Andragogy: what is it and does it help thinking about adult learning?

Andragogy: what is it and does it help thinking about adult learning? The notion of andragogy has been around for nearly two centuries. It became particularly popular in North America and Britain as a way of describing adult learning through the work of Malcolm Knowles. But what actually does it mean, and how useful a […]

Hannah Arendt and Jean Baudrillard: pedagogy in the consumer society

Hannah Arendt and Jean Baudrillard: pedagogy in the consumer society. Trevor Norris explores the contribution of Hannah Arendt and Jean Baudrillard to our appreciation of the consumer society and education. Contents: introduction · the rise of consumerism · Hannah Arendt: consuming the polis · Jean Baudrillard: consuming signs · the consumer society and education · […]

Chris Argyris: theories of action, double-loop learning and organizational learning

Chris Argyris: theories of action, double-loop learning and organizational learning. The work of Chris Argyris (1923-2013) has influenced thinking about the relationship of people and organizations, organizational learning and action research. Here we examine some key aspects of his thinking. contents: introduction · life · theories of action: theory in use and espoused theory · […]

Researching education, learning and community: building theory

Researching education, learning and community: building theory. In this piece we examine the process of generating theory. We ask ‘what is theory?’ We also look at the process of analysis, integration and imagination. For the last of these we pay special attention to the work of C. Wright Mills. Contents: introduction · what is theory? […]

Caring in education

Caring in education. In this article Nel Noddings explores the nature of caring relations and encounters in education and some of the difficulties educators have with them. She also looks at caring relations as the foundation for pedagogical activity. Contents: introduction · caring relations and encounters in education · why is the relational view difficult […]

Jean Lave, Etienne Wenger and communities of practice

Jean Lave, Etiene Wenger and communities of practice. The idea that learning involves a deepening process of participation in a community of practice has gained significant ground in recent years. Communities of practice have also become an important focus within organizational development and have considerable value when thinking about working with groups. In this article […]

What is competence? What is competency?

Competence and competency. What is competence? How has it been reduced to competency? What is the impact on education and training? Contents: introduction · what is competence? · competency and product approaches · curriculum as process · conclusion · further reading · acknowledgements · how to cite this article Over the last twenty years the […]

Developing critical conversations about practice

In this 1995 article Mark K Smith explores the use of study groups by practitioners to deepen and extend their practice. It looks at how we may transcend individualized responses through building ‘critical communities of enquirers’. contents: preface · introduction · collective explorations of practice · the mechanics of study groups · exploring practice collectively: […]

What is curriculum? Exploring theory and practice

Curriculum theory and practice.The organization of schooling and further education has long been associated with the idea of a curriculum.  But what actually is curriculum, and how might it be conceptualized? We explore curriculum theory and practice and its relation to informal education. Contents: introduction · curriculum as transmission · curriculum as product · curriculum as process […]

Dialogue and conversation for learning, education and change

Dialogue and conversation  for learning, education and change. ‘Dialogue’, Freire says, ‘is the encounter between men, mediated by the world, in order to name the world’. Here we explore this idea – and its roots. Contents: introduction · Gadamer – horizons of understanding · emotions and virtues · Habermas: dialogue, power and distortion · Bohm on […]

What is education? A definition and discussion

What is education? Is it different from schooling? In this piece Mark K Smith explores the meaning of education and suggests it is a process of inviting truth and possibility. It can be defined as the wise, hopeful and respectful cultivation of learning undertaken in the belief that all should have the chance to share […]

Encounters for learning, education and change

Encounters for learning and change. Pedagogues, animators and informal educators work for encounters – face to face meetings. They also work for encounter – relation or engagement with themselves and others. Contents: · seeking situations of co-presence · co-ordinating activities · encounter and personal growth · encounter and relation · further reading · how to […]

Facilitating learning and change in groups and group sessions

Facilitating learning and change in groups and group sessions. Just what is facilitation, and what does it involve? We explore the theory and practice of facilitation, and some key issues around facilitating group sessions. Contents: introduction · what is group facilitation? · core conditions and the facilitator · the facilitator’s role · core values ·  […]

Using focus groups in evaluation and research

Using focus groups in evaluation and research. Focus groups have been part of market research for many years. Their popularity in advertising and marketing – and their use to find new ways of getting us to buy particular products or ideas – puts off a lot of people. However, they are a very useful tool […]

Feature: Friendship and education

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash In this set of articles we examine some key questions surrounding the theory and experience of friendship – and the significance for education and educators. Friendship theory Many people’s understanding of friendship in northern societies is rather thin. We explore some classical views of friendship, the development of theory […]

Erich Fromm: freedom and alienation, and loving and being in education

Erich Fromm: freedom and alienation, and loving and being in education. Erich Fromm was both a practicing psychoanalyst and a committed and insightful social theorist. We explore his continuing relevance to educational practice and focus on his deeply instructive appreciation of freedom, love and human flourishing. Contents: introduction · erich fromm – his life · […]

Howard Gardner, multiple intelligences and education

Howard Gardner, multiple intelligences and education. Howard Gardner’s work around multiple intelligences has had a profound impact on thinking and practice in education – especially in the United States. Here we explore the theory of multiple intelligences; why it has found a ready audience amongst educationalists; and some of the issues around its conceptualization and […]

William Godwin – the characters of man originate in their external circumstances

Refer them to reading, to conversation, to meditation; but teach them neither creeds nor catechisms, either moral or political.’ In this extract from Enquiry Concerning Political Justice William Godwin makes the case for the formative power of education. William Godwin (1756 – 1836) was the first writer ‘to give a clear statement of anarchist principles’ […]

William Godwin and the children’s bookshop

Writer of an anarchist classic and a believer in free education. William Godwin, Hanway Street, 191 The Strand and 27 The Polygon. Godwin (1756 – 1836) was the first writer ‘to give a clear statement of anarchist principles’ (Marshall 1993: 191). He was one of the first English-language writers to recognize the threat of state-controlled […]

John Holt, learning and (un)schooling

John Holt. John Holt’s explorations of the failures of formal teaching and schooling influenced a generation of educators. By looking to the experiences and interests of children, and the sense they made of learning and education, we can find great possibility. John Caldwell Holt (1923-1985) forthcoming   Websites The best starting point is holtgws.com. It […]

Informal learning, home education and homeschooling (home schooling)

Informal learning, home education and homeschooling (home schooling). Most families who start out “doing school” at home find that what works in school does not transfer easily to the home. Of necessity, home educators find themselves pioneering new educational approaches, nearly always less formal ones. They provide convincing evidence for the potential of informal learning. […]

Informal learning: theory, practice and experience

Informal learning: theory, practice and experience. In recent years a number of researchers and policy pundits have rediscovered ‘informal learning’. But is there really such a thing? We explore the theory and practice of ‘informal learning’ contents:  introduction · informal learning · non-formal learning · tacit knowledge · situated and distributed learning · informal education […]

David A. Kolb on experiential learning.

David A. Kolb on experiential learning. David A. Kolb’s model of experiential learning can be found in many discussions of the theory and practice of adult education, informal education and lifelong learning. We set out the model, and examine its possibilities and problems. Contents: introduction · david a. kolb · david kolb on experiential learning […]

Learning in the community and community learning

Learning in the community and community learning. The idea of learning in the community has been around for some time. But what is it, what does it involve, and how does it relate to the notion of community learning – popularized in Scotland? Contents: introduction · learning in everyday life and formal instructional settings · […]

Lifelong learning

Lifelong learning. Lifelong learning – along with ideas such as ‘the learning society’ – has become popular with politicians and policymakers in a number of countries. But what do people mean by it? Is the idea of lifelong learning helpful? Contents: · education is life · lifelong education · lifelong learning · conclusion · further […]

Lifespan development and lifelong learning

Lifespan development and lifelong learning. ‘Development’ is one of those familiar concepts that seeps almost unnoticed into the conversations of educators. They are self-evidently concerned with the development of people. But what is development? Are there particular stages that we pass through in our life course? Contents · introduction · development · stages · gender, […]

Learning in organizations – theory and practice

Learning in organizations. In recent years there has been a lot of talk of ‘organizational learning’. Here we explore the theory and practice of such learning via pages in The encyclopedia of pedagogy and informal education. We examine some key theorists and themes, and ask whether organizations can learn? contents: introduction · learning · learning […]

The theory and rhetoric of the learning society

The theory and rhetoric of the learning society. The idea of the learning society has featured strongly in recent pronouncements around adult and lifelong learning. But what actually is the learning society? How have notions of the learning society developed. We the theory and rhetoric of the learning society and provide an introductory guide and […]

What is learning? A definition and discussion

What is learning? A definition and discussion. Is learning  a change in behaviour or understanding? Is it a process? Mark K Smith surveys some key dimensions and ideas.   A definition for starters: Learning is a process that is often not under our control and is wrapped up with the environments we inhabit and the […]

The behaviourist orientation to learning

The behaviourist orientation to learning. The behaviourist movement in psychology has looked to the use of experimental procedures to study behaviour in relation to the environment. John B. Watson, who is generally credited as the first behaviourist, argued that the inner experiences that were the focus of psychology could not be properly studied as they […]

The cognitive orientation to learning

The cognitive orientation to learning. Where behaviourists looked to the environment, those drawing on Gestalt turned to the individual’s mental processes. In other words, they were concerned with cognition – the act or process of knowing. Many psychologists were not happy with behaviourism. There was a belief among some that there was too much of […]

The constructivist / social constructivist orientation to learning

Photo by John Salvino on Unsplash The constructivist / social constructivist orientation to learning. With its roots in the work of Dewey, Vygotsky, Bruner and others, this approach involves learning culturally shared ways of understanding and talking about the world. Coming soon

Humanistic orientations to learning

Humanistic orientations to learning. In this framework the basic concern is for human growth. We look to the work of Maslow and Rogers as expressions of this approach. A great deal of the theoretical writing about adult education in the 1970s and 1980s drew on humanistic psychology. In this orientation the basic concern is for […]

The social/situational orientation to learning

The social/situational orientation to learning. It is not so much that learners acquire structures or models to understand the world, but they participate in frameworks that that have structure. Learning involves participation in a community of practice. Social learning theory ‘posits that people learn from observing other people. By definition, such observations take place in […]

Neuro-linguistic programming, learning and education – an introduction.

Neuro-linguistic programming, learning and education – an introduction. Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) has attracted considerable attention in recent years. Paul Tosey and Jane Mathison explore its origins and characteristics – and argue it is a field of practice and innovation with a wide range of tools and techniques that learners and professional educators can apply within […]

What is non-formal education?

What is non-formal education? Within policy debates a common differentiation has been made between different forms of provision. Informal, non-formal, and formal programmes have been viewed as very different. Here we explore this categorization and some of the forms of work that exist under the non-formal label in southern countries. Contents: introduction · the idea […]

Looking again at non-formal and informal education – towards a new paradigm

Looking again at non-formal and informal education – towards a new paradigm. Alan Rogers explores the confused usage of the terms non-formal and informal education and suggests a way forward. Contents: introduction · defining non-formal education · non-formal education in the field: from the 1980s to today · non-formal education and lifelong learning/education · towards a […]

Parker J. Palmer: community, knowing and spirituality in education

Parker J. Palmer: community, knowing and spirituality in education. Parker J. Palmer’s explorations of education as a spiritual journey and of the inner lives of educators have been deeply influential. We explore his teachings and contribution. contents: introduction · parker j. palmer – life · education as a spiritual journey · parker palmer – knowing, teaching […]

Participation in learning projects and programmes

Participation in learning projects and programmes. Why do people engage in learning projects? What are the barriers to participation? How are we to theorize participation? Contents: defining adult education · the shape of participation · barriers to participation · theories of participation · cross – chain of response model · further reading · how to […]

The Plowden Report

Derek Gillard describes the context and content of the 1967 Plowden Report ‘Children and their Primary Schools’ and assesses the criticisms that have been made of it in the years since it was published. He argues that it is still an important document which should be read widely today. contents: introduction – background to the […]

Michael Polanyi and tacit knowledge

Michael Polanyi and tacit knowledge. Michael Polanyi helped to deepen our appreciation of the contribution of ‘tacit knowing’ to the generation of new understandings and social and scientific discovery. We briefly explore his relevance to educators. Contents: introduction · tacit knowledge · conclusion · bibliography · how to cite this article Michael Polanyi (1891-1976) made […]

Post-modernism, post-modernity and education

Post-modernism and post-modernity. Page upon page has been devoted to post-modernism and post-modernity. But what actually are they, and what implications do they have for informal educators? Barry Burke investigates. Contents: modernism · post-modernism · post-industrial society · post-fordism · disorganised capitalism · implications for informal educators · conclusion · how to cite this article […]

Reflection, learning and education

Reflection, learning and education. What constitutes reflection – and what significance does it have for educators? The contributions of Dewey, Schön and Boud et. al. assessed. Contents: Dewey – and How We Think · Boud et. al. – reflection: turning experience into learning · Schön – reflection in and on action · further reading When […]

Relationship: learning, mutuality and emotional bonds

Relationship: learning, mutuality and emotional bonds. What is a relationship, and what special qualities are present in in community learning and development, informal education and social pedagogy? We suggest that the focus on learning, mutuality and the emotional bond between people are important features of the sorts of relationships that educators and animateurs like these […]

Donald Schon (Schön): learning, reflection and change

Donald Schon (Schön): learning, reflection and change. Donald Schon made a remarkable contribution to our understanding of the theory and practice of learning. His innovative thinking around notions such as ‘the learning society’, ‘double-loop learning’ and ‘reflection-in-action’ has become part of the language of education. We explore his work and some of the key themes […]

Self, selfhood and understanding

Self, selfhood and understanding. This page explores the nature of the self. We look at four different models of selfhood – which is a far from easy task. It is difficult to take a step outside what we take for granted. Contents:  introduction · starting with the parts · looking to the whole · the […]

Self-direction in learning

Self-direction in learning. Many books and articles about lifelong learning talk glibly about self direction. Too often this idea is seen as unproblematic – an obvious good. But things are not quite as they seem. Contents: Tough – self education and learning projects · product and process ·  Knowles – process and the rationale for […]

Self-directed learning

Stephen D. Brookfield explores the notion of self-directed learning. He takes Knowles’ (1975) influential definition as a starting point and then explores some of the problems surrounding the idea. Brookfield highlights two particular characteristics that move the discussion from a technical to a critical realm: authentic control, and access to resources. He argues that it […]

A conceptual framework for understanding self-direction in adult learning

In this chapter from Self-Direction in Adult Learning (1991), Ralph G. Brockett and Roger Hiemstra argue that self-direction in learning refers to two distinct but related dimensions: as an instructional process where a learner assumes primary responsibility for the learning process; and as a personality characteristic centering on a learner’s desire or preference for assuming […]

Peter Senge and the learning organization

Peter Senge and the learning organization. Peter Senge’s vision of a learning organization as a group of people who are continually enhancing their capabilities to create what they want to create has been deeply influential. We discuss the five disciplines he sees as central to learning organizations and some issues and questions concerning the theory […]