Adult learning began to be viewed as a separate field of learning in the 1970’s, when nontraditional students prompted by social context, demographics and technology began to seek continuing education or higher education in record numbers. Androgogy, a theory of learning proposed by Malcolm Knowles, “became a rallying point for those trying to define the field of adult education as separate from other areas of education” (Merriam, Caffarala, & Baumgartner, 2007, p. 85). Attempting to distinguish adult learning from preadult learning, Knowles based his theory on a set of six assumptions that he believed were fundamental to the design of educational programs for adults (Merriam,et al., 2007, p. 84). Those six assumptions are that adults are self-directing, possess a reservoir of experience as a resource for, have a readiness to learn based on his social role, need to apply knowledge learned immediately, are intrinsically motivated and need a reason for learning new things (Merriam, et al., p. 84). Androgogy is “a set of assumptions about adult learners that learners and educators alike can use to strengthen the learning transaction” (Merriam, et al., 2007, p. 104).
The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate how my experience in a traditional learning context did not facilitate learning and would have been different if my teachers, fellow learners and I had employed the six assumptions of Knowles’s framework.
Traditional Learning Context
I worked for a couple of years as an insurance agent, selling health insurance products as well as life and long term disability insurance products. Since insurance sales is such a highly regulated field, mandatory training sessions were conducted frequently. Since sale...
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... happens when adults are treated as preadults in a learning environment. Not only is learning suppressed, but so is self- esteem. I left each weekly meeting/training session thinking of myself as lacking the necessary skills to become an effective sales person, and eventually left the field. I could not embrace the required methodology much less tolerate those lengthy meetings throughout which I felt I was being belittled and brainwashed. After some time and reflection and enjoyment of other successful endeavors, I realize I could have been an exceptional sales agent if I had been allowed to process information in my own way and develop my practice with the benefit of different insights and perspectives.
Merriam, S., Caffarella, R., & Baumgartner, L. (2007). Learning in adulthood: A comprehensive guide (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
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