It may seem that teaching concepts derived from learning theories have already been thoroughly studied. Nevertheless, as learning of adults implies a greater degree of freedom and larger personal responsibility of students, it is crucial to clarify teachers’ role in the educational process. Researching the two theories regarding adult learning makes it easier to understand the features of curriculum development in terms of various situations and target groups and the mediating role of the educator.
Regarding the ideas of Houle (1996), he suggests the system of educational design including two models, which concentrate on planning and analysis and are applicable in different contexts. The first part of his curriculum development approach outlines original “educational design situations” grouped in 4 blocks (individual, group, institutional, and mass). The second one is a depiction of eight interacting processes relating to educational activities, such as a suitable format and measurements of an activity’s results. Moreover, Houle (1996) discusses four adult learning examples, for example, a hobo school or a prevocational army training. The author leads several strategies aimed at completing redesign in case mentioned programs become ineffective.
First, his theory depicts different processes, which depend on various learning circumstances and groups. He provides eleven categories with regard to educational design situations, which differ depending on participants. For example, on an individual level, one educator or a group designs an activity for an individual, and on an institutional level an intuition creates an activity in a new format (Houle, 1996). Thus, these situations predetermine adult learning conditions, making it possible to prepare an individual self-learning strategy and an educating television program for a big audience as well. In other words, the author claims that identifying features of educational situations plays a crucial role in curriculum development.
Second, this model implies the eight decision-making steps, which are of great importance in the educational design. An educator has to identify “a possible educational activity,” make a decision to proceed, and specify objectives and “a suitable format,” which implicates learning resources, a leader, a time schedule, etc. (Houle, 1996). Furthermore, the format must be fitted “into larger patterns of life” (Knowles et al., 2015). In other terms, a chosen educational style changes learners’ lifestyle so that they had temporary and physical resources for the implementation of new activities that are interpreted to a target group, and educators arrange funding. The model assumes a mandatory measurement of the carried out activity’s results. In the wake of the program, the situation should be examined in order to understand the perspectives of a new educational activity.
In terms of Rogers (1969), the crucial features regarding the educational process are a facilitator’s attitudinal qualities that play an essential role in a continually changing environment. His approach concentrates on facilitating the learning process, not on instructing individuals. In other words, if the facilitator does not establish strict limits, it makes it possible for learners to set their own goals, methods to reach them, and evaluate themselves. The major aim of education is to prepare individuals to live in a world with “an ever-accelerating change” (Rogers, 1969). He claims that the better approach to education is learning from experience and suggests several practical techniques for educators and the theoretical basis for his approach.
The most influential element in the process of learning are the personal relations between the learner and the mediator. Concerning the facilitator’s qualities, which help to engage learners in a highly effective learning process, they are the following: genuineness, non-possessive caring (which implies trust and respect), and empathic understanding (Rogers, 1969). Thus, the mediator’s role is reduced to supporting students and helping, while this theory denies the possibility of an authoritarian approach to teaching. Facilitating learning allows a learner to be led to his goals by his own experience, while universities and schools can promote learners’ development by practicing curricula. The experimental program suggested by Rogers implies integrating students’ thoughts into the educational process.
Given the major point of the significant facilitator’s role, the approach actualizes the necessity of identifying guidelines for him. The facilitator should allow students to explore what they consider important and remarkable during the educational process. First and foremost, Rogers (1969) says that the environment of the group created by the educator should be trusting and devoid of fear and enforcement. The facilitator permits students to state what they want to do within the program, wherein he respects their desire to achieve goals that they regarded significant.
Another important point is to provide learners with essential resources, such as materials, writings, equipment, and people. In other terms, the mediator’s responsibility is to present to students “every conceivable resource” that they might need (Knowles et al., 2015). Moreover, while responding to students’ requests, the facilitator has to take into account not only factual information but also their emotional attitudes, which helps to build trusting personal relationships. Concerning his own opinion, he is able to express his view only as one of the individuals, not as a leader. Throughout the lesson, the educator concentrates on students’ feelings and emotions in order to identify the lack of convenience, difficulties, and fears that might arise. Furthermore, understanding interpersonal attitudes among students is also of great importance as anger or rivalry can create obstacles for the learning process. It should be mentioned that the mediator might help to reach a constructive understanding of such feelings, but not to suppress them by authoritarian methods.
Developing the topic of the facilitator’s characteristics, he should be able to recognize his limits with regard to and to what extent he can provide students with freedom. It means that he exhibits trust to learners only when he feels this trust. The mediator should indicate the situations when his actions do not affect students positively. If his attitudes differ strongly from those of the students, he might deny their opinions’ value and their feelings, which may appear with regard to this denial. He can express some doubts not as objective facts but as his subjective point of view, which does not belittle the students’ merits. Thus, Roger’s concept of learning goes beyond traditional approaches and concentrates primarily on the trusting relationships between the learners and facilitator, putting the emphasis on the mediator’s responsibility.
To conclude, both above-mentioned approaches to adult learning pay attention to students’ engagement and self-regulated education. However, there are several significant differences with regard to these researchers’ approaches. Houle’s method puts the main emphasis on the process depending primarily on educational situations and outlines thoroughly concrete decision-making measures. Rogers’ theory, on the contrary, claims that circumstances change rapidly nowadays, and it is essential to develop facilitating learning with mediators creating a trusting atmosphere and encouraging students to adapt to more independent learning.
Houle, C. O. (1996). The design of education (2nd ed.). Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Knowles, M. S., Holton III, E. F. & Swanson, R. A. (2015). The adult learner: The definitive classic in adult education and human resource development (8th ed.). Routledge.
Rogers, C. R. (1969). Freedom to learn. Charles E. Merrill Publishing Company.