It’s been eight years since I taught an (explicity) adult education course, so I’m spending quite a bit of time reviewing the literature and trying to find an appropriate framework for the class I’m teaching this fall. In the past I’ve always taught as part of a specialized graduate program, and students either entered with some exposure to the field or were looking to my course to provide the basis future work. This class is the only one on the topic at William and Mary, so it will probably be the only exposure many get to adult education as a field of practice. Packaging a field that includes everything from adult basic education (ABE) to continuing professional education (CPE) into a single course is no small task.
One key goal of my classes has always been to help participants become more effective self-directed learners and more confident in their abilities in “learning how to learn”. Pat Hutchins, at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, calls the enhancement of this ability of students to become more aware of themselves as learners “building pedagogical intelligence.”
More important, having a voice in matters pedagogical would make students better learners. It’s easy for those of us in “the business” to forget that getting educated isn’t easy. Just jumping through the hoops is not enough. Students need to be able to make connections between what is learned in very different, and typically unconnected, settings. And to do this they need to be able to step back and see what their efforts add up to, to take stock both of what they have learned and what it will take to get to a next level of understanding. In a word, they need to be agents of their own learning.
Since this will be a graduate class in the school of education, we can probably justify a little more obsessing about the topic than the typical undergraduate course:
This is not to suggest that Econ 101 or 19th Century American Lit be turned into occasions to obsess about the learning process. But the disposition to be thoughtful about one’s own learning, to be an active agent of learning, to find and even to design experiences in which learning is advanced—these are goals that should be central to undergraduate education.