Course Description and Rationale

Adult education is an exciting field to study and is equally exciting to be associated with as a learner, graduate student, faculty member, educator, or interested professional. The field is dynamic, growing, and full of opportunity.

There are several important issues facing the adult education field today as those working in any way with human resource development, training, or the education of adults seek to serve an ever-expanding clientele or build a knowledge base adequate for personal and professional growth. Some contemporary issues are controversial in nature. Others are more philosophical in terms of the knowledge required to understand them. Still others require constant attention just to keep up with the expanding literature and information being developed.

In this course, we will study several such issues and discuss the implications for each of us as we develop our understanding of both the field and where it is heading. Your involvement should include adequate preparation through reading and thinking about the various issues to be covered, participating in class discussion and dialogue, and preparation of a personal statement on at least one of the contemporary issues covered in the course. Therefore, the general purpose of the course is to help you better understand various issues, the nature of the field of adult education, the field's future directions, and personal views on several contemporary issues.

I believe adult learners should become actively involved in any learning process in which they are engaged. This instructional philosophy stems from personal involvement by the facilitator with research or practice related to self-directed adult learning. Self-directed learning research has shown that learners, when given the option and encouragement, often will come to prefer learning involvement where considerable freedom and personal direction is possible. At the same time, I recognize that I owe you and the college some direction in terms of course content and those competencies achievable during the course. Thus, several kinds of techniques will be employed and learning options made available throughout the course relative to both my philosophy and the research on self-directed adult learning. In addition, I will provide guidance in helping those learners who are not yet totally comfortable with self-directed learning strategies to map a trail through the course materials and requirements that will maximize learning in terms of personal needs. I wish, therefore, to be a manager of the learning experience and resource for new knowledge, as well as a dispenser of information on specific topics.

Areas for Learning

The following topic areas suggest the range of content likely to be covered during the course. Some areas will be studied in considerable detail, some will be reviewed in terms of appropriate terminology, concepts, or resources, and some will become focal points for in-depth personal study. There probably are many additional topics that could be added or that will emerge based on your experience, need, and interests.

1. Philosophical/Ethical Foundations of and Issues in the Field of Adult Education

2. Distance Education, Technology, and the World Wide Web

3. Various Contemporary Issues in Adult Education (such as the following)

a. Should the aim of adult education be changing people or society?

b. Should the field of adult education strive for professionalization?

c. Where should leaders in adult education come from?

d. Should adult education be market driven?

e. Should adult education be mandatory?

f. Should adult education develop a code of ethics?

g. Should adult education professionals be certified?

h. How will ever-increasing technological developments affect the field?

Competency Expectations

At the completion of the course, given active participation, each learner should be able to perform with excellence in the following ways:

1. Familiarization with the areas of learning described above.

2. Development of a personal code of ethics, a professional commitment statement, or a statement of personal philosophy (if you have not already completed a philosophy statement in a prior course) relative to working with adult learners.

3. Compilation of a reading log of thoughts and reactions regarding your study of the various contemporary issues -or- derivation of a statement of views on any one issue through interviewing some colleagues and analyzing their opinions.

4. Development of a scholarly paper on any one of the topics covered during the course.

The Teaching and Learning Process

There are three broad approaches to teaching and learning, although various adaptations are made:

1. Didactic - the instructor controls most of the direction and content through a lecture format. Learners are expected to acquire and retain knowledge primarily through memorization.

2. Socratic - the instructor utilizes questions in some way (testing, small group discussion, question and answer periods in class, etc.) to take the learner through a prepared and logical sequence of content acquisition. Learners are expected to respond to the questions in some manner usually designated by the instructor.

3. Facilitative - the instructor creates an educational environment in which learning can occur. A variety of instructional techniques, including both didactic and socratic approaches as appropriate, can be utilized. Learners are expected to assume increasing responsibility for specific content determination and acquisition.

There are obvious philosophical differences associated with the three approaches.

Much of the scholarship related to teaching or training adults is built on the premise that teaching adults is different from teaching children. This has resulted in attempts to build teaching and learning approaches that account for such differences. Although there are a variety of views expressed in the literature in terms of how these approaches should involve the learner, the past two decades has seen considerable interest build around self-directed, individualized instructional approaches, and the facilitative model. In this course, we will spend the majority of our time and process working from the facilitative model, although each of us can employ aspects of the socratic model as a mechanism for prompting or encouraging discussion. In addition, each learner will have the opportunity to experience the application of newly acquired knowledge and skill or to sharpen already acquired skills through one or more of the course's learning activities.

I base my teaching and learning process on this premise that adult students are mature learners who flourish in settings where considerable independence is expected or permissible. Thus, the process is a dynamic one that actively involves the learner in determining personal needs, potential, and capabilities. At the same time, I also assume that learners develop this independence at differing rates. Some learners will be ready for considerable independent learning and will use the course requirements and in-class learning activities as vehicles for enhancing or supplementing personal learning. Other learners will require considerable guidance, at least initially, in setting goals, establishing learning activities, and evaluating individual progress. The learning contract allows considerable freedom or can provide a fairly prescriptive path throughout the course, depending on your preferences.

Evaluation and Feedback

Evaluation and feedback are integral parts of any learning system whether a concentrated weekend course, a semester-long course, or even a personal learning endeavor. Evaluation is a tool for measuring personal progress toward individual or course goals. In addition, it is required that grades be established as marks for transcripts and degree completion.

Thus, in terms of feedback I hope the communication process will indeed be a two-way street. Feedback should reflect not only how well the class objectives are being met, the effectiveness of the instructional facilitation, and the extent to which your individual needs are being fulfilled, but also the quality of student contribution and involvement. Consequently, your oral and written feedback relative to questions or concerns you may have, more information you need, and any evaluation you have of the process, the content, or me will be welcome at any time.

I will use several techniques throughout the course to help in this evaluation and feedback. In addition, I'll provide evaluative feedback via comments, advice, and resource suggestions in response to any submitted materials. Hopefully, these efforts will provide you some modeling regarding evaluation possibilities.

Personal evaluation and validation will come through the learning contract. In planning for a letter grade, I assume no student will wish to contract for a grade of C or below. Further, I assume the quality of work submitted will be of a level reflecting the contracted grade. Thus, the grade of B can be achieved by successfully completing all of the learning activities (or their equivalent) described below, including participation in any course planning, implementation, and evaluation carried on during the three weekends, and completion of those readings necessary for a basic understanding of the topics. The A grade can be accomplished by contracting for and completing any one of the term project options listed below in addition to the "B" requirements. Rewriting of any associated papers or other products will be permitted if they do not initially match the expected criteria for excellence at the contracted grade level.

Textbook Requirements

There is one required book and one optional, but recommended book for your professional library:

1. REQUIRED: Galbraith, M. W., & Sisco, B. R. (Eds.). (1992). Confronting controversies in challenging times: A call for action (New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, No. 54). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers. Currently out of print so duplicated copies will be made available the first Friday of the course.

2. RECOMMENDED: Merriam, S. (Ed.). (1995). Selected writings on philosophy and adult education (2nd Edition). Malabar, FL: Krieger Publishing Company. If you would like to add this to your personal library, purchase it directly through Krieger ( or through I think it is an excellent book and treasure my copy, but there will not be any assigned readings from this book during the course.

Course Requirements

Following are suggested requirements for the course. If you are new to the individualized instructional process that I use or somewhat cautious regarding self-directed learning and the use of learning contracts, simply complete those learning activity requirements described below for the grade of B (if a learning activity is not completed to the qualitative expectations of yourself, me, or some outside validator, you continue working on the activity until the desired level of competency and learning is achieved). The grade of A can be achieved by completing the B requirements plus any one of the suggested term projects. However, if you are comfortable with yourself as a self-directed learner and/or if you have experience in writing learning contracts, it should be noted that negotiated alternatives are welcome in meeting any of the requirements.

1. Learning Activity #l - Class Participation

Participate in the course planning, implementation, and evaluation activities that develop as a natural part of the course's evolution.

Objective: To facilitate your growth through contributive group membership and active learning participation.

2. Learning Activity #2 - Learning Contract Design

Complete a self-diagnosis of needs (with my assistance as necessary) relevant to the course content, design a learning contract (or plan) for meeting many of those needs, and carry out the planned activities. The course product will be a first and, if necessary, second draft of a learning contract.

Objective: To facilitate your ability to diagnose, articulate, and meet individual learning needs.

3. Learning Activity #3ª - Personal Belief Statement and Group Presentation

Work in a small group to develop a brief personal statement of belief, opinion, or pro or con argument on at least four of the topics covered during the course. Complete those readings necessary to inform your statement. Select one of these topics and make a group presentation where various sides of the issue are presented (these presentations will take place on weekends two and three). In addition, make a brief presentation to the rest of us on some other learning you will have accomplished during the course.

Objective: To facilitate your acquisition of knowledge and the development of personal views on various contemporary issues related to adult education and to work within a group setting in critically reflecting on your views.

4. Learning Activity #4ª - Personal Log, Journal, or Interviews

a. Throughout the course, maintain a journal or log to capture your growing understanding of the topics being discussed. The log should include systematic observations of insights, events, and changes in your perspective during the course.


b. Complete an interview of at least three colleagues or professionals in adult education, analyze their views on one of the contemporary issues, and write an interpretative report of the findings.

Objectives: (1) To facilitate an understanding of the nature and scope of various contemporary issues related to the field and to build critical reflection skills.

(2) To facilitate your skills in identifying key issues and developing personal views on them.

5. Learning Activity #5ª - Develop a Personal Code of Ethics, a Professional Commitment Statement, or a Personal Statement of Philosophy (if you have not already completed a philosophy state for a prior course) relative to working in the field of adult education.

Objective: To facilitate your development of a personal statement regarding the field of adult education and your professional involvement in it.


ª Or some negotiated alternative.

6. TERM PROJECT (any one of the following)

a. Develop a scholarly paper on one of the contemporary issues covered during the course.

b. Participate in a study group activity with class colleagues (or other colleagues) to develop in-depth understanding on any one of the topics (this could be an expansion of the learning activity # 3 effort).

c. Write a position paper on any one of the contemporary issues discussed during the course (or some related topic of your own choosing) that examines the issue from various points of view and concludes with your statement of your own views on the topic (this should be a topic different from what you discuss during your learning activity # 3 effort).

d. Acquaint yourself with the literature of the field by carrying out some reading activity that goes beyond what you do for the previous learning activities. This would include reading of a fairly broad, overview nature and would result in an interactive reading log, diary, journal, etc.

e. Negotiate some activity of your own choosing.

Objectives: (1) To facilitate your carrying out in-depth study, acquisition, and comprehension of knowledge related to some course content area.

(2) To enhance your analytical skills in comparing, contrasting, and critically reflecting on various sources of information.

Tentative Course Schedule for a Weekend Format


· Introductions, administrative details

· Course overview and requirements

· Needs assessment process and learning contracts

· Focus: Nature and Scope of Various Contemporary Issues

· Introduction to distance education, technology, and the WWW as a contemporary issue

· Philosophical writings and foundations

· Other areas that emerge


· Welcome back/questions and answers

· Administrative tasks

· Focus: Contemporary Issues

· Individual and group reports


· Welcome back/questions and answers

· Administrative tasks

· Focus: Contemporary Issues (continued)

· Individual and group reports

· Evaluation, feedback, and celebration

An extensive bibliography will be distributed as part of the course workbook.