Premises of adult education

Premises of adult education
This paper aims at identifying and showing any three institutions or organizations in Zambia which are using any three premises given in the module, why, how and where which are advancing some prescribed adult education premises in Zambia. This will be followed by the discussion in the main body and the conclusion.
“A premise is synonymous to evidence, principle, idea, foundation, ground, statement, basis. It is a basis, proposition, supposition, hypothesis, assertion, thesis, presupposition, grounds, assumption, postulate, presumption (formal) on which something is based”, (Encarta 2009). The definition of adult Education like other forms of education is perculiar, all forms of schooling and learning programs in which adults participate are termed adult education. Unlike other types of education, adult education is defined by the student population rather than by the content or complexity of a learning program. It includes literacy training, community development, university credit programs, on-the-job training, and continuing professional education. Programs vary in organization from casual, incidental learning to formal college credit courses. Institutions offering education to adults in Zambia include Universities like the University of Zambia (UNZA) Zambian Open University (ZAO) and Non-governmental organization people’s Action forum (PAF). There are other institutions which provide adult education like colleges, libraries, museums, social service and government agencies, businesses, and churches in Zambia.
The provision of adult education is based on certain principles or premises by consensus based on research. Part of being an effective educator involves understanding how adults learn best (Lieb,1991). Andragogy (adult learning) is a theory that holds a set of assumptions about how adults learn. Andragogy emphasises the value of the process of learning. It uses approaches to learning that are problem-based and collaborative rather than didactic, and also emphasises more equality between the teacher and learner. As compared to children and teens, adults have special needs and requirements as learners. Despite the apparent truth, adult learning is a relatively new area of study. The field of adult learning was pioneered by Malcom Knowles. He identified the following characteristics of adult learners in a peculiar way through research.
Studies have shown that there are a number of premises that have to be followed many of which are in line with (page 5 of the given module) premises. These premises includes that facts that adults are internally motivated and self-directed bringing into classes life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences. That adults are goal oriented and would like to learn things which are of relevance to their lives. Adult learners need to be respected, acknowledged and teach practical things of social utility.
In Zambia, there are a limited number of institutions facilitating adult learning premises and these include the University of Zambia in the department of Adult and extension studies, The Zambian open University adult education area and people’s Action Forum (PAF) in its adult literacy programmes. However, it should be pointed out here that although these learning institutions have been shortlisted above, they do not fully acknowledge all the premises which an adult learner is expected to have. In the three institutions, they all portray similar traits and characteristics in the manner in which they try to administer these literacy programmes such as as adhering to the adult learning premises may its because same and similar learning facilitators who had the same education are found in such institutions. Nevertheless, these premises are affected by a number of factors in all these institutions which can hardly be neglected.
These learning premises are further affected by certain factors in these three learning institutions which are in line with a number of observations from different scholars. Mcclusky (1974) has highlighted on a number of factors which were further dived into two groups of interacting elements which influence the premises of adult learning: External factors which looks at tasks of life such as family, career, economic status. There is also Internal factors which focuses on self-concept, goals, personal expectations and others. It should be noted that there is also an aspect of power which consists of a combination of external resources and capacity as family support, social abilities, and economic abilities. Also, including internally acquired or accumulated skills and experiences contributing to effective performance, such as resiliency, coping skills, and personality. In the provision of education, power factors in include Physical – strength, stamina, energy, and health. Social – ability to relate to others. Mental – ability to think and reason. Economic – money position, and influence. Skills – what an individual knows how to do. The best Example can be the one given by (Hiemstra and Sisco, 1990) who said “a person’s performance will be a function of various loads dimensions and values, as well as a capacity to carry the load. Margin can be increased by reducing load or increasing power, suggesting that surplus power is always needed to provide enough margins to meet various load requirements of life emergencies in adult learners”.
McClusky’s works, has demonstrated that throughout his adult life, he has exactly shown the processes through which adult education learners pass through including the different processes involving both challenges and possibilities in the education circles’. He has shown that each person has an endless potential, vitality, and resiliency. His contributions to education is his educational gerontology due to his early work in adult education have helped to foster a rapid growing discipline and have motivated a lot of scholars to write a lot of materials and develop theories about adult education life.
It was pointed out that adults education is based on the premise that adults are internally motivated and self-directed. Studies has demonstrated that this premise is valid in all learning institutions if all learners are to be maintained in classes. This is due to the fact that adult learners resist learning when they feel others are imposing information, ideas or actions on them which is meaningless and caries little or plays no role in their lives. Knowles says “adults are autonomous and self-directed”. Arguing that they need to be free to direct themselves. Their teachers must actively involve adult participants in the learning process and serve as facilitators for them. Specifically, they must get participants’ perspectives about what topics to cover and let them work on projects that reflect their interests. They should allow the participants to assume responsibility for presentations and group leadership. They have to be sure to act as facilitators, guiding participants to their own knowledge rather than supplying them with facts. Finally, they must show participants how the class will help them reach their goals.

Although it is argued that there is self motivation in the learners, there is need to impart certain and specific motivation strategies in the learners according to Knowles like acknowledging some social relationships: to make new friends, to meet a need for associations and friendships. External expectations: to comply with instructions from someone else; to fulfill the expectations or recommendations of someone with formal authority. Social welfare: to improve ability to serve mankind, prepare for service to the community, and improve ability to participate in community work. Personal advancement: to achieve higher status in a job, secure professional advancement, and stay abreast of competitors. scape/Stimulation: to relieve boredom, provide a break in the routine of home or work, and provide a contrast to other exacting details of life. Cognitive interest: to learn for the sake of learning, seek knowledge for its own sake, and to satisfy an inquiring mind.

If not well planned like what happens in the three institution metioned above, Adult learners ca be demotivated heavily on many accounts because unlike children and teenagers, adults have many responsibilities that they must balance against the demands of learning. Because of these responsibilities, adults have barriers against participating in learning. Some of these barriers include lack of time, money, confidence, or interest, lack of information about opportunities to learn, scheduling problems, “red tape,” and problems with child care and transportation. Motivation factors can also be a barrier. What motivates adult learners? Typical motivations include a requirement for competence or licensing, an expected (or realized) promotion, job enrichment, a need to maintain old skills or learn new ones, a need to adapt to job changes, or the need to learn in order to comply with company directives. The best way to motivate adult learners is simply to enhance their reasons for enrolling and decrease the barriers. Instructors must learn why their students are enrolled (the motivators); they have to discover what is keeping them from learning. Then the instructors must plan their motivating strategies. A successful strategy includes showing adult learners the relationship between training and an expected promotion.

Another premise being implemented by UNZA, ZAO and PAF about adult learning is that all these institution bear in mind that adults have accumulated a foundation of life experiences and knowledge that may include work-related activities, family responsibilities, and previous education. They directly connect learning to this knowledge/experience base. To help them do so, they usually draw out participants’ experience and knowledge which is relevant to the topic. They relate theories and concepts to the participants and recognize the value of experience in learning. An eye open premise being implemented by these institutions about adult learning is that of the view that adults are goal-oriented. Upon enrolling in a course, they usually know what goal they want to attain. They, therefore, appreciate an educational program that is organized and has clearly defined elements. Instructors must show participants how this class will help them attain their goals. This classification of goals and course objectives must be done early in the course.

Another premise being implemented by UNZA, ZAO and PAF about adult learning is that adults are relevancy-oriented. They must see a reason for learning something. Learning has to be applicable to their work or other responsibilities to be of value to them. Therefore, instructors must identify objectives for adult participants before the course begins. This means, also, that theories and concepts must be related to a setting familiar to participants. This need can be fulfilled by letting participants choose projects that reflect their own interests. Adults are practical, focusing on the aspects of a lesson most useful to them in their work. They may not be interested in knowledge for its own sake. Instructors must tell participants explicitly how the lesson will be useful to them on the job. As do all learners, adults need to be shown respect. Instructors must acknowledge the wealth of experiences that adult participants bring to the classroom. These adults should be treated as equals in experience and knowledge and allowed to voice their opinions freely in class.

One common feature demonstrated by these learning institutions is that they facilitate positive re-inforcement in adult education. In these three institutions facilitating these premises for adult learning, they must continue to remember that learning occurs within each individual as a continual process throughout life. People learn at different speeds, so it is natural for them to be anxious or nervous when faced with a learning situation. Positive reinforcement by the instructor can enhance learning, as can proper timing of the instruction. Learning results from stimulation of the senses. In some people, one sense is used more than others to learn or recall information. Instructors should present materials that stimulates as many senses as possible in order to increase their chances of teaching success.

Although they try their best in addressing these issues they neglect certain factors which are important. While motivation and reinforcement are vital for adult learners, retention and transference need to be emphasized. However, with regard to motivation, if the participant does not recognize the need for the information (or has been offended or intimidated), all of the instructor’s effort to assist the participant to learn will be in vain. The instructor must establish rapport with participants and prepare them for learning; this provides motivation. Instructors can motivate students via several means like set a feeling or tone for the lesson where instructors should try to establish a friendly, open atmosphere that shows the participants they will help them learn. Set an appropriate level of concern whereby the level of tension must be adjusted to meet the level of importance of the objective. If the material has a high level of importance, a higher level of tension/stress should be established in the class. However, people learn best under low to moderate stress; if the stress is too high, it becomes a barrier to learning. Set an appropriate level of difficulty to which the degree of difficulty should be set high enough to challenge participants but not so high that they become frustrated by information overload. The instruction should predict and reward participation, culminating in success. In addition, participants need specific knowledge of their learning results (feedback ). Feedback must be specific, not general. Participants must also see a reward for learning. The reward does not necessarily have to be monetary; it can be simply a demonstration of benefits to be realized from learning the material. Finally, the participant must be interested in the subject. Interest is directly related to reward. Adults must see the benefit of learning in order to motivate themselves to learn the subject.
One other common aspect implemented by UNZA, ZAO and PAF about adult learning is that of reinforcement. Reinforcement is a very necessary part of the teaching/learning process; through it, instructors encourage correct modes of behavior and performance. Positive reinforcement is normally used by instructors who are teaching participants new skills. As the name implies, positive reinforcement is “good” and reinforces “good” (or positive) behavior. Negative reinforcement is the contingent removal of a noxious stimulus that tends to increase the behavior. The contingent presentation of a noxious stimulus that tends to decrease a behavior is called Punishment. Reinforcing a behavior will never lead to extinction of that behavior by definition. Punishment and Time Out lead to extinction of a particular behavior, but positive or negative reinforcement of that behavior never will. Reinforcement should be part of the teaching-learning process to ensure correct behavior. Instructors need to use it on a frequent and regular basis early in the process to help the students retain what they have learned. Then, they should use reinforcement only to maintain consistent, positive behavior.
Alongside with reinforcement is retention where these institutions UNZA, ZAO and PAF dealing with adult learning must retain information from classes in order to benefit from the learning. The instructors’ jobs are not finished until they have assisted the learner in retaining the information. In order for participants to retain the information taught, they must see a meaning or purpose for that information. The must also understand and be able to interpret and apply the information. This understanding includes their ability to assign the correct degree of importance to the material.
The amount of retention will be directly affected by the degree of original learning. Simply stated, if the participants did not learn the material well initially, they will not retain it well either. Retention by the participants is directly affected by their amount of practice during the learning. Instructors should emphasize retention and application. After the students demonstrate correct (desired) performance, they should be urged to practice to maintain the desired performance. Distributed practice is similar in effect to intermittent reinforcement.
Transference is another element. Transfer of learning is the result of training. It is the ability to use the information taught in the course but in a new setting. As with reinforcement, there are two types of transfer: positive and negative. Positive transference, like positive reinforcement, occurs when the participants uses the behavior taught in the course. Negative transference, again like negative reinforcement, occurs when the participants do not do what they are told not to do. This results in a positive (desired) outcome. Transference is most likely to occur in the following situations: Association — participants can associate the new information with something that they already know. Similarity — the information is similar to material that participants already know; that is, it revisits a logical framework or pattern. Degree of original learning — participant’s degree of original learning was high. Critical attribute element — the information learned contains elements that are extremely beneficial (critical) on the job. Although adult learning is relatively new as field of study, it is just as substantial as traditional education and carries and potential for greater success. Of course, the heightened success requires a greater responsibility on the part of the teacher. Additionally, the learners come to the course with precisely defined expectations. Unfortunately, there are barriers to their learning. The best motivators for adult learners are interest and selfish benefit. If they can be shown that the course benefits them pragmatically, they will perform better, and the benefits will be longer lasting.
Another explanation is in line with other scholars like Maclusky. A lot of scholars have written about Maclusky’s theory of adult learning and some of them have critically analyzed his works and gave different comments. How ever, there has been many efforts to construct theories or models that provide some explanation of how and why adults learn in the different age groups. There is also a number of debates from different scholars around the world regarding their perception about learning and some of which have been more successful than others. A few have drawn considerable attention in terms of being referenced or discussed in the literature several times since they were first introduced. Nevertheless, these latter theories especially those which have not been thoroughly tested or developed by various researchers and, subsequently, have remained primarily associated with their originators.
It is evident that McClusky is known because of his Margin theory and his subsequent publications in various fields like gerontology. In relation to this assertion, the scholar Hiemstra says the following;
In the theory of Margin, Howard Y. McClusky, a Professor of Educational Psychology and adult Education at the University of Michigan from 1924 until his death in 1982, looked at adult learning through the eyes of a person trained in experimental psychology with valid and tangible premises. He was long concerned with finding ways to help adults maintain a productive posture in meeting the requirements of living. Early in his career he worked primarily with young adults. Then as he himself aged, his concerns shifted to adults at later ages (Hiemstra, 1981). He focused primarily on adults in retirement his last fifteen years.
Mcclusky’ theory was introduced a long time ago about forty years before he died in 1982 (McClusky, 1963). Mcclusky himself noted that the theory of margin was very was relevant for understanding adults’ physical and mental well-being, especially during their later years when various demands or pressures might increase in their lives. McClusky in his theory believed that adulthood involved continuous growth, change, and integration, in which constant effort must be made to wisely use the energy available for meeting normal living responsibilities. However, because people have less than perfect control over many aspects of life, they must always be prepared to meet unpredictable crises or problems. He formulated a formula out of the Margin theory. His formula was expressing a ratio or relationship between the “load” (of living) and the “power” (to carry the load). According to McClusky (1970: 27), load is “the self and social demands required by a person to maintain a minimal level of autonomy…. [Power is] the resources, i.e. [sic] abilities, possessions, position, allies, etc. [sic], which a person can command in coping with load [sic]. In this formula for margin (M), he placed designations of load (L) in the numerator and designations of power (P) in the denominator (M = L/P). In this regard, McClusky’s theory of adult learning was well established with strong defence just on the basis of the formula. All these views were reflecting on the premises of adult education as reflected in the module.
These reflection is vital as he further divided load into two groups of interacting elements, one external and one internal. The external load consists of tasks involved in normal life requirements (family, work, community responsibilities, and so forth). Internal load consists of life expectancies developed by people themselves, such as aspirations, desires, and future expectations. Power consists of a combination of such external resources and capacity as family support, social abilities, and economic abilities. It also includes various internally acquired or accumulated skills and experiences contributing to effective performance, such as resiliency, coping skills, and personality. McClusky (1970). The psychological interpretation of this phrase is that a person’s performance in any field and in any way will be directly a function of various load dimensions and values, as well as a capacity to carry the load. Margin can be increased by reducing load or increasing power. McClusky (1963) suggested that surplus power is always needed to provide enough margin or cushion to meet various load requirements and life emergencies.
It should be noted that the theory of margin does not apply to adult learning only. That was just an overview of what is going on in works and in relation to learning circumstances. However, McClusky’s contributions to Adult Learning has been diverse in nature. Mcclusky developed a very comprehensive strategy and understanding of the nature and the way adults learn. Most adult in grasping is more like an adventure to the different life situations in which they are found. Mcclusky therefore, urged instructors to help learners discover aspects of the theory of Margin in both adult learning and other forms of learning. Apart from explaining how adults learn and cope with the different circumstances, McClusky’s theory of adult learning can also serve as a guide to explain some of what is happening throughout life. McClusky (1963) believed that value of the theory was its usefulness in describing varying amounts of Margin that could be involved in the adult adjustment. Such value is directly observable when applying the theory to learning activities by adults in their later years. This is when radical changes in the load-power ratio may take place due to declining financial resources, death of a spouse, and so forth. In mcclusky (1970:146) words, “In the light of our theory therefore [sic], a necessary condition for learning is access to and/or [sic] the activation of a Margin of Power that may be available for application to the processes which the learning situation requires.”
For example, student who is married and is working will have a lot of tasks and responsibilities to take care of. The work load will be too much such that the effectiveness will also be affected. When the work load is high, there will be much pressure which later affects effectiveness and the margin in general.
Mcclusky further stressed that the crucial element for meeting learning or other life demands is the ratio between load and power as he say: “Whatever the load and whatever the power (up to a practical level), the crucial element is the surplus or margin of power in excess of load. It is this margin that confers autonomy on the individual, gives him [sic] an opportunity to examine a range of options, and enables him [sic] to reinvest his [sic] psychological capital in growth and development” (McClusky, n.d., p. 330).
McClusky’s theory of adult learning further urges many people to take part in the adult leaning process because the advantage of adult learning is that it provides surplus power and becomes a major force in achieving various goals because everything is well planned in future.
Without any forms of limitations, there are various ways an instructor can unknowingly generate excess “load” for a learner. If an instructor assumes a traditional, authoritarian attitude, learners may feel frustrated or that their opinions are being ignored. “…an instructor may seem disorganized or have distracting mannerisms that serve to discourage the learner. If inappropriate assignments are given or any evaluation guidelines are unclear, some adults will have difficulties. Thus, if an instructor pays little attention to creating an effective learning environment, some adults will experience increased loads due to distracting physical, social, or psychological features” (Hiemstra and Sisco, 1990).
Apart from being an adult learning theory, the Margin theory also can be used as a research framework or tool. Take for instance; Baum (1978) studied widowhood and used Margin theory as an conceptual framework. Gessner (1979) used margin as a theoretical framework for studying nurses’ participation in continuing education. Gleit (1976) used the theory to look at potential restrictions to participation in continuing education. Garrison (1986), James (1986), Mikolaj (1983), and Stevenson (1982) have attempted to measure aspects of power and load. For instance, a practical and life case is given by (Hiemstra and Sisco, 1990) who said “a person’s performance will be a function of various loads dimensions and values, as well as a capacity to carry the load. Margin can be increased by reducing load or increasing power, suggesting that surplus power is always needed to provide enough margins to meet various load requirements of life emergencies”.
The background of adult education premises cannot be over emphasized. The premises started a long time ago but very few institutions fully respect them. Early formal adult education activities focused on single needs such as reading and writing. Many early programs were started by churches to teach people to read the Bible. When the original purpose was satisfied, programs were often adjusted to meet more general educational needs of the population. Libraries, lecture series, and discussion societies began in various countries during the 18th century. As more people experienced the benefits of education, they began to participate increasingly in social, political, and occupational activities. By the 19th century, adult education was developing as a formal, organized movement in the Western world, Garrison (1986).
It should be noted here that the largest early program in the U.S., the Lyceum, founded (1826) in Massachusetts by Josiah Holbrook, was a local association of men and women with some schooling who wanted to expand their own education while working to establish a public school system. The Lyceum movement encouraged the development of other adult education institutions such as libraries, evening schools, and endowed lecture series. By midcentury, employers and philanthropists began to endow institutions such as the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art (1859) in New York City and the Peabody Institute (1857) in Baltimore, Maryland, for adult education. Large audiences were attracted to the Chautauqua movement, which began (1874) in New York State as a summer training program for Sunday school teachers and evolved into a traveling lecture series and summer school. Chautauqua was the prototype of institutions established to further popular education in the U.S. By 1876, universities started offering extension programs that brought education directly to the public.
Adult education was an early concern of the U.S. government. In 1862 Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act, which led to the establishment of land-grant colleges offering training in agriculture and the mechanical arts. The need to develop and provide instruction in scientific farming techniques led to the establishment (1914) of the Federal Extension Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The pattern of demonstration farming and extension advisers created by cooperative extension has been used to improve farming all over the world, Garrison (1986). The rapid increase in immigration into the United States during the early 20th century resulted in the establishment of more English and citizenship classes and other Americanization programs for immigrants. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the federal government established education projects as part of its work-relief programs. Public evening classes became the most popular means of adult education, allowing people to earn a living during the day and pursue vocational and intellectual interests in their spare time. Some institutions, such as the New School for Social Research in New York City, were devoted almost entirely to education for adults. After World War II, the adult education movement in the U.S. received a major impetus with the passage of the G.I. Bill of Rights, which enabled many veterans of World War II, and of later military service, to complete their education. The Higher Education Acts of 1966 and 1986 both reflected the growing importance of adult, part-time college students; they authorized a separate title devoted to continuing education and several financial-aid programs. Universities even began to offer graduate programs in this new field.
In Zambia today, the concept of adult education is not very pronounced to the public. However, there is a glowing popularity especially as far as adult literacy is concerned. Beside this development, there is no much effort as in following up the ideals, principles that govern adult education programmes in the world. The premises for such programmes are strictly respective and this explains why it is not very popular in some societies in the world.
The university of Zambia, Zambian open university and people’s action forum who are facilitating and implementing some adult learning premises do understand that there are certain facets which need to be considered. They understand that adults have a zeal for learning and must want to learn without being forced as Hoffer says “The central task of education is to implant a will and facility for learning; it should produce not learned but learning people. The truly human society is a learning society, where grandparents, parents and children are students together,” Eric Hoffer. Adults learn by doing just like children or something practical or problem centered. Adults learning focuses on problems and these problems must realistic and therefore, experience affects adult learning. Adults learn best in informal situations. Therefore, there is also need to promote their self esteem positively by integrating new ideas with the existing knowledge and above all, there is need to show respect for individual learners by capitalizing on their experiences.

It can be concluded that this paper has identified and showed three institutions or organizations in Zambia which are using some premises given in the module, why, how and where which are advancing some prescribed adult education premises in Zambia. The paper has also shown that there is need for teachers to provide exclusive time for language learning, create a learning environment in which the learner feels safe, secure and accepted. Teachers or learning facilitators in these three institutions in Zambia must provide instructions in the context of authentic literacy experiences cognizant of each learner’s level when selecting instructional materials with respect to the premises in the module (page 5). The three institutions however, must also look at adult education from a more practical perspective by relating the experiences of each learner’s cultural background to the learning experiences.
Baum, J. “An Exploration of Widowhood: Implications for Adult Educators.” In Proceedings of the Annual Adult Education Research Conference. San Antonio , Texas , 1978.
Cross, K. P. Beyond the Open Door: New Students to Higher Education. San Francisco : Jossey-Bass, 1971. .
Cross, K. P. Adults as Learners: Increasing Participation and Facilitating Learning. San Francisco : Jossey-Bass, 1981.
Hiemstra, R. “The Contributions of Howard Yale McClusky to an Evolving Discipline of Educational Gerontology.” Educational Gerontology, 1981, 6, 209-226.
James, J. M. “Instructor-Generated Load: An Inquiry Based on McClusky’s Concept of Margin.” Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Wyoming , 1986.
Knox, A. B. (ed.) Enhancing Proficiencies of Continuing Educators. New Directions for Continuing Education, no. 1, San Francisco : Jossey-Bass, 1979.
Knox, A. B. Helping Adults Learn. San Francisco : Jossey-Bass, 1986.
McClusky, H. Y. “The Course of the adult Life Span.” In W. C. Hallenbeck (ed.), Psychology of Adults. Chicago : Adult Education Association of the U.S.A. , 1963.
Roger Hiemstra is professor of Adult learning and instructional design at Syracuse University , Syracuse , NY .


About Sitwe

Sitwe Benson is a citizen of the world based in Zambia. He is never alone.
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