This journal is a compilation of four personal reflections based upon quotes from four different learning theorists mentioned in the text Adult Learning: Linking Theory and Practice (Merriam and Bierema, 2014). My reflections are based upon my new learning and understanding of the adult learning process from reading about and researching the following five basic learning theories: Behaviorism, Humanism, Cognitivism, Social Cognitive Theory and Constructivism.
The quote that I reflected on for this first category is, " 21st century competencies include deep understanding, flexibility and the capacity to make creative connections and a range of so called 'soft skills' including good team-working (Dumont and Istance 2010).”
Objective. The above quote highlights for me the acknowledgement that the very nature of learning is evolving rapidly and the level of unifying, and globalizing knowledge in many societies’ is increasing. The reference to good team-working caught my attention because all countries of the world need to work together and function more as a human-team to address the challenges of modern society.
From my perspective, real human team-work is not just another soft skill. Using knowledge and deeper understanding and flexibility appears to be essential to the long-term survival of the human race. The deep understanding statement evokes for me the hope that true human-team work will eventually arise and it will be as a result of critical learning and applied knowledge.
Reflective. The quote from Dumont and Istance (2010) emphasized for me the notion that good teaching is far more vital and far reaching to individuals, society and humanity as a whole than I previously considered. It also occurs to me that learning false information can prevent the development and assimilation of knowledge and result in catastrophic social consequences such as war, racism, discrimination and bigotry.
Interpretive. Reflection upon the quote made me realize more clearly that proper adult education is essential to a healthy society capable of changing, growing, working together and being creative to solve problems. On the other hand, it was startling to me when I contemplated that adult education is also commonly used to deceive society by using various social education strategies such as dishonest social marketing, propaganda, election campaigns, and other false advertising initiatives.
Decisional. Thinking about the quote has influenced me to make it a higher priority to make sure that the information that I use for teaching is relevant and accurate. I also plan to incorporate more participation, team-learning opportunities, and reflection activities when I am facilitating learning sessions for adult learners.
The quote that I focused on for this second reflective exercise is, “an educated person is one who has learned how to learn…how to adapt and change” Rogers (1969).
Objective. Reflecting on this quote forced me to stop and contemplate what Rogers meant when using the term educated. Do only educated people learn how to learn, adapt and change? Nature shows us clearly that most animal species have the inherent ability to learn, adapt and change. Are they educated?
When searching for related literature, I quickly learned that there is very little consensus regarding the generally accepted definition of an educated person. Some measures of education focus on literacy, enrolment rates in primary school, number of college graduates, UNESCO Institute for Statistics (2016).
Other writers, such as William Cronon (1998) in the article, "Only Connect...: The Goals of a Liberal Education, The American Scholar, Volume 67, No. 4, Autumn attempts to define the characteristics of the educated person as follows: “More than anything else, being an educated person means being able to see connections so as to be able to make sense of the world and act within it in creative ways...listening, reading, writing, talking, puzzle‐solving, seeing the world through others’ eyes, empowering others, leading—every last one of these things is finally about connecting.”
The concept that sticks with me the most is the importance of learning how to learn, and how that enables the development of knowledge and the ability to adapt and change as necessary.
Reflective. What I learned about teaching as a result of this quote is that more and more the emphasis in adult education is shifting away from just delivering core or required information and focusing more on helping the learner to develop their learning process. Information will often change, but the process for learning will continue, resulting in ongoing growth, development and knowledge acquisition.
Interpretive. This quote did not elicit an ‘aha’ moment for me but it did force me to ask a very important question. Can I make a person educated? One key insight that I have from reflecting on the quote and searching the internet is that there is no consensus on a specific definition for an educated person. Instead, an educated person may best be described as a person who has developed very positive adaptive and survival characteristics based upon their ability to learn, and develop greater knowledge and awareness of themselves, others and their surroundings.
Decisional. My insights from reflection on the quote will guide me to place more emphasis on the individual learner and learning process in future rather than the content and presentation methodology. During my reflection I realized that I am good at keeping my audience entertained and engaged in the show. Now I realize that I focused on my material and delivery, as any performer would. And yes, the adult learners were entertained and engaged, but now I am wondering how much they actually learned. I have to believe that having fun while receiving critical information in a relevant context somehow makes the message more memorable. Perhaps I will figure something out after more refection.
The quote that I reflected on for this third journal is, “…some suggested strategies for engaging in critical reflection possibly leading to transformative learning are modeling and peer learning (Brookfield, 2009), storytelling and dialogue (Tyler, 2009), coaching (Fisher-Yoshida, 2009), and action learning conversations (Marsick & Maltibia, 2009)”.
Objective. This quote caught my attention because quite simply put, each of the strategies mentioned was very effective at stimulating my learning process as I was growing up. I always marveled at how easy it seems to remember good stories, and how much faster I could learn a task, like a playing a new song on my guitar, when I watched my friends doing it. Whatever my friends could do I quickly learned how to also do, and vice versa.
I loved having a good coach when trying to get better at anything. Upon reflection, I realize that the coaches made me enjoy the process of learning. Once they defined and clarified the goals and showed me what I was capable of, and helped me find my confidence to achieve the goal, it was pure enjoyment of learning. Practice was fun and learning was so gratifying. I realize that my coaches taught me how to learn at a young age. Even after my coaches were no longer available I followed the same pattern of problem solving and learning.
Reflective. I learned from reflection on this quote that my emotional state had a great influence on the ease of learning for me. When I was interested in or even passionate about something, whether it was golf or tennis or some hobby, every time I wanted to know more or understand something better or get better at a task, I learned so quickly and easily and the knowledge seems to last.
Upon reflection, the best or most successful teachers and coaches were the ones that helped me find my passion and hunger for learning and understanding new things. At times, some profound life experiences were so powerful that they changed me very quickly. Upon reflection, I have a better understanding that those experiences were examples of transformative learning. Interestingly, even without a formal educational learning plan, those profound transformative learning experiences often involved considerable reflection, dialogue, a mentor, peer modeling, soul searching and ultimately learning and new knowledge that made me feel more connected within my life experience.
Interpretive. What stood out for me when reflecting on this quote is how I could personally relate to the quote and the sense of agreement that it elicited for me. This quote helped reinforce for me how important it is to go far beyond the information and find the ways to help the adult learner connect with the relevance of the information. That connection helps empower the adult learner to take interest in the learning the information so that it can be turned into useful and relevant knowledge. My one key insight is that I need to include in lesson planning more strategies mentioned in the quote for engaging adult learners in critical reflection.
Decisional. My insight from reflection upon the quote is that where the opportunities exist, I will aim to introduce one or more of the learning strategies discussed in the quote. I will also attempt to become less of a slave to my lesson plan and go with it, to the extent that it is reasonable, when relevant spontaneous learning opportunities arise within the adult learners group.
The quote that I reflected on for this fourth journal is, “we may think of ourselves as thinking creatures that feel, biologically we are feeling creatures that think Taylor (2009)”.
Objective. Reflection upon this quote made me laugh out loud. What stood out for me was my initial impression and reminder that what may be profoundly obvious to some may not be obvious to all. Then I researched and reflected a little deeper and realized that the matter is not so defined in the world of psychology experts and one can get very philosophical and controversial regarding the very essence of what is meant by the terms feeling and thinking.
In his lecture entitled What is Called Thinking, Martin Heidegger (1976) asserts that we “learn to think by giving our mind to what there is to think about”. He further asserts that not everyone can think. I think that his above statement is not helpful and is possibly not very popular. But, upon further reflection, is my opinion based on my thinking or just my reflexive reaction to my disagreement with what Heidegger was stating based upon my current level of awareness.
If one has to learn to think before they can think, as stated by Heidegger (1976) perhaps that is a bit of a quandary. Can one learn if they can’t think? In Pavlov’s classic conditioning experiments Pavlov demonstrated how dogs experientially learned to associate the sound of a bell with imminent delivery of food.
One can get more sophisticated and use terms like operant conditioning, B.F. Skinner (1938) but for the purpose of this reflection on Taylors’s quote, did the change in the dog’s behaviour involve thinking? Pavlov’s dogs felt the pleasure and gratification of the food reward and learned a new behaviour that increased the opportunity for that pleasure. Did the dogs think about what was going on and train Pavlov to ring a bell and then feed them? That would certainly be an added convenience for the dogs to have an audible alarm for food time.
Perhaps frequent misuse use of the word think in everyday dialogue creates some of the confusion. For example, I think I need to go to the washroom, I think I am hungry, I think I am going to be sick are not examples of thinking but rather expressions of feelings.
When looking at a human infant it is quite apparent that we are born as feeling creatures. We cannot speak, we cannot solve problems, we cannot engage in rational thought. We perceive our environment through our basic senses, and over time develop a sense of self in relation to that environment.
What I learned from reflection on Taylor’s quote is to remember that not everything is clear or known or certain and many theories abound on almost everything. To adult learners some information may initially seem nonsensical or even idiotic. It is still an extremely important part of the learning process to be able to do critical thinking and reflection and be able to make sense and meaning out of information. Adult learners often want fact, but the facts are not always available. The internet is proof that not everything that is posted is credible just because it is on the internet. However, the process of critical thinking, reflection, and dialogue, will stimulate thinking and promote learning.
Reflective. I am reminded from reflecting on Taylor’s quote that adult learners come from diverse backgrounds and life experiences and nothing should be taken for granted regarding how information is initially perceived or processed. Everyone perceives information in the context of their current understanding which is influenced by many variable factors. I realize more and more that effective teaching is about facilitating the learning process rather than just delivering information in an engaging and enjoyable way.
Interpretive. Reflecting upon Taylor’s quote impressed upon me that thinking and feeling coexist in the human experience and it is important to be cognizant of the feeling component when teaching adult learners. Thinking leads to learning and learning leads to thinking.
My initial personal experience when researching the theories on thinking and feeling was that there is a great amount of contradictory and controversial information that adult learners must be able to quickly assess as valid or invalid.
On a personal note, when I can’t relate to the information that I am being presented with, I am not as receptive to learning it, unless of course a mark or grade depended upon it. Extending that personal insight to other adult learners I will make an effort, when teaching complex or controversial topics, to better understand the feelings of the adult learners towards the subject matter and address barriers through discussion, reflection and other suitable means.
Decisional. Reflecting on Taylor’s quote has influenced me to decide to spend a bit more time with Adult Learners when teaching sensitive or controversial subjects to address and understand their feelings and attitudes and identify potential barriers to learning. The reflective exercise has opened my mind to focusing more on the learning process for adult learners.
Cronon, W. (1998). Only Connect...: The goals of a liberal education. The American Scholar.
Volume 67, No. 4, Autumn
Dumont, H., Istance, D. (2010). The nature of learning: Using research to inspire practice.
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Fisher-Yoshida, B. (2009). Coaching to transform perspective.
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Marsick, V.J., Maltbia, T.E. (2009). The transformative potential of action learning
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Merriam, S.B., Bierema, L.L. (2014). Adult learning: Linking theory and practice.
Rogers, C.R. (1969). Freedom to learn. Columbus, OH: Merrill.
Tyler, J.A. (2009). Charting the course: How storytelling fosters communicative learning in the
UNESCO, (2016). Institute for Statistics. Fact sheets. Retrieved from