Theoretical Bases and Research in Adult Education

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The field of adult education has been researched for a considerable time to determine the distinctiveness of the field itself and of the learner. According to previous and current research, there is no conclusive theory that can be justified to explain all aspects of adult education. Many of the catalysts that have prompted further studies in this field are as result of the low priority given to the profession by stakeholders in this field and those that are related to it.

A good example is the priority placed in developing curriculum for K -12 institutions and colleges. Much of research and theory structuring has focused on coming up with leadership skills required to serve the education needs of the youth. Despite this discrimination, the need for individuals to be involved in the learning process throughout their lives has facilitated wide research in the field of adult education, the effort applied in this field in the previous years has led to the elevation of practitioners in this field from insignificant status to that of professionalism.

One of the most interesting sections of the provided link that got my attention is the reasons as to why individuals take part in adult learning. It has been speculated that three critical reasons exist, some individuals are driven by a predetermined aim, others are drawn to activity, and others were compelled by the urge to be acquainted with new stuff. Other reasons include the desire to be a well-versed individual, to improve carrier information, attain a religious goal and to satisfy official requirements (Hiemstra 1982).

Two time spans have been used to highlight the depth and type of research employed in determining theory bases for adult learners.1960s to 1970s period represented research that were more based on establishing a foundation, vivid and exploratory  methodologies. The second time span represents the 1980s to the present. This period has focused on studies that are more clear, wide, and sophisticated in nature.

There exists a big difference between the learning needs and preferences of the youth and adults, which educators must factor in while undertaking the task of disseminating knowledge to adults. The clarity of vision always decreases with time hence there is need for educators to ensure that adults are taught in an environment that is well lighted and those with chronic sight problems are provided with vision aiding equipment. Aging reduces the degree of alertness and performance therefore education providers for adults should use moderate speed. The standard of performance should not be at par to that of the youth (Usher&Bryant 1989).

Another crucial area of adult education is designing the most effective way of learning. Since research has shown that adult, learners preferred classes that practical methods were used compared to the lecture method. Further research also shows that learners who acquired information by reading it performed better than those who got it via a lecture. For lectures to be more successful, they should be integrated with other learning methods like use of visuals and increasing the levels of learner-to-learner and learner-to-teacher interaction.

 In designing a learning process for the learner and the teacher, emphasis should be placed on the difference between an adult learner and youthful learner. Adults can give themselves direction and motivation contrary to young learners. The learning process should factor in characteristics that come with adulthood e.g. parent, spouse, and retirement (Hiemstra 1982).Their learning process should focus on getting solutions to problems. Integrating the characteristics to the learning process requires that the learner be the focus of attention in the activity. Further research has also revealed that he learning process is more effective when the teacher is a spur rather than a source of knowledge.

In recruiting students in an adult education program, the following factors should be considered: level of intelligence, as those with lower intelligence tend to drop out. Job status, participation in community affairs, the inactive one were more likely to drop out (Usher&Bryant 1989). In addition, those who have been out of learning for a long time were considerable candidates for dropping out.

An adult learner can be involved in the planning and implementing an adult education course by studying the needs of the students, utilizing data from research, understanding particular needs by considering issues like carrier satisfaction, and the advantages of bringing on board adult students in determining their needs. Research that is more recent has deviated towards having knowledge of the learning process while at the same time considering authority sharing (Charters 1981).

As research in adult education assumes a sophisticated nature, more research, which is descriptive in nature, is still necessary. Practical designs, different and wide variations and analyses, past and qualitative approaches, and yearly adult education seminars and conferences at both local and international stages shows that the field is very active. Therefore, it is critical for adult education teachers whether experienced or rookie, to be equipped with a wider grasp of knowledge of the research and literature because of the likely consequences of curriculum pattern, class room methodology and interpersonal contact with the student or instructor.

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