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Many writers in the field of adult education have developed guiding principles to assist adult education practitioners facilitate learner-centred education. Rhonda Wynne has compiled a composite of some of these principles:
1. Involve adults in program planning and implementation
Including learners in the planning and implementing of their learning activities is considered to be a hallmark of adult education. Their participation can begin with the needs assessment process where group members establish the programme goals and objectives. It is a widely held belief that people will make firm commitments to activities in which they feel they participated and contributed to the planning. Mutual planning of both curriculum, learning objectives, resources, assessment and evaluation methods encourages student participation in, and engagement with, the learning process.
2. Create a physical and social climate of respect
Create a climate that encourages and supports learning. The classroom environment should be characterised by trust and mutual respect among teachers and learners. It should enhance learner self-esteem. Supporting and encouraging learning does not mean that the environment is free of conflict. It does mean that when conflict occurs, it is handled in a way that challenges learners to acquire new perspectives and supports them in their efforts to do so. Adults will generally learn best in an atmosphere that is non-threatening and supportive of experimentation and in which different learning styles are recognised.
3. Encourage collaborative modes of learning
Foster a spirit of collaboration in the learning setting. Collaboration in the adult classroom is frequently founded on the idea that the roles of teachers and learners can be interchangeable. Although teachers have the overall responsibility for leading a learning activity, adult learning is a co-operative enterprise that respects and draws upon the knowledge that each person brings to the learning setting.
4. Include and build on the student's experiences in the learning process
Develop an understanding of learners' experiences and communities. Draw upon learners' experiences as a resource. Not only do adult learners have experiences that can be used as a foundation for learning new things but also, in adulthood, readiness to learn frequently stems from life tasks and problems. The particular life situations and perspectives that adults bring to the classroom can provide a rich reservoir for learning.
5. Foster critically reflective thinking
Adult learning is facilitated when teaching activities do not demand finalised, correct answers and closure; express a tolerance for uncertainty, inconsistency, and diversity; and promote both question-asking and -answering, problem-finding and problem-solving.
6. Include learning that involves examination of issues and concerns, transforms content into problem situations, and necessitates analysis and development of solutions
Develop and/or use instructional materials that are based on students' lives. An important part of the participatory approach is using instruction that reflects the context of students' lives. Sometimes referred to as contextualised learning, this instruction--and the instructional materials--draw on the actual experiences, developmental stages, and problems of the learners to integrate academic content with real-life problems. Furthermore, it has the advantage of integrating academic skills; rather than focusing on learning academic subjects separately, promoting learning in ways that are meaningful to the student ensures that the classroom becomes more authentic because adults learn to use skills in real-life situations.
7. Generate a participative environment
Incorporate small groups into learning activities. Groups promote teamwork and encourage co-operation and collaboration among learners. Structured appropriately, they emphasise the importance of learning from peers, and they allow all participants to be involved in discussions and to assume a variety of roles.
8. Encourage self-directed learning
Cultivate self-direction in learners. Self-direction is considered by some to be a characteristic of adulthood but not all adults possess this attribute in equal measure. In addition, if adults have been accustomed to teacher-directed learning environments, they may not display self-directedness in adult learning settings. Adult learning should be structured to nurture the development of self-directed, empowered adults.
Compiled and adapted from:
Adult Learning Online - T. Dewar (Archived)
Rhonda Wynne is Tutor Development Manager in UCD’s Adult Education Department
To search for an evening course please click on this link – National Education Database
For further information on adult education, please visit - www.ucd.ie/adulted/