One of the assumptions underlying andragogy is that when adults have an independent self-concept, they gradually become self-directed (Terry, 2006). However, Merriam (2003) acknowledged that when many adults are new to the adult education environment, they experience significant difficulties and barriers when transitioning into self-directed mode, resulting in an environment in which the adult learner begins to rely heavily on the educator for structure and guidance in certain temporary situations. These changes result not only from learners’ literacy skills but also from the literacy classroom climate. Therefore, it is pertinent for educators to encourage and nurture this movement by providing learners with short, directed, concrete tasks that provide the most learning for the experience to make these adults see the relevancy of adult education programs. Since many of the adults that enter Detroit adult education programs have been stigmatized as “at risk” or “non-traditional” learners…educators of these institutions need to create educational learning environments that acknowledge barriers, thereby creating an understanding that contributes to students’ academic achievement and distinction.
Optimistically, self-directed learning involves adult learners making decisions about their educational paths and through conscious raising activities learners are exposed to new information, knowledge, and insights contributing to self-reflection. Merriam (2003) documented the various models Knowles (1984) utilized to encourage self-directedness among adult learners:
How one actually works through a self-directed learning experience has generated a number of models of the process. In these models, the learner begins by self-diagnosing their learning needs, then, identifies resources and instructional formats, implements the plan, and finally, evaluates the outcome. (p. 72)
An environment which contributes to self-direction and exploratory learning facilitates learners to articulate and examine beliefs and assumptions that have been previously learned without questioning. Further, the educator engaging in transformative learning and critical thinking recognizes that knowledge is more than correct answers. Through constructive activities, the adult learner is capable of sharing prior knowledge and experiences which facilitates the process of self-directed learning, reflection, and the transformation of new knowledge.
Knowles, M. S. (1984). Andragogy in action: Applying modern principles of adult learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Merriam, S. B. (2007). The profession and practice of adult education: An introduction. San Francisco, CA: Wiley.
Styles, T. (2011). Factors influencing the successful completion of the General Educational Development (GED) Preparation Program as perceived by the students. (Doctoral dissertation, Capella University, Minnesota). Dissertations Abstracts International, 132Styles, T. (2011).
Terry, M (2006). Making a difference in learners’ lives: Results of a study based on adult literacy programs. Adult Basic Education, 16(1), 3–19. Retrieved from ProQuest Educational Journal database