Select an item by clicking its checkbox
Transnational Migration, Social Inclusion, and Adult Education (New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, Number 146)
Date Reviewed: November 30, -0001
Adult education is an area of study and application that has helped bridge the gap between immigrant populations and the bureaucratic systems regulating said populations. This has been accomplished by implementing formal and informal training as well as collaborating with settlement services and other programs. Sadly, the bent of much of this training (specifically within Canada, the U.S., and Australia, in which this volume’s featured studies are located), was geared historically toward assimilating immigrants rather than integrating them into their host countries. Even today, the underlying narrative of immigration policy in these countries is highly colonial and assimilationist.
This volume attempts to elucidate the key conflicts at work between immigrants, host countries’ policies, and service workers. Using Nancy Fraser’s theoretical constructs of redistributive, recognitive, and representational justice, the authors present solutions and insights into how adult education as a field can assist immigrants in challenging exploitation and influence policy towards a more socially just outcome. Applying Fraser’s theory to adult education, Shibao Guo defines recognitive adult education as one that “affirms cultural difference and diversity as positive and desireable assets” (15). This collection addresses the conflicting interests at work within immigration and education and points to possible ways adult educators and others can mitigate the negative realities that immigrants face.
The topic of immigration is dense and multifaceted so thankfully the chapters are concise and accessible. Given that “the United Nations now estimates that 232 million of the world’s population lives outside the country of their birth,” transnational migration can no longer be ignored (2). One takeaway from this collection of nine chapters is that there is a marked disconnect between immigrants’ experiences and the policies created to regulate them. Immigrants face a myriad of challenges: the devaluation of foreign credentials, possible exploitation, racism, discrimination, heightened security policies of receiving countries, and broken bureaucratic systems. The nature of immigration has also changed. Shibao Guo provides a helpful description of how transnational migration is different from other types of migration by defining it as “multiple and circular migration across spaces of migrants who maintain close contact with their countries of origin” (7). This type of migration is a far cry from migration patterns of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries when migration was often described as “one way” and immigrants were expected to completely assimilate into the receiving country’s culture, leaving all traces of “foreignness” behind. Each of the chapters echo Shibao Guo’s call for adult education to “continue its long-standing commitment to social inclusion by working toward a more inclusive adult education squarely focused on the benefit of marginalized adult learners (e.g., workers, farmers, women, racialized minorities)” (8).
The statistics reported are simply staggering. Bonnie L. Slade cites the Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada (LSIC), which reports that “although 76% of new immigrants have at least one type of international credential, such as a university degree, 70% experienced barriers in gaining access to the Canadian labor market at an appropriate level” (67). As Slade and others note, the devaluation of foreign creditials often leads to underemployment or unemployment, especially for immigrant women.
Critically studying the language used in immigration policy and the theoretical position taken by policy makers may also assist adult educators in unpacking some of the undercurrents of racism and colonialism still at work in policy creation. As Edward Joaquin and Juanita Johnson-Bailey point out, the “issue of immigration has generally been cloaked in the language of patriotism and nationalism” (79). While overt racism and bias may be shunned in modern discourses around immigration “predjuice has become coded and wrapped in new, less offensive language and discussion” (80). Joaquin and Johnson-Bailey also suggest that adult education programs “adapt their curriculum to educate learners about transmigrational immigrant education concerns” as well as “infuse strategies that address the needs of immigrant students” (83). Yan Gao’s chapter on ESL programs in Canada illustates how some language programs have become mechanisms to create and control workers. Yan Gao suggests that adult educators in Canada “help immigrants develop critical language awareness” which will allow them to contest unfair practices (48). Perhaps one of the most promising avenues for change comes from Tara Gibb who suggests “inviting policymakers and employers into literacy classrooms and language classrooms so that they might observe firsthand alternative forms of assessment, view holistic respresentations of language and literacy practices, and listen to immigrants’ experiences and expressions of knowledge” (60). In these instances, adult educators are being called on to actively educate themselves, their students – immigrant and nonimmigrant alike – and policy makers on these issues.
This collection provides an intriguing foray into the brave new world of immigration. It lends itself not only to adult educators who work with immigrants but also to those who do not. College faculty, administrators, and staff in the Global North would benefit from reading this volume because if transnational migration continues on its current trajectory, it will vastly change our institutional as well as national demographics.
Unfit to Be a Slave: A Guide to Adult Education for Liberation
Date Reviewed: July 15, 2015
David Greene’s Unfit to Be a Slave sets out to address the role that education should play in society. His argument rests on the assumption that current educational opportunities are limiting or exploitive of adult working students. He says, “today, the corporations and financiers benefit from the ignorance and silence of the population. The less information and understanding people have, the more they can be misled and controlled” (71; this criticism is borne out in more detail in chapters 4 and 5). The current trend towards “job skills education” is elicited as a prime example of inadequate higher educational opportunities which serve the interests of corporations and not students. Greene argues that “the duty of an educator is to broaden the horizons of learning and challenge the limitations they [students] face” (53). Thus, for Greene, successful education arrives at the “maximal development of intellect, understanding, culture, and awareness of the world around us” (9). Further, effective education must aim to develop students as leaders, and empower them for success, rather than giving them only skills requisite for low-wage or menial employment.
In an effort to ameliorate these problems, Greene presents an outline of a pedagogical system built on Paulo Freire’s idea of “problem posing education.” This model starts with the dissolution of customary boundaries between teacher and student, recognizing that both students and teachers need to learn, and both can teach. Greene builds on this model, advocating that education ought to be focused on the collective development of a set of central literacies: functional literacy, civic or political literacy, health literacy, environmental literacy, and financial and economic literacy (22). Each of these literacies includes competencies for both individual and corporate ends, and Greene’s argument posits they can be gained through what he calls “central tools,” which are: listening, the recognition of pre-existing student knowledge, discussions about real problems faced in daily life, and the advocation and organization of specific actions to combat those problems (71-77). Greene also strongly suggests that education not be confined to the classroom. He contends that higher education must empower students to change society and he provides examples from his own teaching that underscore this need.
Unfit to Be a Slave does not contain any quick fix techniques to import into your classroom to move towards a more effective classroom experience, rather it presents an idea of education that is much broader and more holistic. Throughout the book Greene strives to promote a broad educational model that is directed not to the acquisition of job skills themselves, but to an increased ability of students to function well in society and to live well. The book focuses on the plight of adult workers, and takes particular pains to explain the oppressive economic and social factors working against the thriving of adults in the workforce. Personal politics aside, faculty are reminded that life exists outside of the ivory tower of academia, and that student experience informs their perspectives on theoretical matters, and can be marshaled as an asset to an effective learning experience for both the instructor of record and the students enrolled in the course.
Learning Transfer in Adult Education (New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, Number 137)
Date Reviewed: May 15, 2015
Leann M. R. Kaiser, Karen Kaminski, and Jeffrey M. Foley’s edited volume Learning Transfer in Adult Education offers a concise and readable entry point into the topic of learning transfer. While the stated focus of the volume is adult education, many of the themes and strategies considered will be of interest to those teaching traditional undergraduates as well. According to the editors, “Learning transfer, simply stated, is the ability of a learner to apply skills and knowledge learned in one situation or setting to another” (1). This goal, they suggest, is fundamental to any educational enterprise.
In the first chapter, Foley and Kaiser introduce learning transfer and concepts associated with it, providing a useful framing for the chapters that follow. In particular, Foley and Kaiser explain the distinction between “near transfer,” in which the new situation closely resembles the original learning context, and “far transfer,” in which it does not. These and a handful of other key terms reappear throughout the essays; this chapter deserves a careful reading. The chapter also offers a brief overview of some tools available to instructors, many of which reappear or are discussed in greater detail in later chapters.
Chapters 2 through 7 offer a variety of perspectives. Nate Furman and Jim Sibthorp (chapter 2) consider experiential learning techniques. These include problem-based learning, project-based learning, cooperative learning, service learning, and reflective learning. Three strong case studies are offered in this chapter, which help demonstrate the techniques in action. One of the techniques, problem-based learning (PBL), is the focus of the contribution by Woei Hung (chapter 3). Hung introduces the distinction between “well-structured” and “ill-structured” problems; the latter are more commonly found in the workplace and thus are productively used in PBL. Hung also comments on the cognitive processes that underlie effective learning transfer; these are complemented nicely by Jacqueline McGinty, Jean Radin, and Karen Kaminski’s study of “Brain-Friendly Teaching” (chapter 5). As the phrase “brain-friendly” suggests, the chapter skews toward pop psychology, but many of the techniques seem to hold potential. Patricia L. Hardré’s contribution (chapter 4), meanwhile, offers a serious engagement with the question of authenticity as it plays out in technology design.
The remaining two case studies take up broader concerns. Rosemary Closson (chapter 6) offers a nuanced review of issues surrounding race and cultural difference in learning transfer, combining theoretical and practical discussion. This chapter is especially valuable for instructors interested in race, cultural difference, and pedagogy. Jeani C. Young (chapter 7) offers an equally sensitive treatment of personal change. The volume concludes with a discussion by the editors on “applying transfer in practice.”
While those teaching adult learners will especially benefit from the specific examples and case studies, all interested readers stand to profit from this volume. In particular, its wealth of practical examples and classroom strategies offer quick and immediate value to the busy reader.
Learning with Adults: A Reader
Date Reviewed: April 8, 2015
Learning with Adults begins with the following assumption: adult learning is central to the flourishing of a democracy, a democratic world, and practices of justice and peace. The volume borrows the foundations of Paulo Freire, Jürgen Habermas, John Dewey, Theodor Adorno, Jack Mezirow, and other critical theorists and democratically-minded educators and philosophers to develop a substantial discourse around adult learning. This volume is a companion to the original, Learning with Adults: A Critical Pedagogical Introduction (2012, Sense Publications) and is volume 13 in a series committed to the expanding field of adult learning centered in emancipatory, democratic, and critical studies.
This second volume developed as a multi-authored extension of the initial volume. The authors of the initial volume understood that more work needed to be completed around adult learning as it relates to sexual orientation, disability, literacy, and consumer rights. The authors extended this initial plan to include chapters on relating adult education to poverty, libraries as learning sites, social creation, aesthetics, and media. Unlike traditional reader-companion volumes, this reader does not provide the foundational texts for the initial volume but provides amplifying essays brought together by contemporary authorities in adult learning and outside scholars, including Zygmunt Bauman.
This is an interesting collection as it lays out essays toward an emancipatory vision for adult learning and away from the consumerist or compliance categories of training and education. The volume has five parts, beginning with the learning society and moving through questions of identity, instruments of practice, and learning in everyday life. The final section is on policy and context, which connects to an important literature on citizenship education for adult learners.
The volume makes a contribution to the definition and scope of adult learning. In sum, adult learning, throughout the volume, is best understood from Oscar Negt. In his essay, “Adult Education and European identity,” he says adult learning is “learning processes that are determined by people’s own interests and horizons of perception, so that general relationships are made comprehensible” (126). The assumption throughout the volume is that adult learning is dynamic and that the methods, processes, and outcomes constantly shift as people’s own interests and horizons of perceptions shift. D.W. Livingstone outlines how adult learning that is emancipatory extends the scope of education and reverses the trend that “we may becoming increasingly willfully ignorant societies rather than learning ones” (33). Each of the chapters offers models for adult learning, some better than others, to increase critical thinking and to challenge societal norms.
Several of the essays highlight the social inequality evident in access to formal education and claim that social and economic class status continue to be roadblocks in granting access to transformational learning. Adult learning, for these authors, is an invitational practice for all people and is, in itself, emancipatory. The authors continually highlight how the history of education (à la Meyers  and Smith ) is in need of ongoing critique if education, specifically adult education, is going to move beyond compliance and consumerist practices.
These essays press against dominant ideologies, namely that “the dominant tendency in contemporary thought has been to equate learning with the provision of learning opportunities in settings organized by institutional authorities and led by teachers approved by these authorities” (37). Adult education has rarely moved beyond this dominant trend and has mostly accentuated it, which limits transformative learning for marginalized adult communities. The essays engage in a clear critique while also offering models for emancipatory and transformational adult learning processes (see Livingston’s and Cranton’s chapters).
These models are the take away gifts from the volume. The models fall into three categories. The first set of models are site-based learning models, where the locations of everyday life are taken up as locations for learning. The second set of models arise from within the institutionalized practices of societies, where social and economic practices invite critical questions and transformative learning opportunities; and the third model is rooted in the ideologies of good education, namely processes to enact justice and peace.
Overall, the volume holds education for adults as a learning paradigm for its own consideration. The site-based learning discussion recognizes that learning spaces are most often beyond the classroom and are found in the student’s everyday experiences. However, adult education that occurs in a classroom then becomes, itself, a site of the everyday experience. Additionally, this volume is a model for how the liberal arts tradition is a common practice in adult learning, whereby multiple disciplines make intersections around a common question. There is broad range of voices from education, philosophy, economics, sociology, and elsewhere included, yet all are committed to common questions of lifelong adult learning.
Finally, the volume in itself is an adult learning model; the renaissance feel to the book results in unexpected points of informational learning for the reader. For example, on the topic of capitalism’s impact on the labor force and access to education, D.W. Lingston highlights that in 1983 only 28 percent of workers needed a college degree; by 2004 this figure rose to 45 percent. What is important is that over this same time period, degree attainment increased from 22 percent (of the population) to 54 percent, which is an increase of 34 percent (46). The data assists the reader in understanding how formalized processes of education result in trends toward underemployment. The point of information locates the implications of economics on the practice and process of adult learning.
The volume, however, falls short of expectations. I was expecting the inclusion of several foundational texts in relationship to the field of adult learning. Also, several of the essays trail away from the central argument around learning with adults into diatribes on the respective intellectual agendas of each author; this is both a gift and burden. Each of the diatribes is not unimportant yet limits the volume’s coherence toward detailing models and processes for adult education amidst diverse populations. The positive aspect of this is mentioned above.
I recommend this volume to curious readers. Learning with Adults assists its readers in understanding the complexities of learning with adults and makes clear that the field of adult learning is underdeveloped and misunderstood when connected to the traditional avenues of education. If a reader is looking for a more basic and invitational text on the topic of adult learning, I recommend purchasing the first volume in this series (English and Mayo, Learning With Adults: A Critical Pedagogical Introduction, 2012).
Adult Education in Changing Times: Policies, Philosophies and Professionalism
Date Reviewed: March 5, 2015
Marion Bowl’s Adult Education in Changing Times: Policies, Philosophies, and Professionalism explores the impact of changes in global policy on the field of adult continuing education. She teaches as a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at the University of Birmingham in the UK. This title is Bowl’s most recent in a long line of publications on adult and continuing education.
Bowl states “this book explores how adult educators – their work, their expectations, and the expectations laid upon them – are being affected by the changing political and economic environment” (5). She asks “why, when lifelong learning has been a policy priority for the past 40 years, does publicly funded adult education appear to be fighting for its life? And why do so many qualified, skilled, and experienced adult educators find themselves in an educational landscape that does not recognize or value their contribution?” (1). She begins by tracing the development of neoliberalism and its impact upon adult education specifically in England and New Zealand, examining the scope and definition of adult education and exploring adult educators’ beliefs and values.
She then divides the rest of the volume into two sections: “Historical and Political Contexts for Adult Education” and “Adult Educators’ Working Lives Researched.” The first section presents a brief historical overview of adult education, including the impact of the Protestant Reformation, the Enlightenment, colonial expansion, urbanization and industrialization, post-World War II institutions, and globalization. The author pays particular attention to institutions, including UNESCO, OECD, the World Bank, and the European Union. She ends her historical survey by examining the role of professionalism and professionalization in the development of adult education.
In the second section, Bowl explores policy and practice using her interviews with sixty-two educators in the field of adult education, evenly split between England and New Zealand. Interviewees were invited to discuss their career histories, their values and philosophies, how the field has changed over their careers, and perceived challenges and opportunities (76). She brings their narratives together to fashion a picture of adult educators’ working lives. Her findings on these educators’ attitudes toward theory, particularly the approaches of Paulo Freire and Carl Rogers, provide some interesting conclusions. In addition, her discussion of the factors impacting career identity are very insightful.
Bowl ends her book by offering lessons for changing times (153). This is arguably the strongest chapter of her book and deserves to be expanded. She argues that the shifts in adult education – the growing emphasis on economic ends, marketization, the view that adult education is an individual responsibility, and tighter monitoring of educator standards – have deeply impacted the field. She advocates for a stronger linking of political engagement with pedagogical approaches; argues against hegemony in education, including preordained outcomes; supports more scrutiny of the use of power; and argues in favor of a stronger exercise of agency by educators. Finally, she notes that educators must be more willing to engage theory and politics for a “re-birth of radical education” (166).
This book is well written and contains an excellent bibliography which provides a road map to these areas of the professional literature. The historical overview, however, is very limited. For example, the Protestant Reformation receives only one paragraph, and the book’s scope covers only England and New Zealand. Despite these limitations, Bowl’s scholarship provides a great starting point for explorations into these subjects in other contexts. Even though Bowl does not address theological education, adult education remains an important topic for theological education. Theological continuing education needs more discussion about its theoretical foundations and approaches, and Bowl provides a good starting point. Adult Education in Changing Times would make a good addition to progressive theological libraries with strong educational programming and terminal degrees with tracks in religious education.