Essay PreviewMore ↓
Popular education is a form of adult education that encourages learners to examine their lives critically and take action to change social conditions. It is "popular" in the sense of being "of the people." Popular education emerged in Latin America in the 1960s-1970s; Paulo Freire is its best known exponent. However, its roots may be found in the French Revolution, in workers' education of the 1920s-1930s, and in such movements as the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee (Beder 1996; Jeria 1990). The goal of popular education is to develop "people's capacity for social change through a collective problem-solving approach emphasizing participation, reflection, and critical analysis of social problems" (Bates 1996. pp. 225-226). Key characteristics of popular education are as follows: everyone teaches and learns, so leadership is shared; starting with learners' experiences and concerns; high participation; creation of new knowledge; critical reflection; connecting the local to the global; and collective action for change (Arnold et al. 1985; Mackenzie 1993). This digest describes popular education methods, addresses challenges, and offers some insights for adult educators.
The Popular Education Process
Because it is strongly community based, popular education takes a wide variety of forms. However, the process usually follows a pattern or cycle described as action/reflection/action (Arnold and Burke 1983) or practice/theory/practice (Mackenzie 1993). Beginning with people's experience, the community initiates problem identification; then they reflect on and analyze the problem, broadening it from local to global in order to develop theory; next, participants plan and carry out action for change. Adult educators can facilitate the process by serving as democratic collaborators who ensure that learning takes place and leadership and self-direction develop in the group (Arnold and Burke 1983). Facilitators keep the group on track and encourage participation, but they should also try to foster a longer-term perspective on the problems addressed, helping the group place the issues in social, historical, and political context (Bates 1996).
One important aspect of popular education is the way it often draws on popular culture, using drama, song, dance, poetry, puppetry, mime, art, storytelling, and other forms. Proulx (1993) distinguishes "popular culture" from cultural institutions often perceived as elitist and from instruments of mass culture such as the media, identifying popular cultural forms as those in which "working class adults recognize their life and their values" (p. 39). The use of these forms can enhance communication among audiences with
How to Cite this Page
"Adult Education for Social Change." 123HelpMe.com. 29 Feb 2020
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- Adult Education: Social Change or Status Quo. Some believe that adult education was focused on a mission of social change in its formative years as a field in the 1920s. As it evolved and became institutionalized, the field became preoccupied with professionalization. More recently, emphasis on literacy and lifelong learning in a changing workplace has allied it with the agenda of economic competitiveness. This Digest examines the debate over the mission of adult education: is it to transform individuals or society.... [tags: Argumentative Pesuasive Papers]
1717 words (4.9 pages)
- It is my conviction that the noble profession of instructing teachers is the greatest, most powerful contributor to nation building. Teachers, within the school system, have the responsibility of imparting knowledge, acting as agents of socialization, creating responsible, productive members of society and guiding students towards the achievement of their goals. It is, therefore, important that great emphasis be placed on training teachers, since in education teachers are viewed as significant contributors to the quality of students produced.... [tags: Andragogy, adult instructor, school system]
1170 words (3.3 pages)
- Volunteering and Adult Learning "The history of adult education has been a history of voluntary activity and voluntary association" (Ilsley 1989, p. 100). Today, volunteerism, and the growing field of volunteer management, continue to reflect close associations with adult education. Research and practice in adult education can inform the development of learning opportunities for volunteers. With this in mind, this Digest describes some of the similarities between the fields of volunteer management and adult education and examines some of the types and methods of learning that occur in the context of volunteering.... [tags: Volunteer Adult Education Educational Papers]
1805 words (5.2 pages)
- Adult Educators From ancient times to Post modern times learning has been the most rivaled dialogue. Education has been a historical perspective and the underlying theme for individual and social evolution. Education in its broadest since (i.e. formal, informal, social, cultural, philosophical, teaching, training and instructing) is a course of action by which we transmit its accumulated values, skills and knowledge. Philosophical debate on the formulation of knowledge still exists today. Grundspenskis (2007) insists personal knowledge is the process that an individual needs to carry out in order to gather, classify, store, search and retrieve knowledge in his/her daily activities.... [tags: adult Education, teachers, teacing]
1330 words (3.8 pages)
- First Subtopic: The History and Conceptualization of Andragogy Edward Lindeman is thought by many to be the founder of contemporary adult education. His work in the area of adult education included the writing of articles, books, public presentations, assistance in the collegiate system as a lecturer of social work and as an associate pastor in the church (Brookfield 1986). Lindeman and Martha Anderson traveled to observe and analyze the German Folk High School system and the worker’s movement. Consequently, Lindeman and Anderson’s comparative research lead to the breakthrough of the German perception of andragogy.... [tags: Theory of Adult Learning ]
1327 words (3.8 pages)
- Today, when I revisit the history of adult education in America, I recall several educational programs that have taken place and how these historical educational programs have molded lifelong learning in adult education. The history of adult education in America is a very compound subject that has my full appreciation for its richness and diversity. I am a product of lifelong learning and have benefited from the transitions that have taken place over the years. I have selected three diverse educational programs within the history of adult education: (1) General Education Development Program (GED) (2) Higher Learning and (3) Distance Learning.... [tags: Higher education, High school, Education]
1648 words (4.7 pages)
- As we know, human being keep learning though all their lives, Sometimes I am thinking how we adult learning. In this book, I found them--some related concepts about adult learning and ways to Self-Direct Learning(SDL). Before reading this book. I already knew what is the adult learner is. In China, students who are over 18 years old are the adult in General Principles Of the Civil Law. In some perspectives, University education can be called adult education. It is new for me to learn this knowledge, so I chose the first eight chapters of the textbook.... [tags: Educational psychology, Motivation, Learning]
1459 words (4.2 pages)
- A Principles of Adult Learning Scale and Philosophy of Adult Education Inventory are two assessments that helps you understand your strengths and weaknesses as a leaner. Your scores from both assessments helps you gravitate towards which educational philosophy that best suits you. Before taking the assessments I had no idea that there were different teaching styles. There are five different philosophy categories of Adult Education. The five philosophies of adult education are Liberal Adult Education, Behavior Adult Education, Progressive Adult Education, Humanistic Adult Education and Radical Adult Education.... [tags: Psychology, Learning, Education]
1151 words (3.3 pages)
- Trauma and Adult Learning Effects of Trauma on Learning Adults experiencing the effects of past or current trauma may display such symptoms as difficulty beginning new tasks, blame, guilt, concern for safety, depression, inability to trust (especially those in power), fear of risk taking, disturbed sleep, eroded self-esteem/confidence, inability to concentrate, or panic attacks (Mojab and McDonald 2001). Some people may manifest no symptoms; at the other end of the spectrum is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, characterized by flashbacks, avoidance, numbing of responsiveness (including substance abuse), persistent expectation of danger, constriction (dissociation, zoning out), and memory im... [tags: Adult Education Learning Essays]
2146 words (6.1 pages)
- Adult Literacy Education: Emerging Directions in Program Development The one-size-fits-all programming for [adult literacy students] that has predominated in the past should not and indeed cannot continue in the future if practitioners are to be responsive to learners' needs. Rather, practitioners must meaningfully assist adults in learning to read not only the word but their world. (Sissel 1996, p. 97). "Why don't more adults take advantage of available opportunities to improve their basic skills?" is one of the more perplexing questions confronting the field of adult basic and literacy education.... [tags: Adult Learning Educate School Essays]
1901 words (5.4 pages)
Arnold and Burke (1983) recommend the use of a variety of techniques for popular education, based on the assumption that learning is most effective if participation is active, different learning styles are addressed, content is relevant to learners' lives, learners are treated as equals, and the learning process is enjoyable. Examples include theatre--participants act out a situation from real life experience using words, movement, gestures, and props; drawing--which appeals to those with a strong visual learning style and helps crystalize or symbolize ideas; and sculpturing--people physically position themselves in ways that depict their understanding of an issue or theme.
Challenges to Popular Education
Popular education is often seen as different from, threatening to, or marginalized by dominant institutions. Popular educators thus face a number of challenges illustrated in the examples that follow (Beder 1993; Walters and Manicom 1996): the demands or constraints of funding sources (Zacharakis-Jutz, Heaney, and Horton 1991); perceptions of the role of facilitators (Merideth 1994; Zacharakis-Jutz et al. 1991); disconnection between program goals and participant objectives (Stromquist 1997); failure to address gender issues (ibid.); and the perception that popular education is too radical or revolutionary (ibid.).
Describing how university-based adult educators can play a role in facilitating community learning, Zacharakis-Jutz et al. (1991) give examples of successful and unsuccessful popular education efforts at the Lindeman Center at Northern Illinois University. Instead of acting as experts, educators demonstrated their view of the community as co-researchers and co-learners by assisting public housing residents in developing their own capacity for leadership and their own knowledge about tenant management. On the other hand, an attempt to develop an intergenerational home repair cooperative in an impoverished neighborhood failed because facilitators neglected community-based needs assessment and strategy development and because a city agency that provided funding imposed "top-down" decision making and insisted on selecting participants.
Facilitators of Casa en Casa, a project in an Hispanic health clinic, sought to train community volunteers to be health promoters in their neighborhoods. However, volunteers did not assume leadership roles or organize for collective action because they received no orientation to the purpose of training or the role of promoters. Training emphasized content knowledge but not the skills to use it for community action. Overly concerned with imposing their own agenda, project facilitators abdicated their responsibility to guide the learning process. As Merideth puts it, "starting where the people are does not mean staying there" (p. 365).
A popular education program in Paulo Freire's own city, São Paulo, Brazil, sought to develop citizenship for the radical transformation of political and social structures through literacy education (Stromquist 1997). However, civic and political content was infrequently addressed and discussions were not always tied to learners' understanding of how the subjects affected their lives. "There was a substantial disjunction between efforts to make them discuss political issues in class and the type of political discourse they engaged in in daily life" (p. 114). Although most of the facilitators and participants were women, the program did not explicitly address gender issues.
Although the overall objective was increasing citizen participation, this goal was not strongly connected to the objectives of participants, many of whom were primarily interested in social interaction or satisfaction of personal needs. Ultimately, the program encountered--and was terminated by--a major obstacle of popular education: opposition of political groups threatened by an agenda of social change.
Insights for Adult Educators
How can adult educators address these challenges to popular education? Stromquist (1997) recommends that community needs and goals should form the basis for a popular education agenda and that facilitators should be trained in critical dialogue that blends political content with instructional practices and connects the issues with participants' immediate reality.
Beder (1993) maintains that "power is a critical resource . . . because change cannot be accomplished without power" (p. 80). However, power must be owned by the group, but exercised by individuals on behalf of it. Facilitators should neither impose an agenda nor abdicate responsibility. They should recognize that merely incorporating participatory learning techniques and democratic structures does not necessarily enable people to challenge their internalized beliefs and develop critical abilities, and they should have a clear vision of social change and how their work fits into the broader picture (Merideth 1994). Zacharakis-Jutz et al. (1991) conclude that the role of university-based educators is not to precipitate action but to support actions the community takes on its own behalf. They suggest finding ways in which university resources can work for the community.
Merideth (1994) notes how popular education programs may be constrained by the mandates and regulations of funding sources. Heaney (1992) reinforces the pitfalls associated with public funding, suggesting that popular educators keep the proportion of public funds in the overall budget low, form an umbrella organization to channel funds, or "promote and support indigenous resources within the community, helping local groups to build strong organizations under local control" (p. 25).
Stromquist (1997) emphasizes that empowerment and emancipation are not generic: they have different meanings and implications for men and women. Gender relations must be part of the analysis of power relations and social conditions that takes place in popular education. Walters and Manicom (1996) recommend strategies that take women's standpoint, drawing on women's experiences in a way that illustrates that "woman" is not a homogeneous category; explore the intersection of gender, race, class, and culture; and enable women to find space, time, and a place for learning.
Popular education is not limited to addressing the needs of identifiable cultural groups or the poor and the powerless (Bates 1996). It has wider application as a method of developing critical understanding, building self-confidence and analytical skills, and linking them with social action in a variety of contexts and socioeconomic levels.
Education that has as its goal social transformation faces formidable challenges, as shown by some the programs described here. However, education for social transformation is an ongoing effort. Although a particular program may appear to have failed in its immediate goals, it may represent one step in the slow, complex, and cumulative process of social change.
Arnold, R., and Burke, B. A Popular Education Handbook. Toronto: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education; Ottawa: CUSO Development Education, 1983. (ED 289 024)
Arnold, R.; Barndt, D.; and Burke, B. A New Weave: Popular Education in Canada and Central America. Toronto: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education; Ottawa: CUSO Development Education, 1985. (ED 289 023)
Bates, R. A. "Popular Theatre: A Useful Process for Adult Educators." Adult Education Quarterly 46, no. 4 (Summer 1996): 224-236. (EJ 530 250)
Beder, H. "Popular Education: An Appropriate Educational Strategy for Community-Based Organizations." New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education no. 70 (Summer 1996): 73-83. (EJ 533 639)
Heaney, T. "Resources for Popular Education." Adult Learning 3, no. 5 (February 1992): 10-11, 25. (EJ 438 799)
Jeria, J. "Popular Education: Models that Contribute to the Empowerment of Learners in Minority Communities." New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education no. 48 (Winter 1990): 93-100. (EJ 419 566)
Mackenzie, L. On Our Feet. A Handbook on Gender and Popular Education Workshops.Bellville, South Africa: Centre for Continuing Education, University of the Western Cape, 1993. (ED 379 400)
Merideth, E. "Critical Pedagogy and Its Application to Health Education." Health Education Quarterly 21, no. 3 (Fall 1994): 355-367. (EJ 488 967)
Proulx, J. "Adult Education and Democracy." Convergence 26, no. 1 (1993): 34-42. (EJ 462 024)
Stromquist, N. P. Literacy for Citizenship. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1997.
Walters, S., and Manicom, L., eds. Gender in Popular Education. London: Zed Books Ltd., 1996. (ED 398 449)
Zacharakis-Jutz, J.; Heaney, T.; and Horton, A. "The Lindeman Center: A Popular Education Center Bridging Community and University." Convergence 24, no. 3 (1991): 24-30.