I've just changed completely from when I first (entered school). I used to take this little African body and force it into this European square peg. And you know, it didn't work. I kept trying to do it and trying to change who I was and tried to fit in. . . . When I finally decided to be the person that I am, I started feeling more comfortable. (Taylor 1995, p. 84).
Ever since Malcolm Knowles (1970) introduced the concept of learning climate, adult educators have been aware of how the environment affects learning. As reflected in the words of the returning woman student quoted here, however, adults may still find some learning environments to be inhospitable. Rather than learners trying to change who they are so that they will "fit in," adult educators must create learning environments in which all learners can thrive. Following an overview of changing conceptions of adult learning environments, this ERIC Digestdescribes what it means to create an inclusive learning environment, examines some related issues, and presents some guidelines for structuring inclusive learning environments.
Adult Learning Environments: Changing Conceptions
In introducing the concept of learning environment, Knowles (1970) suggested that activities conducted prior to and during the first session could "greatly affect it" (p. 270), including promotional materials and announcements; activities designed to assess learner needs prior to the event; physical arrangements; and the opening session, including greeting, learning activity overview, introductions, and treatment by the instructor. More recently, adult educators are recognizing that factors in the learning environment related to psychological, social...
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...Change, edited by K. Taylor and C. Marienau, pp. 5-12. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, no. 65. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Spring 1995.
Tisdell, E. "Feminism and Adult Learning: Power, Pedagogy and Praxis." In An Update on Adult Learning Theory, edited by S. B. Merriam, pp. 91-103. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, no. 57. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1993a.
Tisdell, E. "Interlocking Systems of Power, Privilege, and Oppression in Adult Higher Education Classes." Adult Education Quarterly 43, no. 4 (Summer 1993b): 203-226.
Tisdell, E. Creating Inclusive Adult Learning Environments: Insights from Multicultural Education and Feminist Pedagogy. Information Series no. 361. Columbus: ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education, Center on Education and Training for Employment, The Ohio State University, 1995.
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