ACTIVITIES: 1) Unit 4 Journaling
As we near the end of the book ‘Learning in Adulthood’, I can now look back to reflect on what I’ve learnt so far, especially from Unit 4. While Units 1-3 were centered on adult learning per se, Unit 4 seems to focus more on the process of learning, by exploring various theories associated with it. I’ve read some books on behaviorism from the perspective of genetics, and I’ve always believed that the mind and its reactions are a consequence of evolution. The existence of a relation between learning and changes in behavior, as explained in the book is new and exciting to me.
The concept of ‘lifelong learning’ is, according to me, an individual’s perception of the term. And as far as I’m concerned, it refers to the process of learning to learn. When I look back, I realize that almost everything I’ve learnt in life has obeyed a ‘reward as a result of the learning’ law. In other words, learning has never been an end in itself; instead I have always been motivated to learn in order to meet some other end in mind. The explanation of cognitive development makes a lot of sense to me. I understand that most of the times I remain in position1 – that there are people who have found out things; they can never be wrong, and all I have to do to succeed in life is work hard to understand/learn their findings. However, I’ve begun questioning this, and want to observe more about myself, and be open- minded to accommodate new ideas. This process of learning to learn and grow is my view of lifelong learning.
The most important implication of what I’ve learnt is that I’m prepared to go into the mode of reflective thinking. As explained by the ‘Reflective Judgment Model’, this means that I’m able to catch a glimpse, even if not fully understand, the last two stages of the complex model. I see this as a stage of significant development in my learning process and for my personal growth as an individual.
How exactly did “ethics” as we know today, develop? What were the scientific reasons that ruled in favor of the set that we have today? For example, it is universally agreed upon that stealing is “wrong”. Why?
1. Lifelong learning
There are many underlying concepts that need to be understood, in order to achieve lifelong learning. To begin with, the traditional theories associated with the process of learning have to be analyzed. With that in mind, there are broadly five orientations that have contributed to the theories: behaviorist, cognitivist, social cognitivist, constructivist and humanist. The behaviorist orientation deals with changes in behavior with respect to the learning process, while the humanist orientation looks at personal acts for development as related to the learning process. The cognitivist and social cognitivist orientations deal with information processing ‘within’ and in the social context respectively. Finally, the constructivist orientation sees the learning process from experience (Baumgartne, M., Caffarella, S., & Merriam, B, 2007).
Another important aspect to look into is adult development, which is generally analyzed using four approaches: biological, psychological, socio-cultural, and integrated. The biological perspective, as can be expected, relates natural processes with adult development. These may include natural ageing, health habits, environment, etc. Psychological perspective covers issues of morality, individuality, evolution of the intellect, etc. The socio-cultural perspective sees adult learning as affected by external factors like the society and environment. Its contention is that adult development is a consequence of the history of mankind, analysis of which should fetch results at any point in time. Finally, integral perspective is a wholesome approach to understanding adult development. It does not consider any factor as a lone contributor towards development. Instead, the model looks at the interaction and interdependence of various factors which affect adult development. All these models help in understanding the development process, which can lead to lifelong learning.
A major area of research in the study of learning has been Cognitive Development. The word cognition is a scientific term that refers to a set of mental processes developed by man. These include problem solving, decision making, communicating, reasoning, and learning capabilities among others. It is interesting to note that our sense of judgment, that is, perceptions of what is “right” and “wrong” are consequences of our cognitive abilities. The basic theory of cognitive development was proposed by Piaget, which was a four stage model. Though it was instrumental in the understanding of the subject, it had its own limitations. Hence, just like in any other scientific theory, amendments were made whenever contradictions were observed. Today there are many other models like the reflective judgment model, transcendence model, etc. which were developed independently by different researchers. So far they all have a common feature: all the models are linear by nature (Baumgartne, M., Caffarella, S., & Merriam, B, 2007).
The concept of “intelligence” can be misleading. In the sense, people use it in loose terms to denote a lot of traits, like being top of a class, having good problem solving abilities, etc. However, there is no single definition for the term so far. As far as science is concerned, intellect is associated with two aspects of the brain: the rational side, and the emotional side. Intelligence as such is important, as it plays a major role in the learning process. Andragogy and Pedagogy refer to theories about learning in adults and in children respectively. These take into account the intellect of the person as a function of the person’s age. Studies show that the reaction time of learners depends on their age. Thus there is a direct link between age, intellect and learning. The most popular andragogical theory relating these was proposed by Knowles, which has a set of assumptions about the learner, the age of the learner, readiness to learn factor, and orientation to learning. Such theories have helped in predicting the learning capabilities of a person, based on intellect and age (La belle, J., 1982).
The mind is a complex mechanism consisting of various cognitive elements like memory, brain functions, etc. It is impossible to say that one alone acts towards an effect; in most cases it is the combined effect of these elements that yield a particular result. Neurobiological research shows the implications of brain functions on lifelong learning. For instance, it is seen that uncertainty and expectations strong influence the brain’s response to the rewards of learning. Further, it is seen that brain is capable of self regulation; hence education and exposure to ideas can determine the state of brain’s attitude towards the learning process. Today, neuroscience has come up with a new model for learning in adults called the ‘Adaptive Learning Technology’ (La belle, J., 1982). From the aforementioned factors that are seen to directly affect lifelong learning in adults, it is evident that the process is much more complicated than it sounds. Though it is a goal dependent on the perceptions of an individual, it is clearly not the end point. Instead, it is the journey itself.
Baumgartne, M., Caffarella, S., & Merriam, B. (2007). Learning in Adulthood: A Comprehensive Guide. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
La belle, J. (1982). Formal, non-formal and informal education: A holistic perspective on lifelong learning. International Review of Education, 28(2), 159-175