Adult Learning Philosophies and Strategies

Research has shown that to effectively teach adults, it is important to make careful considerations that allow for departure from rote schooling methods that children often experience in classrooms. Several philosophers on adult education have concluded that a change in perspective is necessary to facilitate successful learning later in life. Mezirow (1981), a sociologist and professor of adult and continuing education, noted in his work on transformative learning that adults in particular needed to have much more self-motivation than young people and needed to understand the connection to the purpose of their project. This involved focusing not just on the immediate tasks that can be accomplished with the information learned, but the ability of the adults to share this knowledge with others and use it for multiple tasks that served a higher purpose. Focusing on projects equired learning a full and comprehensive background of material rather than just easy ways to complete tasks, leading to a more thorough understanding. Based on these ideas, others have suggested that the topics being taught are integrated, or interrelated on some level to encourage understanding beyond memorization(Eisenberg, Johnson, 1996)This shifting perspective not only has potential to change how people view their education, but also how they live their life. In “Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” Paulo Freire (1970) offers a similar idea, which states that the form of education where teachers simply deposit information to the students is ineffective and contributes to the oppression that resulted in their lack of knowledge in the first place. Instead, the result of “education” should be an increased desire by students to learn, resulting in a process where the students seek to teach themselves. Freire argued that brought about fear, self-doubt, and a sense of alienation, thus it is important for adults to learn in groups, so that there would be solidarity and support among the group while perspectives and relationships change (Mezirow, 1981). When technology is the focus of teaching, working hands-on in groups has also been shown to reduce the anxiety that can come from working with something that is new and different (Geddes, 2006). To increase the likelihood that adults will successfully gain knowledge, it is important to have instilled a larger purpose in the learning process that relates to impacting the whole community through creating opportunities for others to learn and advance useful, practical skills.

An alternative approach to rote memorization is project-based learning, which involves applying knowledge to practical tasks to develop meaningful methods for solving problems (Kraichik and Blumenfeld, 2006). Christensen’s “Community-Engaged Teaching: A Project-Based Model” utilized “visual, written, and verbal methods” to appeal to all types of learners, and ensured that peer learning, integration, and comfort were achieved during their project (Christensen, 2015). Another 2015 study showed that students learning through doing projects retained more material than other students, and also understood the topics more thoroughly in the specific group that was tested (Tatzl, 2015). It was also found that the independence afforded by project-based learning was very beneficial, which was an important factor in project sustainability. Working through a project-based environment also helped to make the purpose of the project more easily seen and provided further motivation to learn. Project-based learning is beneficial in meeting the needs of people, allowing knowledge to be more easily transferable into a large community. This encourages greater skill development, creates purposeful learning, and ensures lasting benefits.