Adult Education, Literature Review in Contemporary Western Research Proposal

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Adult Education, Literature Review

In contemporary Western culture, may adults incorrectly assume that school and learning is a process reserved for children. May adults believe themselves incapable of relearning, hence the popular cliche, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks." This self-defeating belief, while less common than a few decades previous is still an attempt for many adults, particularly those who are disadvantaged, to separate themselves from the educational system at large. In truth, the human brain is constantly interpreting its surroundings, and as long as it is exposed to new situations and stimuli, new neurological pathways are created. Certainly, it is true that it may be easier to assimilate certain types of knowledge as a child, but it is a combination of desire and exposure that allows adults to experience learning throughout their life. In fact, an individual who considers themselves to be a perpetual student is likely to feel happier, more content, and more engaged and excited about the world than someone who thinks they are either "too old," or "have too many barriers" to continue the learning process. While education can (and does) occur outside of an established classroom or school system, one of the most effective ways to encourage adults to embrace learning and education is through adult education programs and classes. Adult education is important and significant for people of all ages, and from all backgrounds. It is a way to continue to improve individually, to uncover new talents and opportunities, and to find a way to enjoy a potential new career or avenue of self-actualization (Merrian, et.al. 2006).

Adult education per se is the practice of teaching adults. This can happen in the workplace, through continuing education courses taught at either the college or secondary level; or, for some subjects, at community colleges, life learning centers, libraries, or other community venues. Often scholars refer to adult learning as andragogy, as opposed to pedagogy; and a stratified difference is also made between vocational education, typically workplace related and focused on new tasks, skills, or systems that directly impact one's career, personal development education (e.g. dance, music, scuba diving, etc.), or formal education designed to foster a new career choice, or enhance one's ability to integrate more fully into the community. Within the model of Adult Education, a subset focuses on Disadvantaged Adults, who often take part in all rubrics of andragogy, depending upon their unique situation. Besides the typical resistance factors surrounding adult education, those adults with disadvantages economically, socially, or developmentally have an even more difficult time pursuing additional educational resources (Knowles, et.al., 2005). For this essay, we will review the literature and basic paradigm sets for two topics: 1) the perceived effectiveness of inner city educational programs for adults, and, 2) Trends in education to improve the opportunities for disadvantaged adults.

The perceived effectiveness of inner city educational programs for adults - While adult education may strike many people as a new concept, and most people would guess that adult students make up a minority of the student population, it is actually extremely common and already widely embraced. The fact is that most post-high school students are enrolled in "adult" education. The majority of even undergraduate freshman college students have already reached the age of eighteen and are therefore adult students. A basic associate's degree, which is not considered to be very impressive in the professional world of careers, takes at least two years to earn. Most traditional college students are seeking an undergraduate degree such as a bachelor's degree, which is considered standard for most professional career paths, which usually takes four years of college studies to earn. A master's degree can take six years or more, and any doctorate level degree can take eight full years of higher education to achieve. This means that even traditional "college-age" students that begin their higher educational studies immediately following high school graduation in the most commonly accepted of ways are often approaching thirty years old before leaving school. Helping the general population to make the connection between "adult education" and the already established Western educational system may help demystify and therefore strengthen all

forms of education (Gordon, 2002).

Particularly true in inner-city urban environments, Adult education for nontraditional students has grown in popularity, but is still considered to be abnormal for most people. Nontraditional students may include adults who were unable to obtain a high school diploma, those who did not choose to enter college immediately following high school, those who have already obtained a degree and are choosing to further their learning, those who are seeking specific career or skill training, or those who are taking classes just for "fun." Adult education can be a second chance for many people who were unable to earn a high school diploma at a younger age due to any number of circumstances; many adults return to school to get their GED for personal fulfillment or a career boost. Many working adults also choose to return to school even if they are already on a successful career path because it can be an enjoyable escape from the mundaneness of the workplace or to learn new skills. Adults who have chosen to be homemakers or are unable to work for some reason can find pleasure in adult education programs that empower them with knowledge and new skills. Adults in higher education are exposed to a variety of people and situations, and the diversity that can be found in the classroom can improve the ability of a person to function within the diversity of society. Additionally, returning to school can be a way to keep adults from becoming isolated from recent findings and modern technology that is often aimed at the younger generations that are still in school (Beder, 1991).

Uniquely, it is sometimes in inner city, urban environments that new philosophies of education are found. Whether this is because those citizens are used to test new ideas, or simply because they are typically more in need, there is a clear trend towards innovation and creativity, as opposed to simply more funding for the same, within the modern urban environment. For example, the term "non-formal" education may mean programs that range from small-scale individualized tutoring or small group educational activities to large scale city or national programs; from highly contextualized to standardized programs; from temporary learning programs to permanent alternatives to formal coursework; from literacy and basic education to vocation and advanced continuing professional development. The concept, though, arose out of the insufficiencies within and criticism of the formal education system, which often fails those disadvantaged or within areas of urban blight or economic malaise (Brookfield, 1991).

Quickly, educators learned that in order to truly help adults in the inner city, several things were necessary: a greater adaptation to inner-city needs and circumstances of learners, creative uses of educational resources, community participation, decentralized and more flexible organization and management, and less authoritarian and teaching styles. "Over time, formal and non-formal education often opposed rather than complicated each other. Many say out-of-school education as the natural place for innovation and for diversification of education and learning strategies, and in-school education as inherently rigid, homogenous, static and resistant to change" (Rogers, 2005, p. 236).

Trends within the inner city can thus be categorized into four major program development tools:

Keep insturctors as older adults; they engender maturity, this is especially true in courses focusing on computers -- keep the classrooms free of young computer "whizzes."

Place emphasis on having fun, and regardless of the subject matter, utilizing available technology to both offer comfort and provide a secondary educational benefit.

Socializing, peer group acceptance, and the ability to see the coursework as "fitting in" with the urban lifestyle gauges very important, and;

Courses must offer a great deal of stimuli, intellectually, pacing (but not fast), and relative contemporary materials (Long, 1987, p. 104).

Trends in education to improve the opportunities for disadvantaged adult's -However, particularly within the economically disadvantaged urban areas, the very idea of adult education has a major stumbling block -- literacy. At least 40 million American adults need stronger literacy skills to take advantage of more lifelong learning opportunities (Knowles, 1995, p. 12). Low literacy limits life chances, regardless of how it is defined or measured. Basic skills and literacy abilities are widely viewed as necessities for lifelong learning and the development of success among individuals, families, communities, and even nations. Helping children improve their literacy skills can help them develop the capacity for lifelong learning, keep pace with changing educational expectations and rapid technological change, and achieve their life goals. However, in modern society, there are many adults literacy skills who lack the foundation they need to find and keep decent jobs, to support their children's education, and to help them mold a literate future (Sum, 1999).

To determine the literacy skills of American adults, the 1992 National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS) used to test items that resembled tasks within everyday life. The NALS classified the results… [END OF PREVIEW]

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