Improving Workforce Education and Adult Learning: New Concepts

Improving Workforce Education and Adult Learning: New Concepts

Viktor Wang, Jeff Allen
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2181-7.ch001
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Workforce education and adult learning cannot and should not be separate. These two closely interrelated fields continue to produce a sustainable competitive advantage in a competitive and global 21st century workforce. This chapter highlights some of the major concepts used to improve workforce education and adult learning in the hope that future researchers can replicate and continue to generate new knowledge when change reshapes the nature of the adult learner’s work. The authors have addressed existing and emerging concepts in these two fields, from a very different perspective than most articles of this nature, to assist in redefining workforce education and adult learning in the 21st century. It is hoped that everyone, including those in key leadership positions, will take a renewed interest in these vitally important fields and seek to leverage the respective theories, models, and frameworks to produce a more productive citizen of the world.
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The disciples of Aristotle, Plato, and Confucius were adult learners, meaning that adult learning as a concept and practice preceded pedagogy, or the “the art and science of teaching children.” According to its current definition, as long as a child has reached the age of 18, she is considered an adult and therefore an adult learner. However, it is not as simple as biologically defining an age of adulthood. The long accepted theoretical ideas of pedagogy, andragogy, and geragogy (older adult learning, coined in 1950s) provide a basic start but can be better described as a continuum of theory rather than standalone theoretical constructs to be studied separately. It is important that we recognize that adults are not a homogeneous group. People tend to become increasingly different as they age (Allen & Hart, 1998). Differences in education, experience, health, and experiences are so diverse that few generalizations are accurate (Caswell, 1994).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Andragogy: Defined by Malcolm Knowles as the art and science of helping adults learn.

John Dewey: The first American philosopher/educator who advocated that “occupations should be the vehicle of instruction at the elementary/secondary level in workforce education.”

Workforce Education: Formerly known as “vocational education,” which concerns education for work.

Ralph Tyler: Hailed as the “king” of curriculum development based on pedagogy, the art and science of teaching children.

Malcolm Knowles: Considered as the father of adult education worldwide who popularized the concept of andragogy during his lifetime.

Adult Learning: Became a major field of study in the 1920s in North America. Students can seek teaching credentials for PhDs in this field.

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