The school of adult learning theory that adopted these principles has
become known as the school of behaviorism, which saw learning as a
straightforward process of response to stimuli. The provision of a
reward or reinforcement is believed to strengthen the response and
therefore result in changes in behavior – the test, according to this
school of thought, is as to whether learning had occurred. These
forces comprise genetic factors as well as the environment either
through association or reinforcement.
This theory has latterly been criticized as overly simplistic.
Nevertheless, its influence can be seen in educators’ insistence that
feedback is critical to learning.
The theory emphasizes changes in behaviors
due to the influence and control of the
external environment, rather than the
internal thought process of the subject.
Simply put, people will learn desired
behaviors due to stimuli from their external
environment that recognize and reinforce
the behavior in a positive manner.
The hypothesis behind behavioralist learning
theories is that all learning occurs when behavior
is influenced and changed by external factors.
Behavioralism disregards any notion that there
may be an internal component to man’s learning.
Behavioral leading and learning is based on organizational
and cultural conditioning. This can be observed in the tough-
handed, "hatchet wielding" approach of Jack Welch and in
the benevolent "lend-a-hand" approach of Herb Kelleher.
Behavioral theories within leadership have had "modest
success in identifying consistent relationships between
patterns of leadership behavior and group performance.
Some might view this theory as being a very elementary
learning process. It suggests, by and large, that any learning is
result oriented, and, therefore, learned by repetitive actions
based on punishments or rewards. Behaviorist theory presents
learning in short manageable blocks that build on previously
learned behaviors. The goal of this learning method is to
transform the learner’s behavior to a «desired» behavior.
The learner is rewarded often for exhibiting the desired behavior
when they accomplish a learning block. This method is heavily used
in the federal government to quickly train employees on the latest
policies and procedures. In addition, this method is ideal for short
lessons which can be accomplished over the internet from the
employee's desktop computer.
The environment of an individual reinforces behaviors either
positively or negatively and all of learning takes place through
environmental influences. Adult learning can be seen strictly
through this focus, but a more centrist approach is neobehaviorism.
Neobehaviorism suggests that not only does the environment
reinforce behavior, but there is an interaction between the
individual and the environment.
Constructivism is a synthesis of multiple theories diffused into
one form. The «constructivist stance maintains that learning
is a process of constructing meaning; it is how people make
sense of their experience». This coincides especially well with
current adult learning theory. This concept is easily translated
into a self-directed learning style, where the individual has
the ability to take in all the information and the environment
of a problem and learn.
Although varying constructivist theories exist, there is
agreement between the theories «that learning is a process of
constructing meaning; it is how people make sense of their
experience». They include the individual constructivist view
and the social constructivist view. The social constructivist
view, however, premises that learning is constructed through
social interaction and discourse and is considered, according
to Drivers and others, to be a process in which meaning is
When applying this theory to independent learning, it is
essential to understand that we need to consider the
cultural environment in which this learning takes place.
Isolated learning is an oxymoron. Constructivists believe
learner-centric instructional classroom methods will
strengthen the commitment and involvement of self-
motivated learners because of their high level of
Today, there is a trend for incorporating technology
into the classrooms to support instructional learning
methods. The trainer should encourage the student
to develop the skills to find out principles on their
own. There should be on-going dialog between the
student and the trainer.
Postmodernism by the nature of the movement itself, is not easy
to define. To understand postmodernism in the context of adult
learning, it may be beneficial to first understand that the
postmodern movement is much larger than adult learning. Because
of the contextual nature of knowledge, individuals can hold two
completely incongruent views of one subject at the same time.
Post-modernism relates to post-industrialism. The industrial era
came about as a result of Newtonian thinking – an era wherein
thought and processes were considered in mechanistic terms of
efficiency and effectiveness and understood scientifically through
the processes of reductionism.
Defining causality (What causes shifts)
Ultimately, shifts occur through modes of communication. The
largest shift in the past century is the development of a global
community through the use of internet. Past shifts in society have
also connected to modes of communication. This empowerment of
information started a shift in society that affected the world.
Cultural shifts (How it occurs)
Cultural shifts happen in waves. Over time the concepts and idea's
that are on the fringe of society will affect conversations, artistic
pieces, and eventually become pervasive on a large enough scale to
affect the whole of a society.
The current debate (The basic definitions of PoMo)
In postmodernism everything is relative and is deconstructive. The
division of the term postmodernism breaks down into two major
parts, post and modernism. What postmodernism is not is
It is an after effect of the modernistic era that
capitalized on individuality, built on absolutes, and the
scientific method as it's structure. All that may be
understood at this stage is what the society on the
fringes is saying we are not, which is modernism.
Deconstruction is a powerful postmodern tool for
questioning prevailing representations of learners and
Postmodernism calls into question
many of the assumptions once
accepted by modernists. "From
the postmodern point-of-view,
modernism is defined by its belief
in objective knowledge".
One can see that even once firm historical
events, verified through empirical verification,
are no longer viewed as an objective truth, but
became the object of one’s understanding of
the historical perspective out of their
interpretation and story.
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