Author Note Heartfelt thanks to Dr. Terre Eversden to have given me an opportunity to present a paper on the Adult Educational Philosophies – Benefits and Challenges & their involvement in real life scenarios or the environment we live in. The paper captures the benefits, challenges and example to each Adult Education Philosophy i. e. Liberal, Behavioral, Humanistic and Progressive. Abstract An adult education philosophy, or philosophical orientation, is the categorization of an individual’s beliefs, values, and attitudes toward adult education and what the purpose and outcome of adult education should be.
In this paper, I shall discuss of Liberal Educational Philosophy, Behaviorist Educational Philosophy, Progressive Educational Philosophy, Humanistic Educational Philosophy and finally Radical Humanistic Philosophy. These are the Adult Educational Philosophies. Benefits and Challenges of each of these philosophies shall be discussed in brief. Keywords: liberal, behaviorist, progressive, humanistic, radical, educational, philosophy Liberal Educational Philosophy
The liberal adult education philosophy stresses the development of intellectual powers. Liberals always seek knowledge. They work to transmit knowledge and clearly direct learning. The educator is the “expert”, and directs the learning process with complete authority. Learning methods used include lecture, study groups, and discussion. Socrates, Plato, and Piaget were practitioners of the liberal philosophy. (Note: Liberal adult education does not refer to liberal political views; it is related to Liberal Arts. ).
According to liberal adult education, “the educated person possesses the four components of a liberal education: rational or intellectual education which involves wisdom, moral values, a spiritual or religious dimension, and an aesthetic sense” (Elias & Merriam, 1995, p. 26). Liberal adult education emphasizes liberal learning, organized knowledge, and the development of the intellectual powers of the mind. It also stresses philosophy, religion, and the humanities over science. The teacher is given a prominent place within this philosophy, and must be well-versed in many intellectual interests.
Liberal adult education employs heavy promotion of theoretical thinking. This philosophy is suited for adult learners because it requires life experience in order to fully gain from the reflection and contemplation involved in liberal education’s goals. To illustrate the significance of this philosophy, Elias and Merriam (1995) write: As long as the human person does these things [searches for truth, desires to develop their moral character, strives for spiritual and religious visions, and seeks the beautiful in life and nature], the liberal tradition in education will be a potent force. (p. 42).
The negatives of liberal approach are not everyone is critical thinkers and problem solvers and their opinions can be swayed by others. Example: A liberal classroom setting is a more traditional environment. In the classroom you my just have a lecture or even break students or adults into study groups to help each other out. Another option is critical reading and discussion. This approach allows students to free themselves from past experience. They are able to prepare themselves for diversity and change. It teacher teaches them to be critical thinkers and problem solvers.
Behaviorist Educational Philosophy A major tenet of behaviorism is the belief that “all human behavior is the result of a person’s prior conditioning and is determined by external forces in the environment over which a person has little or no control” (Elias and Merriam, 1995, p. 79). Because behaviorism fundamentally aims toward individual and societal survival, emphasis is put on skill acquisition and learning how to learn. Thus, the teacher must create an environment that is optimal for bringing about behavior that ensures survival.
The behaviorist adult education philosophy emphasizes the importance of the environment in shaping the learner. The traits of the behaviorist teacher are close to those of the liberal, in that the behaviorist “manages” the learning process and directs learning. Behaviorist concepts include mastery learning and standards-based education. Some teaching methods used by behaviorist educators include programmed instruction, contract learning, and computer guided instruction. Learners are active and able to demonstrate a measurable, learned behavior.
Accountability is an important concept in behaviorism and punctuates that teachers and learners are both accountable for successful learning. Behaviorism is strong in setting clearly defined purposes, learning objectives, and in selecting experiences that work toward those purposes and objectives. Evaluation is valued in assessing the attainment of the behaviors being taught. Vocational training and teacher certifications are both behaviorist practices. Skinner, Thorndike, and Steinberg were believers in the behaviorist philosophical tenet.
Example: A good example of Behaviorist is a coach. If a coach tells you what to do then you have to do it, otherwise you won’t get to play. You must practice the task on hand in order to be successful just like in sports. The teacher has to be a manager who directs the learner outcomes and design the environment. Many teachers must be competency-based teacher. Competency-based focuses on outcomes and has a certain curriculum that teachers have to follow to get the outcome that they want. Progressive Educational Philosophy
The power of progressivism runs deep in American adult education, as stressed by Elias and Merriam (1995): “Progressivism has had a greater impact upon the adult 14 education movement in the United States than any other single school of thought” (p. 45). The progressive philosophy of adult education stresses an experiential, problem-solving approach to learning. Like behaviorism, progressivism sees the goal of education being individual and societal. However, the goal of progressive education is improvement rather than survival, which is achieved through liberating the learner.
There are five basic principles of adult progressive education. The first is a broadened view or concept of education, meaning that education is not restricted to formal, classroom instruction but is a lifelong process influenced by many sectors of society and daily life. The second principle is a new focus on the learner and the potential of that person to learn more than his or her immediate interests. The third principle is the introduction of new instructional methodologies.
Diversifying these teaching methods in turn diversified learner knowledge gained by learning from those methods. The fourth principle is a new teacher-learner relationship that is interactive and reciprocal. The fifth principle is that education is an instrument for preparing learners to change society. Learners of this philosophy need problem solving skills and practical knowledge. They learn by doing, inquiring, being involved in the community, and responding to problems. Teaching methods used in this philosophy include problem solving, the scientific method, and cooperative learning.
The educator is an organizer who guides learning instead of directing learning and evaluates the learning process. Progressive proponents include Spencer, Dewey, and Lindeman Example: Progressive setting is showing someone how to frame a wall while constructing a house and then watching them do it themselves. Progressive is showing someone how to do something and then they do it while you guide them through the task. Training and Development in present organizations follow such type of education. Humanistic Educational Philosophy
Humanistic education aims at the development of people who are open to change and continued learning, people who strive for self-actualization, and people who can live together as fully-functioning individuals. The humanistic philosophy of adult education follows some basic principles such as the following: human nature is naturally good; freedom and autonomy influence behavior; individuality and potentiality are unlimited and should be nurtured; self-concept leads to self-actualization; perception of the world explains behavior; and individuals have a responsibility to humanity.
Foundations of humanistic education lie in the following: the notion of self-concept; that the adult defines himself in terms of the accumulation of a unique set of life experiences; that an adult’s readiness to learn is linked to developmental tasks unique to a stage in life; and that adults desire an immediate application of knowledge. The humanistic adult education philosophy seeks to facilitate personal growth and development. Humanists are highly motivated and self-directed learners; responsibility to learn is assumed by the learner. The humanist educator facilitates learning but does not direct learning.
According to Elias and Merriam (1995), “Humanistic adult educators are concerned with the development of the whole person with a special emphasis upon the emotional and affective dimensions of the personality” (p. 109). The educator and learner are “partners. ” Concepts that define the humanistic philosophy include experiential learning, individuality, self-directedness, and self-actualization. Humanistic teaching methods contain group discussion, team teaching, individualized learning, and the discovery method. Rogers, Maslow, Knowles, and McKenzie are facilitators of the humanistic philosophy.
The challenge is as this concentrates on people’s natural desire to learn, the teacher is a facilitator and students relate to past experience with this approach; however, if there isn’t mutual respect between the students and teacher this method will probably fail. Radical Educational Philosophy The radical adult education philosophy promotes extreme social, political, and economic change through education. Radical education does not work within existing social norms or structures, but strives to change those structures. Within this philosophy, the educator and learner are equal partners in the learning process.
The educator is the coordinator of the class and makes suggestions but does not direct the learning process. This philosophy embraces concepts such as noncompulsory learning and deschooling. Exposure to the media and people in real life situations are considered effective teaching methods. Holt, Freire, and Illich are proponents of the radical adult education philosophy. Radicalism falls outside the realm on mainstream adult education philosophy, mainly because the purposes of many adult education activities are not parallel with the purposes of radical adult education. Identification of Adult Education Philosophical Orientation