Adult Learning Principles as the Foundation for Innovative Technology Applications in Business and Higher Education Venues

Adult Learning Principles as the Foundation for Innovative Technology Applications in Business and Higher Education Venues

Judith Parker (Teachers College/Columbia University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-694-0.ch008


As Web 2.0 surfaces as the latest trendy phrase in education and technology discussions, it is imperative that instructors not get caught up in the glamour of the latest technology and loose sight of the required andragogical underpinnings necessary for effective and efficient teaching and learning. This chapter will begin by exploring the major theories and theorists in the field of adult education and the meshing of these theories with technology applications in higher education and global business venues. While Malcolm Knowles is credited with popularizing adult learning theory in the 1970’s, Stephen Brookfield, Jack Mezirow, Maxine Greene and Knud Illeris are among those who have moved the field forward over the past decades. Along with this progression in theory, the use of technology has escalated in popularity creating a need to frame its application in the foundational principles of adult education; an “Andragogy 2.0” focus is required. This chapter will expand on this theoretical base by offering short case studies that are linked to the theories as examples of innovative strategic approaches in the use of technology in adult teaching and learning.
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The need for theory as a foundation of practice is articulated by Elias and Merriam (2005). “Theory without practice leads to empty idealism and action without philosophical reflection leads to a mindless activism” (p. 4). In Malcolm Knowles’ (2005) classic text “The Adult Learner” he provides the historical development of learning theories in a summary of propounders and interpreters of learning theory from Thorndike and Dewey of the early 1900’s to Brookfield and Mezirow today. His list includes 61 propounders and 33 interpreters who have influenced the development of learning theories over the past 130 years. Only a few individuals from this extensive list will be profiled in this chapter. Dewey believed that experience was always the starting point of an educational process, not the end result. Thorndike believed that 3 laws governed the learning of animals and human beings: the law of readiness for learning, the law of exercise which connects learning to practice, the law of effect which is dependent on the consequences of learning. In stark comparison Knowles refers to his own ideas of separating humans into adults and children.

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