Scholarly article on topic 'Experiential Learning and the Pedagogy of Interrogation in the Education of Adults'

Experiential Learning and the Pedagogy of Interrogation in the Education of Adults Academic research paper on "Economics and business"

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{"experiential learning" / "learning cycle" / "pedagogy of interrogation" / "critical reflection" / problematology}

Abstract of research paper on Economics and business, author of scientific article — Dorina Sălăvăstru

Abstract In the lengthy debate which puts in opposition pedagogy and andragogy, the adult is defined according to his ability to use his gained experience. In this study, we start from the idea that the experiential learning and the pedagogy of the interrogation should be privileged as learning models for the adult age. From this perspective, we propose different reading grills of the experiential learning cycle (based on the model of D. Kolb and on the model of P. Jarvis) in order to outline to what degree the learning at adult age aims at the building of knowledge versus giving meaning to the daily experience. Also, we outline ways of going from the pedagogy of answer to the pedagogy of interrogation, the only one capable of making critical reflection permanent at adult age.

Academic research paper on topic "Experiential Learning and the Pedagogy of Interrogation in the Education of Adults"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 142 (2014) 548 - 552

CIEA 2014

Experiential learning and the pedagogy of interrogation in the

education of adults

Dorina Salavastrua*

aAlexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iasi, 11 Carol I Blvd., Iasi, Romania

Abstract

In the lengthy debate which puts in opposition pedagogy and andragogy, the adult is defined according to his ability to use his gained experience. In this study, we start from the idea that the experiential learning and the pedagogy of the interrogation should be privileged as learning models for the adult age. From this perspective, we propose different reading grills of the experiential learning cycle (based on the model of D. Kolb and on the model of P. Jarvis) in order to outline to what degree the learning at adult age aims at the building of knowledge versus giving meaning to the daily experience. Also, we outline ways of going from the pedagogy of answer to the pedagogy of interrogation, the only one capable of making critical reflection permanent at adult age.

© 2014 Elsevier Ltd. Thisisanopen access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license

(http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of the Alexandru loan Cuza University.

Keywords: experiential learning; learning cycle; pedagogy of interrogation; critical reflection; problematology

1. Introduction

In the recent documents of educational policy, the education of adults is an intrinsic dimension of the lifelong education (lifelong learning - LL), a new educational reality, emerged from the need to cope with the challenges of the recent society, a society based on knowledge. Carrying out learning at adult age poses a series of problems regarding the most adequate pedagogical model of teaching/learning. The researchers resort to the andragogic model

* Corresponding author. E-mail address: sal.do@uaic.ro

1877-0428 © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license

(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of the Alexandru loan Cuza University.

doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.07.664

of learning in order to provide a „comprehensive theory of the education and shaping of the adults" (Knowles, 1984).

2. Models of teaching/learning at adult age

The premises which the models of teaching and learning start from at adult age are linked, first and foremost, to the wide experience which the adults possess and which is an important learning resource, then to the fact that the adult learning is focused on problem solving and on the need to apply immediately to the situations they are confronted with and which are relevant for them. Due to this, for the adult age, one can talk about experiential learning (Rogers, 1969; Kolb, 1984; Jarvis, 1983, 1987), transformative learning, (Mezirow, 1991), learning by critical reflection (Brookfield, 1995), learning by solving problems (Fabre, 1997). When one talks about the specifics of learning at adult age, the experiential model shows up, explicitly or implicitly, as lying under the majority of the existing theories regarding the development of adults. The theory of experiential learning provides a different perspective on the learning process compared to what the behavioral theories of learning or the cognitive theories provide. It is about the fact that learning implies a permanent transaction between person and environment, which means, on one hand, knowledge originates within the life experience and, on the other hand, knowledge is validated within the new life experiences.

2.1. The Debut of Experiential Learning - C. Rogers

The first author which employs the concept of experiential learning is Carl Rogers. His ideas about the learning process are summarized in a volume called Freedom to Learn, published in 1969. According to Rogers, there are no more than two types of learning: cognitive learning and experiential learning. Cognitive learning seems to be understood in a basic way, as learning of some knowledge without meaning, such as letters, numbers, and syllables. On the other hand, experiential learning is full of meaning, it is the only authentic learning. Rogers tries to define as rigorously as possible this concept of experiential learning and the elements composing it. Experiential learning consists of acquiring and applying the knowledge immediately, within relevant contexts. The individual involves himself affectively and cognitively with the learning experience, which leads to a deep and lasting change of his entire personality. The person develops due to this type of learning. It is important that the one who learns to stay open to new and to change, to be capable to integrate within himself the process of knowledge, which requires independence of spirit, self-trust, capacity of self-assessment.

The essential goal of education must be the facilitation of learning. Rogers sees the educator as a facilitator of learning, whose final purpose is to prepare the student to learn alone, without the help of those around him. The entire learning process is regarded as an entirely internal process, controlled by the person, engaging his entire being in his interaction with the environment

2.2. The model of experiential learning - D. Kolb

The best known model of experiential learning is that of D. Kolb. For David A. Kolb, „learning is the process by which knowledge is created through the transformation of experience" (1984, p. 38). Kolb asserts that learning is more effective and more enduring when it is substantiated on the personal experience and, especially, if it is followed by a thought process about this experience. This shift between action and reflection makes learning to become a cyclic process which includes several stages:

Concrete Experience

Feeling

Active Processing Experimentation ^-

Continuum Reflective -^ Observation

Watching

Abstract Conceptualisation

Thinking

Fig. 1 Kolb's Experiential Learning Cycle (1984)

• concrete experience - it is the stage when the learning individual goes through an experience, carries out a task;

• reflective observation - it is the stage when the subject carries out observations on the lived experience and thinks about its meaning;

• abstract conceptualization - it is the stage where the observations and reflections are integrated for the purpose of formulating concepts, generalizations, theoretical systems;

• active experimentation - it is the stage when the subject applies the gained knowledge to new specific situations.

The analysis of the four stages shows that learning assumes the presence of some abilities which are complete opposites: the ability to carry out tasks, concrete experiences and the ability of abstract conceptualization, of theorizing. The two dimensions, action and reflection, interact closely; if one is sacrificed, the other suffers. The cycle of experiential learning described by David Kolb reveals to us a certain way of understanding the process of gaining new knowledge, within an integrative and holistic perspective which combines experience, perception, cognition and behavior.

Using this learning model at adult age poses several problems:

• to what degree the adult must go through the whole cycle of the experiential learning or can he choose an incomplete approach depending on the type of knowledge which he wants to gain;

• the model emphasizes the learning process, rather than the results, while the adult possesses already some mental habits, some clichés or cognitive patterns, more or less effective, and he is less interested in the process.

We can admit the fact that, at adult age, the learning cycle can start at any stage and should be seen as a continuous spiral line. The learning goal at this age is not the conceptualization process. The adult is willing to learn those things (knowledge, abilities, skills) which help him to solve professional problems or real life situations. The grid which David Kolb's model must be interpreted by when we are using it at adult age is that of facilitating the learning by using the life experience of adults, to stimulate them motivationally by involvement in the learning process and offering them solutions to problems starting from their interests, development needs and social roles.

2.3. The learning process and the meaning of experience - P. Jarvis

Another model of experiential learning which can be used in adult education is the model of Peter Jarvis (1987). Jarvis defines learning as „a continuous process which seeks to give a meaning to the daily experience, connecting

the human conscience with time, space, society and their multiple relationships" (1991, p. 11). The model integrates several elements (situation and practical experimentation, reasoning and reflection, memorization and evaluation), which possess a certain dynamic and can allow combinations in order to outline several routes to carry out the learning. The intention of P. Jarvis was to propose a much more complex model than Kolb's, which has at its core the reflection process. There are enough voices, though, which assert that the model is too thick and does not communicate efficiently which are the learning routes.

Fig. 2. Peter Jarvis: A Model of the Learning Processes (1987)

2.3. From the pedagogy of answer to the pedagogy of questioning

The authors who concern themselves with adult education criticize the pedagogical models which want to convey an as large as possible amount of knowledge by the way of perfect discourse. We must not forget the fact that adults possess certain knowledge and their embarking on learning and development programs occurs from the perspective of some well-defined goals. They aim to gain by learning new abilities and competences which they could make use of professionally, socially and personally. Adults wish that teachers provide them with concrete learning situations, which would help them solve the problems they are confronted with. Theoretical forays, even if they are new things which go deeper into a field, are accepted only if their practical applications are highlighted.

The existence of the previous knowledge and a certain cognitive experience of the adult ease up and, at the same time, make the teaching more complicate. The teachers of adults must know these things and must organize the teaching process starting from this reality. Previous experience helps them understand the new contents, establish connections between the new contents and those already acquired, contextualize or decontextualize what they learned. On the other hand, the learning process assumes as well the change of perspective, the modification of some already consolidated habits, the dislodgement of some beliefs which are quite rigid and block the process of acquiring new knowledge (Dumitru, 2007, p. 111).

The research on the matter has highlighted the fact that adults prefer an active learning which can take the shape of a problem to be solved, of some questions or a paradox in need of a solution. Also, they prefer a relaxed and supportive learning environment, with learning tasks which allow them to make choices, to have opinions, to dominate the obstacles, to make use of their previous knowledge. Neglecting or minimizing the experience of the adults is perceived by them as a disregard of their own person. Adults are much more conscious of themselves, of their worth, of their responsibilities and they do not accepted to be treated as elementary pupils. For this reason, the pedagogy of answer, as it is frequently employed in a classroom of pupils, where the teacher puts a question and waits from the pupils an answer which he already knows, cannot be an effective method for the teaching of adults.

Knowledge already acquired has for effect the suppression of the demand, to quell the curiosity and cancel the question.

J. Dewey stated that each lesson must be an answer to a question, demanding thus from the school to give back to the knowledge its meaning as solved problem. In the adult education, what must take precedence is the question, the problem to be solved and less the answer which must be received. For Ph. Meirieu (1993), no intervention of the teacher must occur without a question being written on the blackboard. The success of this didactic of interrogation assumes for the raised problem to come from a real, credible situation and, especially, to answer a need of the adult, so that the solution would necessarily imply the focusing of the interest on the steps to seek and provide the answer.

M. Minder (2011) presents us with a didactic of the problem which can be successfully employed in the adult pedagogy as well. The stages one must go through when the pedagogy of the problem-situation is used are:

• specifying the interests of the students (defining the needs, inserting the goal within the task, placing the task within a context, ensuring the coherence goal-task);

• preparing the frame situation (a context, a space where the problem will find a privileged and natural place, avoiding thus a dull and artificial situation);

• preparing the problem situation (a problem is raised which is authentic, interesting and which triggers the behavior of studying and solving it);

• solving the problem situation (exploring the problem situation, seeking for and finding the solution, providing the answer, reorganizing the behavioral repertoire);

• assessing and structuring the acquisitions.

This pedagogy of questioning, of problem, embraces the spontaneous approach of the man which asks himself questions about his environment and who tries to understand it: a pedagogy hinging on interest and assuming a greater personal involvement of the students. The role of the teacher is not to provide a sum of information, but to facilitate a critical and analytical manner of learning, of receiving and filtering the information, of identifying the meaning, relevance and utility of the acquired knowledge.

3. Conclusions

The learning process at adult age does not assume just additional knowledge compared to what the adult already knew, but aims for the change, within a new perspective, of the existing knowledge and habits. The efficiency of adult learning depends greatly on the optimal capitalization of their professional and personal experience, but also of their psychological traits. Compared with the pupils, who focus their attention and efforts on the contents of the learning, the adults focus mostly on problem solving, being thus much more realistic and more centered on achieving some practical goals.

References

Brookfield, S.D. (1995). Becoming a critically reflective teacher. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Dewey, J. (1938). Expérience et éducation. Paris: Armand Colin.

Dumitru, I. Al. (2007). Procesul de înva^are la vârsta adulta. In R. Palo§, S. Sava, D. Ungureanu. Educafia adulçilor. Baze teoretice çi repere

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Jarvis, P. (1983). Adult and Continuing Education-Theory and practice. London: Croom Helm. Jarvis, P. (1987, 1991). Adult Learning in the Social Context. London: Croom Helm. Knowles, M.S. (1984). Andragogy in action, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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Mezirow, J. (1991). Transformative dimensions of adult learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Minder, M. (2011). Didactica funcÇionala. Obiective, Strategii, Evaluare. Cognitivismul operant. Cluj-Napoca: Editura ASCR. Rogers, C.R. (1969). Freedom to Learn: a View of What Education Might Become. Columbus, OH: Charles E. Merrill.