As teachers and providers of education, it is of great importance that we are aware of the theories of human development; understand learning styles, the learner and their individual differences and motivation. We need to examine what these theories/ideas mean to us as teachers, and the implications it has on the student as we practice these ideas as educators. Focusing on selected learning theories and implementing teaching strategies to suit the individual’s needs will often increase the learner’s ability to learn, but we need to be aware of our own philosophies of adult education and how it affects us as adult educators.
After completing the ‘Philosophy of adult education inventory chart’, I became aware of my own orientation towards adult education which is Progressive Adult Education (79 points) closely followed by Liberal Adult Education (78 points). The results of this inventory do not surprise me considering the type of subjects and students I teach, and the way I learnt myself.
Part A and B (answered both parts together)
Zinn’s philosophy of adult education Inventory (PAEI) is based on five philosophical tenets. It is an assessment tool developed to help educators identify their personal philosophy. There is no right or wrong educational philosophy; rather, the inventory tool is designed to mirror some of the participant’s beliefs. The five philosophies are liberal, behaviourist, progressive, humanistic and radical.
The purpose of the liberal philosophy is to develop strong intellectual powers. These are the people who are always seeking knowledge. They admire the educator seeing them as the expert who directs the learning process with complete authority. It is easier to teach as the students listen carefully and do what is required of them. To bring these people to their greatest potential, we should use methods such as lectures, study groups and discussions. This is one of the most common methods. (Zinn 1983, p.1)
The behaviourist philosophy promotes behavioural change, which in turn, ensures that society’s standards and expectations are met and upheld. This philosophy is strongly influenced by the environment. The behaviourist teacher manages the learning process directs it. These educators usually employ methods such as programmed instruction, contract learning and computer guided instruction. (Zinn 1983, p.1)
The progressive philosophy is concerned with the well being of society as well as an individual’s role in society. The learners of this philosophy have good solving skills and practical knowledge. When teaching learners of this philosophy, we should include methods problem solving, scientific method and cooperative learning. The educator evaluates the learning process, and guides rather than directs the students. (Zinn 1983, p.1)
The humanistic philosophy facilitates personal growth and development. These humanists are highly motivated and direct themselves to learn. The responsibility to learn is assumed by the learner. The educator facilitates the learning but will not guide them. Both the learner and the educator become partners, helping one another to learn and to teach. Concepts that help us define the humanistic philosophy include experimental learning, individuality, self-directed and self-actualization. The teaching methods for this include group discussion, team teaching, individualized learning and the discovery method. (Zinn 1983, p.1)
The last philosophy is radical which promotes social, political and economic change through education. The educator and the learner become equal partners in the learning process. The educator only coordinates the class and will make suggestions but will not direct the learning process. Non-compulsory learning and de-schooling are some of the concepts of this particular philosophy. People in real life situations and exposure to the media are considered effective teaching methods for this philosophy. (Zinn 1983, p.1)
I believe that the nature of the subject of metal fabrication and welding influenced my teaching practice. Whilst there are definitely advantages to students in experiencing experimental learning, freedom, individuality and self-directedness, this is not an appropriate approach to learning in welding, because of the obvious OH&S hazards. Reinforcement of health and safety issues is essential with the use of welding equipment and fabrication machinery. Keeping a tight rein on students using this equipment is essential. The philosophy of liberal adult education, where the teacher is the expert transmitter of knowledge and clearly directs the learning process, is needed for a safe learning environment.
I believe that learners possess different learning abilities and that the learning styles will vary with each individual. Something that I believe to be common among each learner is the ‘desire’ to learn, and to be involved in the process from cradle to grave of the endeavor. To this extent, I believe that learners are not only responsible for their learning, but also welcome the responsibility. Understanding these complexities and the diversity between learners, I continually develop new tools that provide learners with opportunities. I create dilemmas for learners so they may learn to apply the knowledge that they have gained to given situations. I believe in providing and requesting feedback to open the lines of communication to the point of creating effective dialogue between learners and teachers. The blending of the two becoming apparent as we begin to teach each other new methods of both learning and educating. I encourage critical thought and reflection as well as its evidence in forms that each learner develops. I promote open-mindedness to varying viewpoints and provide to the students not the lesson of conclusion, but the lessons of continuance in regards to learning.
I believe in developing an environment in which learners may share their resources to meet their needs, overcome issues and to deal with being a dedicated learner. I believe in flexible conditions, creating an inclusive rather than an exclusive learning environment.
The environment that I create for the adult learners begin with a formal ‘needs assessment’ of the adults, which measures their comfortableness and competency with the subject at hand. This provides me with the definition of the parameters of the course content, the ability to develop challengers for those with certain mastery of the subject, and the ability to create an environment for those who need to develop initial understandings and skills related to learning the subject. It provides learners with opportunities which coincide with their given situation and level of competency within their subject and their individual starting point.
Having the opportunity to teach in various locations around the Broken Hill district I have experienced many variations in the study of human development and their standards of education. I use a variety of strategies in delivering education while teaching in places such as Broken Hill, Wilcannia, Ivanhoe, Menindee, and the outlying stations, where unemployment is high and self esteem low. Teaching many people with different cultures, religions, ages and genders in places of education such as schools, corrective service centre and technical colleges has had a major influence on my philosophy towards Progressive Adult Education.
These students know that the teacher clearly directs the learning process (traditional); but the purpose, methods, and concepts have all been taught using the progressive adult philosophy. Students in these groups do not respond well when direct orders are given. Instead of giving the orders, I change the teaching style to a facilitator of learning approach, with problem solving. I believe that for learners to get the most out of the learning process, they must want to learn, have an interest in the subject and be able to link what they are learning, to prior knowledge and relate what they are learning to current industry practice. I use examples of common objects not directed at welding to link in with their way of thinking, (prior knowledge). Students with difficulty in learning can visualize what I am talking about for example, an ‘Aero chocolate bar’, when it is broken in half the inside resembles a welding fault as in MIG welding.
Teaching on rural properties provided me with experience in learner’s motivation. These highly motivated students were there to gain as much practical knowledge as possible in a short period of time. Once there welds were near compete they were ready for the next. Links between practice welds and how it was relevant to their surrounding area had to be provided. These people were the why, where and when with questions such as ‘How are the welds relevant to their needs?’, ‘What’s in it for me?’, and ‘Why do I need to know this?’ were commonly asked.
Wilcannia is a place where learning past one’s believed abilities opens the door of the mind, airing out cultural, experiential, or stagnated behavioral patterns, lending the tools of discovery, experience and understanding. Here my class of eight aboriginal students were taught while in their natural environment, outdoors and under large pepper trees. The chalkboard classroom was deleted; theory was kept to the essentials and given verbally under the pepper trees. Practical and theory were joined together to achieve a more hands on approach to learning.
Zinn (1990, p.56) says that ‘life philosophy is rarely static or inflexible; beliefs change to accommodate new needs and experience’. A study from McKenzie (1985, p.18) found significant differences in all five philosophical orientations while comparing business trainers, religious educators, and adult education graduate students. A group of undergraduate students scored higher in the liberal orientation because of their lack of experience, which has not allowed them an opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge outside the university. However graduate students scored higher in the progressive orientation because of their teaching experience in teaching practical skills like problem solving. Despite the differences in age and years of experience between the two groups in this study, these students can identify, clarify, and reflect upon their educational beliefs and values. Individuals must remember that when they enter an existing institution, they begin to express views within that institution, and speak a common language. In time, the undergraduate students will have gained experience and should then repeat the philosophy of adult education inventory to see if their views have changed (McKenzie 1985, p.18).
Wingenbach (1996, p.2) states that in a study of students enrolled in his class he found significant differences between gender and the Behaviourist and Radical orientations. All females were found to have higher mean scores than males in the Radical philosophical orientation. In the Behaviourist orientation, female graduates had higher mean scores than the male graduates, except in the undergraduate group where the males had higher mean scores.
The relationship between identifying a specific adult education philosophy and secondary school education should be an important educational factor. Youth and adults differ greatly in their preferred learning styles and educational environments. If teachers can accept these basic differences, then the teaching methods, procedures, activities, learning environments and evaluations must differ also for adult audiences. There remains the question of whether actual differences do exist when secondary teachers teach adults? Previous research shows that significant differences do exist between educators when compared by years of experience and/or gender and educational level (Wingenbach1996, p.2)
Maturity and development of me as a teacher in years will come, along with the change in my own philosophy from liberal orientation towards humanistic orientation. The implementation of competency based training in our vocational education system has changed the teacher delivery style from a transmitter of knowledge (liberal) towards a facilitator of learning (humanistic). As I develop into a teacher I will have a better understanding of the student’s individual needs and learning styles, allowing for a more self-directed approach.
My learning orientation is one of questioning, attending, listening, formulating new questions and understanding. I see my teaching as part of an ongoing process of self development and an opportunity to contribute positively to the development of others. I try to make my classes a place where students can encounter new information, can think new thoughts, can have their world views challenged and broadened and can venture out into new avenues of expression and experience. As an educator, I believe that my place in the education system is to help students in their own individual development to help them develop knowledge of how to work with their own great inner capacity and to assist them in realizing their own personal potential.
The Philosophy of Adult Education Inventory (PAEI) is a very good guide to methods used when teaching adults. It allows us to recognise and categorize our students into the different philosophy groups. By doing this we are realizing the student’s potential. This helps the educators because it gives us insight into how each student is best taught. This also lets us be the best teachers that we can be, allowing students to reach their full potential, regardless of age.
McKenzie, L. (1985). Philosophical orientations of adult educators. Lifelong learning: An omnibus of practice and research, 9 (1), 18-20
Wingenbach, G. J. (1996, May). The philosophy of adult education inventory (PAEI) revisited. In W Camp (Chair) Proceedings of the Eastern Region Agricultural Education Research Conference, 50, 67-74.
Zinn, L. (1990) Identifying your philosophical orientation, and Philosophy of adult education inventory.
Zinn, L. (1983) Zinns Philosophical Tenets Practiced by Adult Educators
Retrieved 12th June, 2005.