Adult Education Theories Term Paper 10 pages

Education – Theory

Adult Education Theories

Adult educations philosophies are fashioned in order to scope and characterize the process of individual educators. Teaching adults is way more sophisticated than teaching children due to a difference in life contexts. Consequently, adult education philosophies are essential in terms of directing and assisting both adult learners and educators. It conceptualizes and clarifies adult’s behaviors and thoughts when they are in the learning environment. Adult learners learn based on their life circumstances and the change of awareness or viewpoint. Adult education philosophy is one of the good ways to recognize the best methods of teaching adult learners. Educators are divided into a variety of types of characteristics based on their viewpoint of adult education (Galbraith, 2004).

Adults learn better in a non-aggressive environment where they can work together with others and where they are in control of their learning course. They are more motivated when they obtain knowledge and skills in a circumstance where their self-respect is not in danger. The learning environment is important; age and life knowledge are facets that should be taken in consideration when developing learning settings. Also the connection with the teacher is important. In more customary educational context there is the teacher who sets down the rules and who decides on the progress in learning. This balance of power should be averted. An adult wants to be treated as an equivalent. That is why in adult education open learning can be vital. The aim here is creating circumstances where the adult can learn in an inspiring and motivating way (Exploring the possibilities of the flexible open classroom in adult learning, n.d.).

Humanism is a school of thought that believes human beings are dissimilar from other species and have capacities not found in animals. Humanists, consequently, give dominance to the study of human needs and interests. An essential assumption is that human beings act out of intentionality and principles. This is in dissimilarity to the beliefs of operant conditioning theorists who believe that all behavior is the consequence of the function of consequences or to the beliefs of cognitive psychologists who hold that the detection of concepts or processing of information is a main factor in human learning. Humanists also believe that it is essential to study the person as a whole, particularly as a person grows and develops over their life. The study of the self, inspiration, and goal-setting are also areas of special attention (Huitt, 2009).

As with other advances to learning and development, there is a diversity of viewpoints within this convention. The leading view is called modern or naturalistic humanism and traces its lineage to Aristotle and Socrates. It is defined as a naturalistic philosophy that discards all supernaturalism and relies principally upon reason and science, democracy and human compassion. It is therefore described as anthropocentric or human-centered. There are two divisions within this view: secular and religious. Supporters of a secular humanism believe that an individual person has within them everything that is required to grow and develop their unique abilities. Religious humanists, on the other hand, believe that religion is a significant influence on human development and promote a shared aspect of their approach, although an atheistic one (Huitt, 2009).

The main emphasis of humanistic education is on the regulatory system and the emotional system. The development of these systems is frequently overlooked in the present education system. The regulatory system acts as a filter for linking the environment and internal thoughts to other thoughts or feelings as well as relating knowledge and feelings to action. The emotional system colors, exaggerates, reduces or otherwise alters information obtained through the regulatory system or sent from the cognitive system to action. In the present environment of regular change and indecision, the development of the knowledge, approaches, and skills discussed in these systems is particularly important (Huitt, 2009).

There are five basic objectives of the humanistic view of education:

1. endorse positive self-direction and independence which is the development of the regulatory system

2. develop the capability to take accountability for what is learned, which has to do with the regulatory and affective systems

3. develop creativity which has to do with the divergent thinking feature of cognition

4. curiosity which is exploratory behavior, a function of unevenness or dissonance in any of the systems and an interest in the arts principally to develop the emotional system (Huitt, 2009).

Some basic principles of the humanistic approach that are used to develop its objectives are:

1. Students will learn best what they desire and need to know. That is, when they have developed the skills of evaluating what is important to them and why as well as the skills of directing their actions towards those wants and needs, they will learn more effortlessly and rapidly. Most educators and learning theorists would concur with this statement, though they might differ on precisely what contributes to learner motivation.

2. Knowing how to learn is more important than obtaining a lot of knowledge. In the present society where knowledge is altering rapidly, this view is shared by a lot of educators, particularly those from a cognitive perspective.

3. Self -appraisal is the only significant evaluation of a learner’s work. The significance here is on interior development and self-regulation. While most educators would probably agree that this is significant, they would also promote a need to develop a learner’s aptitude to meet outside potentials.

4. Feelings are as significant as details. Much work from the humanistic view seems to authenticate this point and is one area where humanistic educators are making important offerings to the knowledge base.

5. Students learn best in a non-aggressive surrounding. This is one area where humanistic educators have had an impact on present educational practice. The direction supported today is that the environment should by expressively and emotionally, as well as physically, non-aggressive. Nevertheless, there is some research that suggests that a neutral environment is best for older, highly motivated learners (Huitt, 2009).

The humanistic adult education philosophy seeks to make possible personal growth and development. Humanists are extremely motivated and self-directed learners; accountability to learn is understood by the learner. The humanist educator facilitates learning but does not direct learning. The educator and learner are associates. Concepts that define the humanistic philosophy comprise empirical learning, independence, self-directed, and self-actualization. Humanistic teaching techniques include group discussion, team teaching, individualized learning, and the discovery method. This ideology clarifies well in adult learners’ actions that they want to decide the learning method by themselves, and do not want to be told what to do like when they were in high school. Since adult education is not obligatory, learners who sign up are enthusiastic to be taught, and want to be part of the procedure. Self-provoked and self-directed are measured as a key concepts concerning adult learners (Zinn, 1990).

The humanistic adult education viewpoint seeks to make easy personal growth and development. Humanists are highly motivated and self-directed learners; accountability to learn is assumed by the learner. The humanist educator facilitates learning but does not direct learning. The educator and learner are associates. Ideas that define the humanistic philosophy include experiential learning, independence, self-directed, and self-actualization. Humanistic teaching techniques contain group discussion, team teaching, individualized learning, and the discovery method (Buckingham, 2000).

Most educators who support humanistic education characteristically intend this approach to mean one or more of three things:

1. Humanistic education teaches a wide diversity of skills which are required to function in today’s world. Things like basic skills such as reading, writing and math, as well as skills in communicating, thinking, decision-making, problem-solving and knowing oneself.

2. Humanistic education is a caring approach to education. It is one that helps learners believe in themselves and their prospective, that supports kindness and understanding that encourages self-respect and respect for others.

3. Humanistic education deals with basic human issues. It deals with the concerns throughout history and today that are of interest to human beings trying to advance the quality of life in order to pursue information, to develop, to love, to find meaning for one’s existence.

Humanistic education techniques are used in public and private schools, the family, religious education, business and as well as many other settings (Green, 1994).

A lot of the major books and articles that exist on humanistic education show teachers how to do a more successful job of teaching reading, writing, math and social studies. Many of the best conventional subject matter teachers incorporate humanistic education methods and materials into their fundamental curriculum. Rather than paying no attention to the basics, humanistic educators seek to increase the notion of what basic education is, saying that basic skills for existing in today’s world go beyond reading, writing, math, and vocational skills and comprise other skills for communicating, problem-solving and decision-making (Green, 1994).

Humanist philosophy in adult education is frequently criticized regarding its concepts. Self-centered and self-directed is often though of as selfishness. Since other philosophies prioritize social change and social movement as their aim, Humanist is the one that does not center on those criteria. On the other hand, it is irrefutable that individual is a starting point of everything. The association between individual and social concerns in Humanist’s view is adult education will become an agency of development if its short-time goal of self-improvement can be made companionable with a long-time, experimental but determined policy of altering the social order. It does not matter whether educational programs or an eagerness to learn something will benefit society. It is significant that those activities complete one’s need, and create self-regard or self-respect. The consequence of doing what they love and interested in will benefit society itself, and lead to the inspiration as a whole (Galbraith, 2004).

One of the strongest reasons for supporting humanistic education is that, when completed successfully, students learn. Substantial evidence shows that cooperative learning structures higher self-concepts, and the learner’s motivation and interest in learning all are connected to greater academic achievement. Studies also show that humanistic education can lead to a smaller amount of discipline troubles; less destruction and reduced use of illegal drugs. Humanistic educators frequently report that parents have told them how good communication was augmented in their families as a consequence of some of the class activities and new skills that the students learned, while in class (Green, 1994).

A lot of humanistic educators are parents themselves, who are very active in their children’s education in and out of school. Humanistic educators believe that parents should be well-informed about their children’s program of study, should be dynamic in parent-teaching activities, should be able to visit the school and watch, should have a way to offer ideas or lodge complaints about their child’s program, and within rational limits, should be permitted to ask for alternative learning choices for their children when they oppose strongly with school practices (Green, 1994). This is the same philosophy that these adults have when it comes to adult education, whether they are the teacher or the learner.

While the home and religion have the major accountability in the value development and moral development of learners, the school also has a genuine role. Few parents have ever questioned the school’s role in supporting the values of promptness, justice, health, politeness, respect for property, tidiness and the like. Humanistic educators believe schools also should promote the democratic and humanitarian values of open-mindedness, self-respect, liberty of thought, and respect for others, social responsibility and the like (Green, 1994).

It is not the objective of humanistic education to aid learners to overcome deep-seated emotional troubles. Rather, humanistic education seeks to assist students to lean useful skills for living and to intensify their understanding of issues pertinent to their academic and social development. Teachers do not need to be trained psychologists to carry out humanistic education activities. They do however need sensitivity to students, classroom management skills, and the aptitude to conduct a class discussion. These skills are thought to be within the grasp of all good teachers (Green, 1994).

Humanism fundamentally relies on a learner-centered focal point in the classroom. It relies on recognition of learner needs, and now to best address them in the classroom. The drive for more humanistic learning consequences in thoughtfulness to self-direction within the course approach as well as self-initiated instruction that better supports the learner’s individualized interests. Critical-humanism captures very comparable elements of humanistic education; the importance on self-direction, learner-needs, and motivation are greatly stressed. Critical-humanism, on the other hand, steps beyond the learner’s own interests and looks at the significance of the surroundings and environment that are pressuring their needs. Critical humanism is the acknowledgment of differences, predominantly among oppressed groups, and viewing self-determination and freedom as common values of all humans (Milheim, 2011).

The contemporary Humanistic Philosophy of Adult Education (HPAE) has developed within the context of Existensial Philosophy and Humanistic Psychology. It constitutes an evolution of the child study faction in education and has grown mostly as a reaction toward behaviorist view of human nature. The purpose of the HPAE is to augment personal growth, development and individual self-actualization. The educator is an associate in the learning trade, the facilitator-mentor in the learning process, not its director. The learner is highly motivated by their interests and needs and takes on the responsibility for their self-directed learning. The experiential and discovery learning, the individual projects and independent study, as well as the joint learning and open discussion are used as methods. Self-assessment is also supported (Gioti, 2010).

The structure of the learning enterprise itself stresses self-choice on the part of the learner, and de-emphasizes marks and grades. The teacher or lecturer becomes a facilitator rather than just an authority figure or a supplier. Students have a voice in the choices which may affect them. All those places which have learning contracts, bargained study or student-led project work are humanistic to that degree. A second way of describing humanistic education looks more closely at what happens in the classroom. There are five ways in which this can be looked at:

Choice or control: student’s are encouraged, as time goes on, to apply more and more control and choices relating to the course of their education – both their education goals and their day-to-day activities

Felt Concern: As education becomes more humanistic, the core curriculum tends to center more and more on the felt concerns and interests of the learners

The Whole Person: Attention is paid to feeling, choosing, communicating and acting, and students are asked about their dreams as well as their thoughts and actions. Guided fantasy is often used to illuminate physics, or drama to illuminate history or geography, for instance.

Self-Evaluation: Learners more and more are encouraged to assess their own learning progress, sporadically choosing to take tests, or asking for others’ feedback, or gathering data about themselves.

Teacher as Facilitator: The tutor or lecturer tends to be more sympathetic than critical, more thoughtful than critical, more real than playing a role (Rowan, 2011).

Tags such as confluent education or the open classroom are sometimes used to portray humanistic education. The idea of a learning community has also come out of the humanistic perspective (Rowan, 2011). Confluent education is the expression for the incorporation of the cognitive, affective, and behavioral areas in education. Confluent educators have a prosperous twenty five-year tradition of developing theory and practice which distinguishes the centrality of the learner to the educational development. In a confluent model, deep learning is attained by facilitating self-consciousness and personal accountability, and by understanding the dynamics of intended alteration. Even though many have discussed these thoughts, few have developed them into a complete and effective educational model. “Around the world principles of confluent education have established relevant in a diversity of social contexts such as education, health services, law, industry, social services, the military, multicultural concerns, labor relations, and religion” (Cline, Necochea & Brown, 1999).

Open learning is taken to mean requirements for learners where they have some control concerning how they learn, where they learn, when they learn and the rate at which they learn. The term distance learning is typically applied to open learning which takes place at a distance from the provider of the learning material. Flexible learning has also been used as the umbrella term for open, distance, e-learning and other learning techniques where learners have some control of the time, place, pace and procedure of their study of particular parts of the curriculum. An electronic learning environment can make possible flexible/open/distance learning. Not only is flexible learning techniques important in adult education but the adult, wherever probable, should be concerned by defining the learning goals. In more conventional educational programs with regular students, the trend is to rearrange the curriculum in student centered learning where students have to classify their learning goals like in problem-based learning (Exploring the possibilities of the flexible open classroom in adult learning, n.d.).

The purpose of humanistic education is to offer groundwork for personal growth and development so that learning will carry on throughout life in a self-directed manner. A lack of cohesiveness with respect to defining the vital components of the humanistic approach has hindered its development. On the other hand, the results of a lot of studies of facilitative teaching recommend that an approach more expressive of the critical conditions for attaining academic success as well as significant affective and volitional results is highly successful. “In many ways, the positive psychology movement has its roots in humanistic psychology, adding a more empirical, quantitative approach to humanism’s more philosophical, qualitative methodology” (Huitt, 2009).


Buckingham, C. (2000). Philosophies of adult education as practiced by agricultural education teachers in Pennsylvania, west Virginia, and Virginia. Retrieved from

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Exploring the possibilities of the flexible open classroom in adult learning. (n.d.). Retrieved


Galbraith, M.W. (2004). Adult Learning Method: A Guide for Effective Instruction. Krieger Publishing Company, 39-74.

Gioti, L. (2010). Adult Education Philosophies Guiding Educational Theory and Practice:

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Learning, 17(2), 393-405.

Green, B. (1994). What Humanistic Education Is…And Is Not. Retrieved from

Huitt, W. (2009). Humanism and open education. Educational Psychology Interactive.

Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved [date], from

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