Participatory Learning in Formal Adult Education Contexts

Participatory Learning in Formal Adult Education Contexts

Ilhan Kucukaydin (Penn State Harrisburg, USA) and Patricia Cranton (Professor of Adult Education, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5780-9.ch108


Formal courses in adult education are most often housed within schools or faculties that include other disciplines such as teacher education, psychology, or training and development. Adult educators teaching these courses may feel obligated to follow the procedures and practices of the institution as well as of the programs with which they are associated. This creates a set of paradoxes and conflicts that are rarely addressed. Adult educators working in formal contexts teach about critical pedagogy and democratic practices without engaging in those practices themselves. This article advocates a participatory learning model based on the historical foundations of adult education theory and practice. The authors explore teaching as a subversive activity, hegemony, critical pedagogy, and power relations. The authors then discuss implications for practice in formal contexts.
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Even though some authors, such as Campbell and Burnaby (2001) and Shor (1992) claim that the origin of participatory education can be traced to Freiriean popular education and its concepts began being used in the adult education literature in the 1980s (Jurmo, 1987; Suave, 1987), we can find even earlier roots. The development of adult education has been commonly linked to teaching and learning practices in which participatory methods were central. For example, Merriam and Brocket (2007) link the development of adult education as a field of study to social movements in which participatory methods were commonly used. In The Meaning of Adult Education, Lindeman (1926) emphasizes the crucial role of adults’ participation in the learning process. Lindeman claims that adults base their learning on materials and problems that are derived from their own experience, which also helps adults to develop a form of group motives and qualities. He further claims that this participatory feature of adult education distinguishes it from other forms of education. Social movements in Canada and the Highlander Folk School in the US support the roots of participatory education in adult education.

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