helping adult learners meet their needs and increase their success rate during training.

When an adult educator adopts the field dependent learning with the adult learners then they are more likely to fail to reach their targeted goals. The learners would be less self-directing, wanting more guidance and structure from their instructor and would likely fail to transfer the knowledge learned to practice. The author refers to both his work and that of Thiel to demonstrate some of the weaknesses of the formal classroom settings in dealing with adult learners (Merriam & Bierema, 2013). The classroom setting works better with young children, adolescents, and the undergraduates but is more likely to fail when utilized in adult education.

Motives for learning and implications for practice

Still in chapter 1, the author discusses factors that motivate learning among the adult learners. The author states that when adults teach and learn together, they are more likely to engage in creative, passionate, and challenging activities that improve their interest in learning. These activities involve teaching and learning about each other’s practices, actions, and beliefs. The degree in which the adult learners engage in the free sharing of their ideas, practices, and beliefs demonstrate openness and democracy which are both important in a society that embraces adult education.

Close engagement of the adults especially those from diverse backgrounds in the exploration of practices, beliefs, and ideas improves diversity, creativity, and continuous development of social structures in the community (Brookfield, 1986). Encouraging engagement among the adult learners is one of the most effective ways of ensuring that the society that heads of the society’s institutions are democratic and open in their activities. Institutions offering adult education must ensure that they teach the adults ways of improving openness and democracy for the benefit of everyone in the society.

Learning in informal settings

The discussions under chapter 7 focus on the informal settings. The author sheds light on the importance of adopting informal settings when training adults. Chapter 7 provides a detailed discussion of a number of informal settings and some features that are common in these settings that makes them the most effective educational setting for the adult learners (Merriam, 2018). The settings that range from the women’s education to propriety schools to informal group learning enables adult educators to understand some of the settings considered under informal settings. The focus of discussion is on the settings that utilize the self-directness learning.

It is becoming clearer that unlike in the early childhood education, educators of adult learners do not need to be professional and accredited teachers. Any experienced person in any field could teach adult learners effectively because of their vast experience (Foote, 2015). The desire of the adult learners is to learn new concepts that would improve their situations, unlike in pre-school where the teacher must understand self- control among other things. Self-directed learning enables the adult learners to benefit even from volunteers because they decide on the learning experience and activities that could help the volunteers to follow through and give his best for the benefit of the group.

The discussion in chapter 7 links closely to the discussion in chapter three where the author carefully scrutinized self-directed learning and defined as the efforts of the adult learners to acquire self-insight, knowledge, and skills (Merriam & Bierema, 2013). Knowledge acquisition occurs through experiences that the adult learners are responsible for arranging. This connection between the two chapters and other chapters in the book makes it for any adult educator using the book to understand the main themes discussed in the book.

The continuation of learning in an informal setting in chapter 8 provides more details about informal settings and why institutions should shun formal settings when teaching adults. The focus is on the types of unstructured environments where adult learning sessions occur under the guidance of a trainer or educator (Brookfield, 1986). These environments are mainly those that involve the work of adult trainers, which means that they require careful scrutiny and consideration. The author also provides some of his experiences when he tried to utilize formal settings with the adult learners. This chapter has a direct connection with chapter seven that discusses and analyses the types of informal settings.

The author calls the attention of the adult educators about the trends in adult education. Brookfield mentions that adult education has gained popularity in the recent times and many institutions engage in the provision of adult education services to members of the public (Merriam, 2018). The government also spends a big amount of money in its effort to promote adult education and improve enrolment of adult learners into the schools that provide adult learning services. Studies conducted on the literacy levels among the adults in the American continent shows that there are still many illiterate adults.

Most of adult learners are in need of adult learning services and are willing to invest in such programs. Unfortunately, most of the organization providing adult education fails to adopt the right strategy and instead they use formal settings to teach the adults (Merriam & Bierema, 2013). The chapter admits that there are still many things about adult education that most adult educators do not know. The issue of volunteerism is common in adult education yet many institutions do not realize that volunteers must have valuable experiences to pass to the learners.

When institutions use the right types of volunteers, they adult learners are likely to enjoy the classes because the volunteers compared to the professional teachers would less intimidate them (Brookfield, 1986). Volunteers are more likely to adopt inductive approaches in their teaching because they would utilize the experiences of their learners in building their curriculum and selection of the teaching activities and materials. They would use active learning with the learners instead of focusing only on the general texts available to them. The learning experiences occur in real life, which makes it for adult learners to remember the major concepts.

The author gives examples of an English class where the educator took the adult learners to visit homes, visit the neighborhood in groups, storytelling sessions, humorous skits, and analysis of photographs among others as the main teaching devices. All these experiences provide the learners with memorable experiences that they would be able to apply later in their careers or lives (Merriam, 2018). The Freirean methods involve the use of the same teaching experiences such as the use of cartoons, photographs, drawing, and storytelling to teach the adult learners.

These techniques eliminate the chances of boredom in a training program and increase the concentration of learners. Closely related to having a strong theme in adult training is the effective facilitation of the program that involves adopting appropriate critical inquiry with the adults to engage them further during training (Ozuah, 2016). All the activities should focus on improving all aspects of the learners’ lives.

The skills acquired by the adults must improve their political and social lives as well as the improvement of their instrumental skills. In this manner, adult education must address the social concerns. It is a known fact that most of the illiterate adults come from the working-class groups and face dire economic disadvantage. In continuing professional education (CPE), the author states that CPE has great growth potential in the education sector. Most tertiary educational institutions offer CPE to the adults who seek to improve the academic levels.

Most of the learners already have a background in formal education and are not on illiterates. The main focus areas include mastery of the theoretical knowledge, improved problem-solving capacity, increased practical knowledge, and improved career among other areas (Foote, 2015). The focus areas for this group are mainly performance characteristics. Any learner who pursues these characteristics focus on becomes more effective professionals in their areas of work. The professional development is the immediate need of these learners and it is not possible to achieve the best outcome only with the formal settings.

Most of the learners in this category are more knowledgeable even more than some of their educators. However, they need a good facilitator to help the gain from their own experiences and those of their colleagues (Merriam & Bierema, 2013). Informal settings provide them with real-life experiences they go through daily when they are at their workstations. They need to learn how best to convert the knowledge they already have in real life situations. The aim of the continuing professional education is to enhance professional ideology among the learners. It discourages the normal or nonprofessional’s way of doing things and encourages learners to always ensure professionalism, follow appropriate procedures and always treat other people professionally.

The development and enhancement of the appropriate skills and knowledge among the learners collectively lead to an enhanced sense of critical awareness among the learners (Brookfield, 1986). The last features make it necessary to engage the learners on settings that challenge them to think of how to solve the real-life problems before them as opposed to classwork that mainly focuses on memory and less application.

Conclusion

The themes in each chapter discuss and build upon the class discussion about andragogy. Andragogy is the science and art of assisting the adults to learn and acquire necessary skills and attitudes. Every chapter involves detailed discussion on how to improve the learning experiences and outcomes among the adult learners (Merriam, 2018). The chapters also reaffirm that understanding how adults learn is the first step in assisting adult learners. Since learning involves a change in cognitive or behavior process, the adult educators must seek ways in which the change in behavior would be easier and permanent with their adult learners.

In the week-two class notes, the discussion had focused on the learning process including the physical and mental processes involved. Among the process discussed in the class include expectancy, which is the mental state of the learners. The mental state of the adult learners is different from the young learners hence educators must pay attention to the immediate needs of their learners (Brookfield, 1986). The chapters handle all the processes of perception and organization. Positive reinforcement plays a great role among the adult learners.

These chapters also promote closer engagement among the adult learners to enable them to share ideas and beliefs form their diverse backgrounds. The chapter discussion directly links to the week-three discussion about social learning theory (Merriam & Bierema, 2013). The theory states that individuals learn through their observation of other people in their environment. The use of volunteers and adoption of informal settings improve learning among the adults.

Week-four discussed goal setting by the learners, which has a direct link with the self-directness learning discussed in the chapters. Adult learning must be goal oriented to enable them to meet their training goals (Ozuah, 2016). Generally, these principles in the concept of adult learning would greatly improve the competence of an army trainer because he or she deals with adult learners.

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