Engaging Adult Learners Essay

2549 words - 11 pages

Since as far back as the 1940’s, psychologists and philosophers had a theory that adults had particular ways in which they learned. Researchers believed that the practice and education should reflect these particulars in order to properly engage adults. This paper will go into the theory behind adult learning and a few influential people behind the theories. It will look at learner centered approaches to adult learning. This paper will also define the different learning styles as well as how to engage those learning styles. For the purpose of this paper an adult is defined as an individual in the age range of 18 or older, someone who has really started to experience life.

Adult Learning Theory
Adult learning has been studied by numerous philosophers and psychologists for years. Up until the 1970’s most of the theories of adult learning derived from psychology. One of the most important people to study Adult Education is, “James Robbins Kidd”. James Robbins Kidd published over 20 books and at least one thousand articles, reports, and papers. But of all his books, the one that was particularly important is, “How Adults Learn” which was published in 1959. It was later revised in 1973 and became a standard in the field.
James Kidd was thought of as a pioneer when it came to educational studies. Since James Kidd graduated high school at the age of 17, he dedicated his life to the study of education. After his first degree in 1938 he worked for the YMCA (from Canada to New York) in numerous positions while completing two additional degrees at McGill University. In the 1940’s he saw the increase in technology as a tool to further push his ideas of education through the use of radio and then into film and television. By the time James Robbins Kidd died in 1982 he earned eight degrees in education and worked in multiple positions from Secretary of the YMCA in Montreal, Canada in 1935, to Treasurer International Council for Adult Education in 1979 of which he served until his death in 1982.

Another major influential person that studied adult learning is Malcolm Knowles. Malcolm Knowles earned his first degree in 1934 from Harvard University. Just like, James Robbins Kidd, Knowles worked in numerous positions at the YMCA (in Boston and Detroit). It is there that Malcolm Knowles first took notice that adults didn’t learn as well using traditional teaching methods. Malcolm Knowles believed very much in the concept known as “Andragogy”. Although he did not conceive that concept, (since it has been around since the 1830’s) he adopted the concept and introduced it to English language readers. He defined andragogy as "the art and science of helping adults learn" (Zmeyov 1998; Fidishun 2000). Knowles had his own assumptions about andragogy and believed that there were five characteristics about adult learning that differed from child learners. Malcolm Knowles believed that Self-concept, Readiness to learn, Orientation to learn, Experience,...

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