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Multicultural Andragogy for Transformative Learning
Date Reviewed: April 18, 2019
In the Foreword and the Introduction of Multicultural Andragogy for Transformative Learning, the editors lay out the goals and the structure of this multi-author volume. But the reader will not get past the first paragraph of the Forward before encountering one of many punctuation errors that plague the volume. In addition to multiple punctuation errors, some chapters contain so many spelling and phrasing errors that the reader is distracted from engaging with the content. Further, the quality of the research, the quality of the writing, and the author’s ability to support his/her assertions varies widely from chapter to chapter. The result is a collection of chapters that are very loosely connected, with little consistency in how each author engages with the intersection of multiculturalism, andragogy, and transformative learning.
The volume is organized into three sections. The first provides the reader with the foundations for understanding the learning theories of andragogy and transformative learning and how both relate to culture. The second section examines andragogy and practice in a variety of cultural contexts. The final section describes “transformative multicultural andragogy” (xvii) in practice. While some chapters stand out as cogent and applicable, too many other chapters suffer from lack of editorial attention and guidance. The first section of the volume would most benefit from said guidance. Each chapter explains the theory of andragogy; many also describe transformative learning. Andragogy is also explained in detail in the Preface, making much (and in one case, most) of these initial chapters repetitive. Rather than re-explaining these theories, these chapters would be better spent connecting adult learning in various contexts to multiculturalism.
Some of the chapters in sections two and three are valuable as stand-alone articles on their stated topics, but as a whole the chapters do not work together to enlighten the reader about multicultural andragogy as it relates to transformative learning. To be fair, the editors state that they “have set a broad scope for the theme” of exploring the intersection of culture, andragogy, and transformative learning (xx). However, only a few of the authors explore all three of these concepts. When a chapter in a volume is notable for addressing the stated topic of the volume, the scope of the volume is perhaps too broad.
In the Preface and Conclusion, the authors state that “the primary focus of this text has been to elicit the connection between cultural perspectives and adult learning” (xxiv, 270), and in the Conclusion, they propose a new learning model representing the relationship between andragogy, transformation learning, and multiculturalism. What one would hope to learn from this volume is how they interact, not just that they do, so that the model can be tested and reproduced in an adult learning environment. The editors are correct that the relationships between these concepts should be explored and described, and that adult education would benefit from such work. However, Multicultural Andragogy for Transformative Learning lacks the focus and editorial oversight to accomplish that goal.
The Grace of Playing: Pedagogies for Leaning into God's New Creation
Date Reviewed: November 30, -0001
In The Grace of Playing, Courtney Goto offers a project in practical theology for Christian religious education that uses the notion of playing to better understand teaching and learning. Goto distinguishes her project from a formal practical theology of play, where play could be explored as a universal category of human existence. Instead, she works in the line of Paulo Freire’s search to move beyond a traditional schooling model of education towards learning that is more integrated, experiential, and creative. Specifically, Goto reflects critically on the notion of revelatory experiencing through the language and pedagogies of playing. Her focus is on playing as it relates to adult learning, and her investigation demonstrates – both conceptually and through case studies – how playing cultivates faith formation.
Goto is an Assistant Professor of Religious Education at the Boston University School of Theology and a co-Director of the Center for Practical Theology. She writes as a third generation Japanese American United Methodist primarily for an audience of theorists, students, and practitioners who are liberal mainline Protestants. She invites Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Charismatic Christians into the conversation as well, but notes that her advocacy of revelatory experiencing is to be understood in terms of the contextualized perspectives encountered in mainline Protestant churches. This is an important caveat. Theologically conservative readers will take issue with her concept of revelatory experiencing, whereby revelation happens in between persons as they relate to one another (as opposed to approaching Christian revelation as a totalizing meta-narrative). That Goto makes her theological liberalism so clear and defined, particularly in terms of her understanding of revelation, is a great service to readers.
The Grace of Playing investigates playing from social scientific, theological, and historical perspectives and offers two case studies for application. After a preface and introduction, Chapter 2 explores psychoanalytical and psychological concepts of playing, relying particularly on D. W. Winnicott to articulate sociologically what occurs in revelatory experiencing. In Chapter 3, Goto turns to theology to build a theory and constructive proposal of play by appropriating insights from Jürgen Moltmann’s Theology of Play. Chapter 4 is a historical accounting of medieval practices of play, including the use of devotional dolls by fourteenth century nuns in the Rheinland, Germany and the practice of holy foolery by those in both Western and Eastern Church traditions. The final two chapters contain case studies of grace-filled play. The first describes the creation of a pretend garden at a Japanese American church for the purpose of congregational reconciliation, and the second briefly recounts a practice of playing with inmates in a juvenile detention center.To conclude, Goto demonstrates that the grace of playing leads a world in need towards God’s new creation.
The Grace of Playing skillfully navigates insights from sociology, theology, and history to make a compelling case for the theological practice of play as a mediating, revelatory experience within Christian religious education. The book is readily accessible for students and practitioners, without neglecting the more technical needs of theorists. For the case studies, Goto deliberately refrains from providing much, if any, direct data; this effectively condenses the reading, but also leaves a sense of wanting to know more about how the grace of playing works itself into and through these unique settings. Overall, the book is a warm invitation for all to play in the fullness of God’s grace.
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.
The Instructional Value of Digital Storytelling: Higher Education, Professional, and Adult Learning Settings
Date Reviewed: January 18, 2016
Digital Storytelling originated in the early 1990s in the matrix of what was then called “new media”: a mix of graphics, photography, videography, audio recording, and video and audio editing. As first developed at the Center for Digital Storytelling in California, workshop participants learned to create a two- to three-minute first-person story in a digital format that could be shared via the Internet. By 2000 when media production software became commonly available on personal computers, what had been the realm of professional artists and media producers became a potential playground where ordinary people of all ages could be empowered to craft and to share digitally a succinct, poignant, brief first-person video story.
Since then, this form of storytelling has found advocates around the world: in small villages in Wales; in schools from elementary to college-level in the U.S.; in museum art programs in Australia; and in social service and social justice organizations in the U.S., Africa, and elsewhere; and in youth faith formation in Norway and Denmark. Major universities now offer education courses in this method, from the University of Cardiff in Wales to the University of Hawaii. ESL teachers have successfully employed this technique to help immigrants tell their stories. PhD students have written dissertations that explore the evolution and application of Digital Storytelling in a variety of settings, and media and cultural studies scholars have analyzed this phenomenon as it has been introduced in multiple cultures. While the original short format is referred to with initial capital letters, the wider field of digital media storytelling has evolved and now takes many forms.
Patricia McGee has carved out a portion of this diverse world of digital storytelling and limited her comments to “Higher Education, Professional, and Adult Learning Settings,” which is still a very wide scope. She divides this well-researched work into three sections that provide excellent overviews of past storytelling traditions and new twenty-first century approaches; current institutional uses and emerging models for digital storytelling; and applications in diverse cultural and institutional contexts. She advises readers to turn to whichever section they find of most interest.
Theological educators and religious studies professors will most benefit from exploring the third section on applications. With a little imagination, they can envision how the digital storytelling examples McGee cites can be translated for application in their classrooms and how their ministry students and graduates can use digital storytelling in youth ministry, faith formation, catechumenal processes, new members gatherings, church building transitions and anniversaries, and church websites.
McGee, Associate Professor of Digital Learning Design at the University of Texas at San Antonio, is evidently a master of her wide-ranging, fast-evolving field. She is a good guide, one who will stretch the vision of theological and religious studies educators. By introducing this creative, communal digital storytelling process in their classrooms, their students can learn to empower themselves and others to claim their voice.
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.