What is action research and how do we do it?

Action research. In this article we explore the development of some different traditions of action research and provide an introductory guide to the literature. contents: what is action research? · origins · the decline and rediscovery of action research · undertaking action research · conclusion · further reading · how to cite this article. see, also: […]

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 […]

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 · […]

Robert Freed Bales, group observation and interaction processes

Robert Freed Bales, group observation and interaction processes. R. F. Bales pioneered the development of systematic methods of group observation and measurement of interaction processes. In this brief article we survey his contribution. contents : introduction · group observation and interaction processes · conclusion · references · how to cite this piece Robert Freed Bales […]

Sissela Bok on lying and moral choice in private and public life – an amplification

Sissela Bok on lying and moral choice in private and public life – an amplification. Robert K. Fullinwider explores and amplifies Sissela Bok’s seminal work: Lying: Moral Choice in Private and Public Life (1978). Lying remains in print today, nearly thirty years after its initial publication, and is widely used in the classroom. Its continuing […]

Coffee houses and informal education

 Mid sevententh century coffee house, Wikimedia Commons pd The first coffee house appeared in 1650 and they became major forces in learning. Coffee houses, as forums for debate and discussion, played an important part in the general diffusion of knowledge and ideas (Kelly 1970: 82). The first is said to have appeared in Oxford in […]

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 […]

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: […]

John Dewey on education, experience and community

John Dewey on education, experience and community. Arguably the most influential thinker on education in the twentieth century, Dewey’s contribution lies along several fronts. His attention to experience and reflection, democracy and community, and to environments for learning have been seminal. (This ‘John Dewey’ page is due to be extended). John Dewey (1859 – 1952) […]

What is education? A definition and discussion

Education is the wise, hopeful and respectful cultivation of learning undertaken in the belief that all should have the chance to share in life. Mark K Smith explores the meaning of education and suggests it is a process of inviting truth and possibility. contents: introduction • education – cultivating hopeful environments and relationships for learning […]

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 ·  […]

What is a group?

What is a group? How are we to approach groups? In this article we review the development of theory about groups. We look at some different definitions of groups, and some of the key dimensions to bear in mind when thinking about them. contents: introduction · the development of thinking about groups · defining ‘group’ […]

Social groupwork: formulation of a method, 1920-1936

In this important (1981) piece Kenneth E. Reid explores a pivotal time in the development of the theory and practice of working with groups within social work. He assesses the contribution of Grace Coyle, W. I. Newstetter and other key figures and reflects on the emergence of ‘social group work’. Contents: preface · introduction · […]

Group work – expansion and professionalism 1937 – 1955

In this important (1981) piece Kenneth E. Reid explores how group work was increasingly presented as part of social work (as against informal education and recreation) and the fascinating process of delineating its boundaries. Contents:  introduction · developments in social work · beginning of a professional organization · search for a definition · separation of group […]

George C. Homans, the human group and elementary social behaviour

George C. Homans, the human group and elementary social behaviour. George Caspar Homans (1910-1989) is widely regarded as the father of social exchange theory. Two of his many books, The Human Group and Social Behaviour: Its Elementary Forms are considered world-classics in sociology. He also made significant empirical and conceptual contributions to small-group research. In […]

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 […]

Malcolm Knowles, informal adult education, self-direction and andragogy

Malcolm Knowles, informal adult education, self-direction and andragogy. A champion of andragogy, self-direction in learning and informal adult education, Malcolm S. Knowles was a very influential figure in the adult education field. Here we review his life and achievements, and assess his contribution. contents: introduction · malcolm knowles – life · adult 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 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 learning organization: principles, theory and practice

The learning organization. Just what constitutes a ‘learning organization is a matter of some debate. We explore some of the themes that have emerged in the literature and the contributions of key thinkers like Donald Schon and Peter Senge. Is it anything more than rhetoric? Can it be realized? contents: introduction · the learning society […]

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 […]

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 […]

Classical models of managerial leadership: trait, behavioural, contingency and transformational theory

What is leadership? Here Michele Erina Doyle and Mark K. Smith explore some of the classical models of leadership. In particular they look at earlier approaches to studying the area via the notions of traits and behaviours, and to what has become known as contingency theory. From there they turn to more recent, ‘transformational’ theories […]

Shared leadership

Shared leadership. Leadership can be explored as a social process – something that happens between people. It is not so much what leaders do, as something that arises out of social relationships. As such it does not depend on one person, but on how people act together to make sense of the situations that face […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

The potential of role-model education

The potential of role-model education. In this article Daniel Rose examines the role and potential of the educator as a role-model within both formal and informal education. contents: introduction · the influence of the role model on moral identity · role model education and informal education · role-model education as a basis for mentoring · […]

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-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 […]

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 […]

Making learning work: social enterprise and organizational learning

  Shirley Brice Heath examines the growing coherence between the worlds of business and youth-based community organizations. She argues that this has happened within both the realms of theory and practice and that there are surprising implications for making learning work. contents: introduction · living experience · an illustrative case: youth theater · playing roles […]

Key teaching activities

In this add-on to ‘What is teaching?’ Mark K Smith outlines nine key activities that teachers engage in. Teaching, he argues, is the process of attending to people’s needs, experiences and feelings, and making specific interventions to help them learn particular things. Contents: being present • setting challenging tasks • talking • explaining • showing […]

Bruce W. Tuckman – forming, storming norming and performing in groups

Bruce W. Tuckman – forming, storming norming and performing in groups. Bruce W. Tuckman produced one of the most quoted models of group development in the 1960s. We consider his contribution and the model’s continuing use. contents: introduction · storming, forming, norming and performing – developmental sequence in groups · a fifth stage – adjourning […]