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What Does It Mean to Be an Adult Educator?

I am an adult educator. So, what does it mean to be an adult educator? Adult educators are people who facilitate learning for others considered to be adults by way of their age, personal responsibilities, life experience, lack of completion of secondary education, or a variety of other characteristics. Definitions of who qualifies as an adult learner vary and no single definition has been established, however a broadly based consensus might include those considered adults who engage in learning activities that support “change in thinking, values or behavior” (Merriam & Brockett, 2007, p. 298).

Adult educators can be found in universities and technical colleges teaching both formal and informal classes, training workers in corporate training programs, teaching First Aid and CPR on the weekends, volunteering in casually formed gatherings of people interested in a hobby, leading religious classes, teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) classes at a community center, working in health care teaching newly diagnosed diabetics about diet and glucose testing, demonstrating how to grout tile at a big box store, or developing on-line learning targeting adult learners.

Adult education practice is most often associated with the term “andragogy.” Malcolm Knowles (1984), first introduced the term in America in 1967, describing it as “the art and science of helping adults learn.” The “science” is usually thought of as the systematic activity, methods and knowledge acquired through formal education, training and practical experience and used to design, develop, implement and evaluate both face-to-face and on-line learning programs for adult learners. The “art” however, is often associated with educators’ activities of using insight, imagination, innovation, and creativity in practice. It is the manner in which the science of teaching is carried out, the style and grace with which facilitators engage learners and the environment, placing their mark on the process whether in person or via e-learning.

If you want to know more about adult education, here are a few good sites:

http://infed.org/mobi/malcolm-knowles-informal-adult-education-self-direction-and-andragogy/

http://elearningindustry.com/the-adult-learning-theory-andragogy-of-malcolm-knowles

http://www.qotfc.edu.au/resource/?page=65375

About Dr. Terrie Buckner

A native of Ohio, Terrie moved to Georgia in the mid-1970's. She studied Business Management at Shorter University, then earned a Master's degree in Adult Education and Occupational Studies and a doctorate in Adult Education and Human Resources and Organizational Development from The University of Georgia. Terrie's doctoral research, entitled "Engaging Moments: Adult Educators Reading and Responding to Emotion in the Classroom," was featured at the Harvard Graduate School of Education's Student Research Conference in 2007. Terrie's practice has focused on workforce development in the fields of Early Care and Education and Social Services as well as the Training of Trainers and Educators who work in those fields, Instructional Design and Technology, and Human Performance Improvement. Terrie is a popular conference presenter and trainer in both fields, an approved Level III trainer, CDA, and Administration trainer in Georgia, a Certified Trainer in S.Carolina, and Certified Brain Compatible Learning trainer. She co-authored two certification programs currently in use nationwide and has authored numerous e-learning courses offered by private providers.

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