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Philosophy of Adult Learning

Education is the formal term for survival. All creatures whether animal or human, on planet earth are educated within their learning communities. The behaviorist theories are the backbone to education. They have three basic assumptions about the learning process. 1. The observable behavior focuses on study – Learning is manifested by a change in behavior. Second the environment shapes behavior, what one learns is determined by the elements in the environment not by the individual learner. 3 the principles of contiguity and reinforcement are central to explaining the learning process (Grippin and Peters, 1984, pg 278).
Animals are taught to survive in their environment and the learning process is repetitive. The animal continues to repeat the task until it is mastered. If the animal does not learn how to hunt then it will die.

Human beings learn on a higher learning platform than animals. We can reflect on how we learn and propose theories and models to further understand educating each other. From the prospective as and educator for adults, learning starts with the individual who is willing to learn and the instructor who guides his student to learn. Brookfield stated education is a dialogue among equals, endeavor in cooperative learning. Through dialogue, students are helped to name, honor, and understand their own experiences ( pg. 208).

Knowles identifies the characteristics of the adult learner as autonomous and self directed. 1. They need to be free to direct themselves. 2. Adults have accumulated a foundation of life experiences and knowledge that may include work- related activities, family responsibilities and previous education. I can reflect on my own experiences as a student and how those experiences inform my teaching. Research indicates that my teaching is most closely informed by my own experiences as a student (even more so than my pre-service training). The practice of drawing on these experiences the positive and the negative, provide important insights regarding how I view education.

Educators must have the ability to actively involve students in learning but first as instructors, be involved in your own learning. Provide students with meaningful ways of becoming involved in learning, both inside and outside the classroom. If students are going to be committed to education, instructors must demonstrate a commitment ourselves. The classroom represents smaller communities of learning which both faculty and student participate. Involvement in those communities can serve as a vehicle for further involvement in the life of the institution. Education first starts at home then into the classroom and the communities.
Through reflection and critique, my philosophy on education engages on various areas of adult learning such as: self reflective writing or journaling can be done to explore the process of identity development and how to react to different events or people. Brookfield states keeping a teaching log helps us learn much more about our assumptions than if we just tried to list them (pg. 72).

The Good Practice Audit by Stephen Brookfield is a philosophy, which invites critique from colleagues, and accept it openly. Their feedback allows the instructor the time and responsibility to process and consider it fully then develop my own plan based on the information given to me by my colleagues. Building a coalition with teachers who are different from me (in terms of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, religion, first language, disability, and other identities) can be a valuable relationships of trust and honest critique.

Education should create an impact on a student's life and an educator must be aware of the biases and prejudices they carry into the classroom. Brookfield stated as we think about why we teach, and about why we teach in the particular way that we do, we try to ground our practice in core democratic values such as justice, fairness, and compassion. Teaching democratically means that we as instructors make an effort to create conditions under which all voices can speak and be heard and in which educational processes are seen to be open to genuine negotiation (pg. 44 and 45).

Education should be color-blind and prevent people from validating what stereotypical images they were taught. An instructor before going into a classroom must address being open and honest about how you as an instructor view different ethnic groups.

Recognizing that social identity group may affect students' experiences and learning processes, as teachers we must acknowledge that people do not always experience learning the same way, therefore, using different learning tools to address our students needs are important. An example of one such tool can be the Critical Incident Questionnaire. Using CIQ helps teachers detect early in a course any serious problems that need addressing before the problem get out of hand. The CIQ provide account of students experiences and make teachers aware of situations with their teaching methods. It also gives the teacher information about whether a student is ready for the pace and content of the class. Inviting critique from my students and actively listening shows a willingness to change.

An educator should come to terms with the population of students that he or she teach. Grow's Instructional Model on self directed learning is a concept that can bring a clear understanding of how adults learn. Learners in the vocational setting learn in stages. Grow’s 4 stages reflect my interpretation of how the vocational learning community function.
Stage 1. Dependent learner: Learner of low self direction who need an authority figure to tell them what to do.
Stage 2. Interested learner: Learner of moderate self direction who are motivated and confident but largely ignorant of the subject matter to be learned.
Stage 3. Involved learner: Learner of intermediate self direction who have both the skill and the basic knowledge and view themselves as being both ready and able to explore a specific subject area with a good guide.
Stage 4. Self directed learner: Learners of high self direction who are both willing and able to plan, execute, and evaluate their own learning with or without the help of an expert.
All of Grow's stages are tools to guide an instructor on what the pace of the class should be. The 4 stages reaffirm the principles that everyone learns on a different level and their experiences play considerable importance in how the individual learn.
Explaining educational philosophy calls for critical reflection and the use of theories and models from experts. According to Kolb (2007) learning is a continuous process grounded in experience and knowledge is continuously derived and tested out in the experiences of the learner.


Brookfield, S. (2000). Adult Cognition as a Dimension of Lifelong Learning. Eds J. Field &.M. Leicester. Philadelphia, PA: Falmer Press

Kolb, A.Y. & Kolb, D.A. (2007). Experiential Learning Theory Bibliography: RecentResearch (2005-2007)

Merriam, S., B., Caffarella R.,S., Baumgartner, L.,M., (2007). Learning in Adulthood. A Comprehensive Guide Third Edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

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