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Reimaging Doctoral Education as Adult Education (New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, Number 147)
Date Reviewed: October 18, 2017
This book answers the question “Why not?” to Robert Smith’s (professor of adult education in the doctoral program at Northern Illinois University) statement, “Higher education is not adult education” (1). There are nine chapters by contributors who place importance on adult education as a collaborative methodology within a doctoral program. Each contributor reflects on their own principles and practices for reimagining doctoral study for adult educators, faculty, and administrators within higher education. Many of the contributors give real life experiences either as faculty or students of a doctoral program at National Louis University.
Tom Heaney (Chapter 1) shares how the cohort-based program provides a space for doctoral students to critically reflect as a group, take control of their own learning, and assume ownership of the curriculum for which they can negotiate with faculty. He views democracy within a doctoral program as “unleashing the power of we” which allows the students see themselves as agents of change through the collective voice of intellectual discourse. Building a democratic forum is not an easy task, but it requires trust, discipline, and confidence among doctoral students and faculty (11).
Stephen Brookfield (Chapter 2) notes that there are four lenses through which practitioners within education view their thinking and actions: student’s eyes, colleagues’ perceptions, theory, and autobiographical experiences. He emphasizes that professors and instructors need to get into the habit of stating out loud the reasons why they are doing what they do: readings, participation in class, order of curriculum, and the evaluative process (17-18).
Nadira K. Charaniya and Jane West Walsh (Chapter 5) reflect on their experience as doctoral students and how collaborative learning partnerships were central to their peer relationships. They recall five outcomes: (1) deep trust and respect, (2) the conscious selection of one another as learning partners, (3) mutual striving toward common goals, (4) different but complementary personality traits, and (5) the development of synergy (49). They include a detailed case of their own journey as collaborative research partners where they created the Collaborative Inquiry Metaphor Creation and Analysis Method (CIMCAM) which involves the use of metaphor analysis as a research analysis. They share through a graphic representation the five steps to their research methodology (53) as well as focused group dialogue of the visual metaphor process. The outcome is the shift of power between research facilitators and participants as a means of collaborative co-construction of knowledge (56).
The volume is an easy read. Each chapter could provide insight for doctoral programs in any discipline. It could also be a useful resource within a school of theology even though the focus of the book is a doctoral program at a private non-profit higher education institution. The authors explore the question of why it is important to reimagine doctoral education as adult education. In the introduction the editor claims, “An obvious goal of adult learners is to find their own voice, to be heard in rational discourse with their peers, and to gain control over the day-to-day decisions that affect their lives” (5). The book underscores the point that collaborative learning within a doctoral program is central to adult education.
Foundations of Adult and Continuing Education
Date Reviewed: June 23, 2017
Foundations of Adult and Continuing Education lays a foundation of the history, theory, research, policy, and practice of the amorphous expanse known in North America as adult and continuing education. Undoubtedly constructed as a resource for graduate students in the burgeoning field, this text lucidly summarizes complex and daunting theory without stripping the data of interest and nuance. That is high praise for what could have easily been just another bulky textbook.
Constructed of twelve chapters, divided into three sections, this work defines contemporary perspectives of the field, examines the foundations of the field, and focuses on the contexts of adult and continuing education (ix). The text gives a cursory summary of the historical rivalry between terms vying for lexical dominance of the then nascent field and while “there is still not a universally accepted definition today” one can trace certain themes and trends among the most noted definitions (3). The text presents different forms, purposes, and providers of adult education and even addresses the social forces affecting the expansion of the field (technological innovation, globalization and the global market, as well as seismic demographic shifts associated with rising levels of educational attainment, aging populations, and an increase in racial and ethnic diversity) (11-20). It outlines the prevailing historical patterns in adult participation and addresses some of the challenges that adult learners face, such as long waiting lists for ESL programs, limited formal educational background (especially among seniors [42-43]), the often-ignored relationship between social class and participation, as well as the influence race and ethnicity have on participation rates within adult education programs.
Perhaps the most harrowing statistics are those involving unemployed and underemployed adults and the working poor. Foundations references the US Census of 2012 when reporting that 10.6 million Americans are among the working poor (59). According to this research, “women are twice as likely as men to be part of the working poor” and Hispanics and Blacks are “twice as likely as Whites and Asians to be among the working poor” (59). Educational attainment and working poor status appear to be linked as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statics in 2012 reported that while only 2.1 percent of college graduates were categorized as working poor, “21.2 percent of those who had less than a high school diploma” (60) were categorized as such. Another startling revelation is related to the identity of adult educators.
Identifying the boundaries of adult and continuing education (ACE) as a field is complex and requires educators to define not just education but also adulthood (“a relatively new social construct in American society” explored in greater depth in chapter 7), and to work in a field awash in acronyms and associations. They must try to construct a sense of professional identity in a field which necessarily works within structures of power and simultaneously challenges those structures (108, 117).
Readers might be surprised by the inclusion of a chapter on philosophy in a text summarizing the history and vital components of what is commonly described as a predominately applied field. However, the inclusion of such is quite necessary considering that it is paramount to investigate “many ways of thinking” and the frameworks we use “for thinking about broader issues and social problems” (137). In fact, the authors describe philosophy in those exact terms. Coming from a religious studies background and being something of a theory-head, I found this chapter particularly engaging. It touches on everything from belief to Postmodernism and Critical Race Theory (CRT) and brilliantly illustrates the implications of such theory for the practice of education in general. The chapter, “Historical Perspective: Contexts and Contours,” is equally compelling because of its willingness to question the value of history for the field and investigate this history via its diffusion, “the spreading of ideas through newspapers, lectures, and academic and popular writing” (177). American history is intimately tied up with education and literacy: literacy and education took center stage during era of Reconstruction, illiteracy was viewed as a hindrance to the effort of the World Wars, and today, education and assimilation are still closely linked (191-192).
Learning about the limited role the federal government is allowed, constitutionally, to play in the realm of adult education (as explicated in chapter 8) is eye-opening. The few times the federal government has stepped into the realm of adult education has had to do with immediate national interest (adult literacy, English language learning, literacy for military, and even job training for women working in production to strengthen the war effort of WW II) (264-267). The chapter “Technology and Adult Learning” could be a separate book itself. The protean nature of new technologies, the effect of technology on neural cognitive activities, and the dire need to develop “critical evaluative skills” in adults as well as in children in the age of the Internet are expertly addressed here (314).
The two chapters dedicated to the expansive landscape of adult education map the varied spaces and contexts in which adult education takes place. While one chapter focuses on adult education within more formal contexts (within work, where adult education overlaps with the territory of higher education, inside programs of basic education and ESL learning, and military efforts), the other traces the outline of adult education as it occurs within a community context (faith-based programs, adult learning within museums and libraries, wellness programs, and civic engagement groups – especially those rooted in social justice). These two chapters spotlight just how diverse in topic, motivation, and method adult education can be. For newcomers to adult education like myself, the crisp explication of the regions and modes of what constitutes the field is exceptionally enlightening, as I have previously found it difficult to isolate what in fact constitutes, and does not constitute, adult education.
While noticeably constructed with Education graduate students in mind, this book has something to teach anyone even tangentially interested in lifelong learning, community building, education, employment, and the effects of technology on North American culture. As an academic advisor working within the halls of higher education and a lifelong learner myself, I see this text as a great resource for graduate students and educators in all disciplines but I also recommend it to those invested in education and learning outside the confines of formal educational structures (church leaders, community organizers, volunteers, and policy advocates).
Tectonic Boundaries: Negotiating Convergent Forces in Adult Education (New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, Number 149)
Date Reviewed: January 30, 2017
This slender volume presents a collection of essays examining concerns for adult education. The first chapter frames the problem with the concept of “liquid modernity,” which is the idea that structures such as family, occupation and career, and social life are fluid in an unprecedented way (12). Education and informal learning serve learners if they teach them how to navigate complex contexts and to recognize and adapt to changing circumstances. The metaphor of “tectonics” is used to describe forces which are sometimes convergent, divergent, and/or transformative in adult learner’s lives (93). This metaphor underscores the paradox that for adult learners, education needs to complement the structures of their lives while at the same time responding to the modern world’s shifting demands.
Other chapters explore various contexts of adult learning. Chapter Two discusses the concerns of adults learning English as a second language. As immigrants, these learners are in transition, adjusting to new circumstances and a new culture. In order to make their education meaningful and engage them in learning, the authors describe strategies of using prompts to get students speaking and writing about their lives and their experiences to practice English, to engage students, and make their education meaningful (25). Chapter Three describes the growth of job clubs among communities of African-American women. These clubs are often attached to other institutional social networks in their lives, such as faith-based communities. These networks facilitate informal learning by providing tips and resources for members to update their skills. Chapter Four addresses education for the dissemination of health information, describing interrelated cultural, social, and economic factors that impinge on health education and which in turn impact health care outcomes. Chapter Five takes the digital native versus digital immigrant divide to examine intergenerational differences in approaching education. The challenge for educators is to design educational content which engages natives yet is also friendly and inviting for immigrants, and to shift the mode of adult education from thinking about teaching to thinking about learning. Chapter Six describes the significance of the ancient art of storytelling, not just to preserve culture, but to evoke and shape the meaning of life experiences for adult learners. Chapter Seven begins with the context of a post-recession economy in which low-skilled workers are increasingly vulnerable. This context provides the foundation for a discussion of the role of adult education: to build human capital, to make better citizens, and to enrich the course of learner lives. Chapter Eight outlines problems of delivery, credit, and accreditation that result from the tectonic shifts of the modern digital age. These shifts include such varied educational modes and attainments as badges, MOOCs, and "direct assessment competency-based programs" (87).
The book’s strength rests in its ability to point to the concerns that frame contemporary adult education, although it does not describe pedagogical strategies in an equally consistent fashion. The book ends with the important reminder that in adult education, negotiation is key. Adaptability and flexibility complement the issue of fluidity. Good pedagogy meets learners where they are and recognizes their needs and concerns.
Transforming Adults Through Coaching (New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, Number 148)
Date Reviewed: November 30, -0001
Coaching has grown exponentially as a professional practice and as a discipline in recent years. According to the International Coach Federation (ICF), the number of coaches worldwide increased from some 30,000 in 2008 to 47,000 in 2012. Coaches assist individuals with a variety of vocational and personal issues in both public and private sector organizations. As a result, many clients have become better prepared to reach their workplace and life goals.
The field of adult coaching as a discipline has matured considerably alongside the practice itself. For example, studies of best coaching practices and analysis of coaching models abound. Professional organizations have formed and have begun to address such critical issues as training, certification, and ethical standards.
Transforming Adults Through Coaching, edited by Pappas and Jerman, provides an introduction to the history, current practices, and possible future of coaching. Each chapter in this compact overview includes material that will benefit scholars, practitioners, and their clients. In particular, there is a solid review of adult development and learning theory with illustrative case studies and pertinent bibliographies.
Pappas and Jerman acknowledge in their introduction that clarity is needed when considering what coaching is and is not. It is, they say, neither psychotherapy nor advice giving. Coaching is relational. It is ordinarily practiced with individuals and not groups. And, they underscore, the coaching relationship typically proceeds with a combination of questions and attentive listening. The results, they contend, can be transformative for clients.
The first three chapters sketch the parameters for the field of adult coaching. The initial essay by Rachel Ciporen is “The Emerging Field of Executive and Organizational Coaching: An Overview.” Ciporen provides the reader with essential definitions and perspectives on coaching as well as a valuable list of resources for further study. She also notes some of the most common critiques of coaching, such as a frequent reliance on an “overly simplistic view of the learning and change process” (12).
Carolyn Coughlin explores a major goal of adult coaching in “Development Coaching to Support the Transition to Self-Authorship.” Her essay describes how coaches, using their knowledge of adult development – especially body and mind theory and practice – can facilitate their client’s movement toward self-authorship.
Adult learning theory provides a vital foundation for coaching. Elaine Cox’s contribution, “Coaching and Adult Learning: Theory and Practice,” identifies links between andragogy and transformative learning and how each connects with the practice of coaching. In addition, Cox addresses practical applications of these theories. Brief illustrative dialogues are included to show how the theories can impact actual adult coaching.
“Coaching as a Strategy for Helping Adults” by Dorothy M. Wax and Judith Westheim focuses on the kind of issues adult learners bring to the learning environment and how coaching strategies can help them deal with professional and personal obstacles to success.
Pappas and Jerman’s closing essay, “The Future of Coaching among Adult Populations,” outlines major directions and critical issues that lie ahead for the field. They underscore not only continued growth for coaching, but also the need for further refinements, including more specialization.
These are some of the essays that make this brief collection valuable, not only for coaches and their clients, but for a range of helping professionals and researchers.
Learning Cities for Adult Learners (New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, Number 145)
Date Reviewed: November 30, -0001
In Learning Cities for Adult Learners, Leodis Scott compiles seven articles that explore how cities are uniquely positioned to provide new directions for adult and continuing education. “Adult education needs more space,” Scott writes, and scholars and practitioners must take the lead in building larger spaces for all learners (1). The larger spaces are cities themselves – “learning cities” that take education beyond the traditional walls of schools, colleges, and workplaces in order to connect and grow in all life experiences. Scott suggests cities can take on the characteristics of learning, and in doing so, adults of every social class and educational level can experience a new quality of life.
Scott is cofounder and research scholar at LearnLong Institute for Education and Learning Research, and lecturer in adult learning philosophy and practice at DePaul University–School for New Learning and Columbia University–Teachers College. Contributors to the volume come from a variety of universities, research centers, and programs that are committed to connecting the scholarship of adult learning with concrete practices that encourage a more widespread approach to learning. Most articles are co-authored, further demonstrating how collaboration and cross-disciplinary thinking is a natural hallmark of building the necessary infrastructure for learning cities.
After an Editor’s Note by Scott, Connie Watson and Aimee Tiu Wu introduce key themes of lifelong learning and lifelong education in Chapter 1, as they explore the evolution and reconstruction of learning cities for sustainable actions. In Chapter 2, Hiram E. Fitzgerald and Renee Zientek write about the connections between learning cities, systems change, and community engagement scholarship in the context of a learning city/region. Lyle Yorks and Jody Barto investigate in Chapter 3 the interconnections between workplace, organizational, and societal learning, showing how 21st-century cities must function to promote learning for a larger society. In Chapter 4, Alysia Peich and Cynthia Needles Fletcher provide research and a case study for how public libraries and cooperative extension can work as community partners for lifelong learning and learning cities. In Chapter 5, Joanne Howard, Diane Howard, and Ebbin Dotson provide a connected history of health and education and demonstrate the necessity of including both health and education endeavors in any strategic planning of learning cities. Dan K. Hibbler and Leodis Scott write in Chapter 6 about the role of leisure in humanizing learning cities. Finally, Scott provides a summary in Chapter 7 of the main themes from the book and suggests a way forward: scholars and practitioners in the field of adult and continuing education can become facilitators of learning cities so that citizens have the power and ability to construct their own cities appropriate to their needs.
This book is written for scholars and practitioners in adult learning and provides both a compelling vision and practical strategies for how citizens can work across fields and disciplines for the betterment of society. It will take leadership, vision, and talent to connect civic institutions in the formation of learning cities. One strategic type of institution not mentioned in the book is local religious communities. It seems that religious groups could be uniquely situated to both model and help facilitate the essential elements of a learning city. As scholars and practitioners continue to work towards this new direction for adult and continuing education, they will certainly do well to collaborate with as many different types of civic institutions as possible – for building a learning city is certainly worth the pursuit.