Transformative Vocational Education: Bridging Transitions of Underserved Urban Adult Learners

Transformative Vocational Education: Bridging Transitions of Underserved Urban Adult Learners

Anthony C. Adkisson (Cleveland State University, Cleveland, OH, USA) and Catherine H. Monaghan (Cleveland State University, Cleveland, OH, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/ijavet.2014010103


How our culture thinks about particular events as linear, normal, and expected does not always fit with the experiences of every learner, particularly underserved urban adult learners. As adult educators in this context, are there ways we might improve or change our pedagogy of instruction by developing a better understanding of transitional life moments for vocational learners. What is the role of alternative approaches to transformative learning for these learners? Specifically, what is the role of alternative approaches learning for underserved adult learners transitioning into a vocational education classroom, after years of disengagement with formal learning institutions with the need to update their technology skills? In this article, we discuss the need to use alternative conceptions of transformative learning to understand vocational learners as they make decisions to participate in vocational education programs. We explore the key issues for adult educators including implications for practice and research.
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We both work for different educational institutions located in a small urban city in the Midwest. Each of our institutions provide educational programming and courses to underserved adult learners with varying experiences within the educational system as well as from varying backgrounds, which are culturally and economically diverse. Urban settings provide a number of formal and non-formal educational programs where adults may participate. Some examples of programs are community based job readiness programs; sector based vocational education programs, and traditional post-secondary educational courses. The urban setting as the backdrop for both of our programs positions learners in unique ways not fully explored within empirical literature on transformational learning and vocational education. Residing in an urban setting has the potential to inform a learners experience in both positive and negative ways (Martin, 2004). According to Kappel and Daley (2004), “the urban context often acts as a multilayered web of disorienting and intersecting dilemmas” (p. 88). These disorienting dilemmas often present themselves as challenges to underserved adult learners providing them with both inspiration and obstruction in their learning process. Merriam (2005) points out that such life events or transitions create moments for learning and development in the lives of an adult learner, and these transitions for adult learners are times when an individual goes back and forth between moments of stability and change.

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