Session 4. Appropriate educational and learning processes part 2: adult learning theory and how it is used in this training program
Step 1. (5 minutes)
Step 2. (10 minutes)
Step 3. (10 minutes)
Step 4. (10 minutes)
Step 5. (10 minutes)
Step 6. (10 minutes)
Step 7. (20 minutes)
Step 8. (20 minutes)
* Choose one of the objections at the end of the article
Step 9. (15 minutes)
Step 10. (10 minutes)
LEARNING STYLE INVENTORY
This inventory is designed to assess your method of learning. As you take the inventory, give a high rank to those words which best characterize the way you learn and a low rank to the words which are least characteristic of your learning style.
You may find it hard to choose the words that best describe your learning style because there are no right or wrong answers. Different characteristics described in the inventory are equally good. The aim of the inventory is to describe how you learn, not to evaluate your learning ability.
There are nine sets of four words listed below. Rank order each set of four words assigning a 4 to the word which best characterizes your learning style, a 3 to the word which next best characterizes your learning style, a 2 to the next most characteristic word and a to the word which is least characteristic of you as a learner. Be sure to assign a different rank number to each of the four words in each set. Do not make ties.
FOR SCORING ONLY
Scoring the Learning Style Inventory
To obtain your score on the four dimensions measured by the inventory, Concrete Experience (CE), Reflective Observation (RO). Abstract Conceptualization (AC) and Active Experimentation (AE), sum each column including only those words whose item number appears under the place for the total score. For example, for CE, total the ranks you have given for words 2,3,4,5,7 and 8 in the first column. Ignore the nonscored words in each column.
INTRODUCTION TO ADULT LEARNING THEORY
For most of us, the first associations we have to the word "learning" are teacher, classroom and textbook. These associations belie some implicit assumptions that we tend to make about the nature of the learning process. Our years in school have trained us to think that the primary responsibility for learning lies with the teacher. His training and experience make him the expert: we are more passive participants in the learning process. As students, our job is to observe, read and memorize what the teacher assigns and then to repeat "what we have learned" in examinations. The teacher has the responsibility of evaluating our performance and telling us what we should learn next. He sets requirements and objectives for learning since it is often assumed that the student does not yet have the experience to know what is best for himself.
The textbook symbolizes the assumption that learning is primarily concerned with abstract ideas and concepts. Learning is the process of acquiring and remembering ideas and concepts. The more concepts remembered, the more you have learned. The relevance and application of these concepts to your own job will come later. Concepts come before experience.
The classroom symbolizes the assumption that learning is a special activity cut off from the real world and unrelated to one's life. Learning and doing are separate and antithetical activities. Many students at graduation feel, "Now I am finished with learning; I can begin living." The belief that learning occurs only in a classroom is so strong that academic credentials are assigned great importance in hiring and promotion decisions -- in spite of the fact that psychological research has had little success in establishing correlations between performance in the classroom (grades) and success in later life.
As a result of these assumptions, the concept of learning seldom seems relevant to us in our daily lives and work. And yet a moment of deeper reflection says that this cannot be so. In a world where the rate of change is increasing rapidly every year, in a time when few men will end their careers in the same jobs or even the same occupations that they started in, the ability to learn seems an important, if not the most important, skill.
The concept of problem solving, on the other hand, evokes some associations that are opposite to those of the concept of learning. We tend to think of problem solving as an active, rather than a passive, process. Although we have a word for someone who directs the learning process (teacher), we have no similar word for the problem-solving process. The responsibility for problem solving rests with the problem solver. He must experiment, take risks and come to grips with his problem. Usually no external sources of evaluation are needed. He knows when his problem is solved.
Although general principles can emerge from the solution to a specific problem, problems are usually specific rather than general, concrete rather than abstract. Problem solving is not separate from the life of the problem solver. The focus of the problem solving is on a specific problem felt to be relevant to the problem solver; it is, in fact, his involvement in the problem that makes it a problem.
* * *
EXTENSION, TRAINING AND DIALOGUE: A NEW APPROACH FOR TANZANIA
Dr. James De Vries*
* Edited by the Training for Rural Development Staff Tanzania
Extension, Education and Development
Training and extension work with farmers is both an educational effort and a means of development and a part of that development. Before we can begin to criticize traditional training and extension techniques and advocating new ones, it is important to be clear what we mean by development and how training and extension work relate to this goal. Until recently, development was usually defined in economic terms such as changes in the Gross National Product, per capita and economic living standards. Training, and especially agricultural extension, were viewed as an economic development tool; as an investment in human capital on which a return was expected. This implied a directly functional approach to teaching and learning which was focused on "practical" skills and immediate pay-offs.
This view has changed over the past ten years due to concerns about income distribution, dependency on government and other social and political concerns. Now almost every statement about training and development mentions the importance of participation, mobilization, equality and self-determination. Since independence, the party and the Tanzanian government have defined development as liberation. Development is:
A permanent revolution for the total liberation of the people of Tanzania and Africa from all forms and manifestations of domination, exploitation, oppression, humiliation, weakness, racism, poverty, ignorance, disease and misery (Daily News, 1975)
For development has a purpose: that purpose is the liberation of man. It is true that in the Third World we talk a great deal about economic development -- but the goods are needed to serve man; services are required to make the lives of men more easeful as well as more fruitful. Political, social and economic organization is needed to enlarge the freedom and dignity of men; always we come back to man -- to liberated man -- as the purpose of the development activity. (Nyerere, 1976)
Development is thus more than a change in material welfare, farming practices or yield per hectare or return per man-day of labor. Development involves changing people, changing their consciousness or awareness and helping them to become "beings for themselves" -- making their own political, cultural and economic decisions. "The expansion of (man's) own consciousness, and therefore power over himself, his environment and his society, must therefore ultimately be what we mean by development." (Nyerere, 1976)
Education is thus both an end and a means of development. Development which depends on the actions of men requires a change in their consciousness, so that they are the determinant of their own actions. Farmers follow a given practice not because of traditionalism, but because they see it as the best method in the face of their own particular situation. To change these practices either demands force or a change in awareness which convinces them that a different form of action better meets their needs.
Raising the farmers' awareness is the role of both training and extension work. "Adult education has to be directed at helping men and women to develop themselves -- to think clearly -- to examine possible alternative courses of action; to make a choice between those alternatives in keeping with their own purposes; and to equip them with the ability to translate their decisions into reality." (Nyerere, 1976) The "developed" farmer is not the one who is "progressive" or follows the recommended practices (although he or she may do this); rather the developed farmer is the one who is critically aware of his or her situation and acts on it in accordance with this awareness.
The Traditional Approach
Education and extension in Tanzania and other developing countries have received a great deal of criticism. While in part this is unfair because of unrealistic expectations and a failure to see training and extension in the context of other factors influencing development work, much of the criticism is deserved. Part of the blame can be put on the traditional training and extension approaches used in the villages and elsewhere. This approach has variously been called the banking, empty cup, directive or top-down approach. Its essence is that the trainer or extension worker is the expert who knows (full cup) and tries to give (deposit as in the bank) this knowledge to the farmer or villager (empty cup) whose role is to passively receive and acknowledge what was received from the expert.
The assumption underlying this relationship is that the trainer or agent knows what is good for the farmer or village. Thus, the relationship is vertical and assumes a one-way flow of information from the top down. The farmer or villager is seen as ignorant, lacking knowledge, traditional and resistant to change. This means he or she is helpless and must be helped to develop, almost in spite of themselves. The farmer or villager is the passive learner, while the trainer or extension agent is the active educator.
In practice what this boils down to is that the trainer or agent, whether at a meeting, demonstration program or training session, is always in the position of telling villagers what to do. He tries to provide them with solutions to their problems much in the same manner a doctor provides prescriptions to medical problems. In a village one may find a list of the "ten commandments" of good farming posted. In a meeting one will hear the Katibu Kata exhort farmers to weed properly and the Bwan Shamba telling them that eight sprayings of insecticide are necessary to produce good cotton. Farmers rarely raise objections, because they know that such objections are not welcome and often accept the role of the ignorant, passive listener because they are continually told they are. They therefore exist in an oppressive environment over which they exercise little control. If they do object, they are quickly silenced by references to "watealamu" research and "modern methods" (meaning they are ignorant and traditionalistic) or they need to work (meaning they are lazy). Rather than objecting openly and thus offering to educate the trainers or extension workers and be educated in return, most farmers remain silent. They go home and fail to put into practice what was suggested, even when they may have agreed to do so in the meeting.
The failure of farmers to follow the expert's advice is discouraging to the expert and reinforces the feeling that farmers irrationally resist change. As a result, educators and extension workers tend to work with those few who seem more open to their suggestions -- the "progressive" farmers -- and to advocate the use of pressure to force farmers to use recommended practices for their own good. As one RADO told me, "A farmer who refuses to follow recommended practices is like a sick man: you have to force him to eat and he will thank you for it when he becomes better."
Failure of the Top Down Approach
Unfortunately the farmer often does not become "better" in the sense that he or she obtains a significant benefit from the forced practice. This reveals one of the fallacies underlying the traditional approach: the assumption that all recommended practices are good and that the experts are always right. Experience and research in Tanzania have shown that many practices either recommended to the farmers or forced on them did not benefit the farmers and their rejection of them was quite rational.
Some recent examples are:
1. The use of fertilizer on maize in the lower altitude areas of Morogoro, Tanga and Iringa Region.
Thus, while many recommendations are good, experience has shown that when evaluated from the farmer's perspective, many do not solve the farmer's most pressing needs and are, therefore, unacceptable.
This brings up the second fallacy of the top-down approach: the assumption that farmers and villagers are ignorant. It is true that many of them have little formal education and are illiterate. It is not true that they have learned nothing and know nothing. (It is unfortunate that in Swahili, the same word, ujinga, can be used for both illiterate and ignorant, because the two cannot be equated.) Farmers, through experience and the informal sharing of ideas, have developed a wealth of knowledge about agricultural production and survival in an often harsh environment. They also have a better understanding of their problems, needs, priorities, resources, values, attitudes, local culture, etc. Educators and extension agents tend to be outsiders and members of a different socio-economic class.
Thus, both the extension agent OF trainer and the farmer or villager have some knowledge necessary to bring about changes in practices. The scientific knowledge of the researcher needs to be complimented by the more natural knowledge of the farmer to bring about a critical understanding of the problem and the basis for action.
The third major fallacy of the top-down approach is the assumption that knowledge can be given or extended by the trainer and extension agent. Knowledge cannot be poured into the adult learner like tea into a cup. Informed action develops in learners as a result of interaction with information, the situation and fellow human beings. Learning is not an activity of the trainer, but of the learner, and involves a change from one way of understanding or doing something to another. Adults in particular have developed attitudes and ways of doing things. Learning often involves the rejection of existing ideas and acceptance of new ones.
This leads to the importance of understanding the farmer's present knowledge and understanding and these must form the foundation of any new learning. Only an active interaction with ideas and other people can result in the learner really understanding new ideas and making them his or her own, instead of them merely being someone else's ideas.
Finally, another major criticism of the top-down approach, particularly important in the Tanzanian context, is that it builds a dependency relationship between experts (often seen as representing government) and farmers and villagers. It means presenting the farmers with solutions to their problems, defined in the first place by the experts, instead of analyzing their problems with them, in order to fully understand them, and coming to a solution cooperatively. The traditional approach makes the farmer feel dependent on the continued advice of the trainer or extension agent, as it fails to teach him how to analyze and solve problems on his own. While the government and the party have accepted liberation as the major goal of development, the top-down approach to adult education and extension work encourages dependency and passivity.
Instead of seeing men and women as the end of development, it treats them as a means, tools to be manipulated as efficiently as possible in order to achieve the goals of those in power. In the face of the above, it seems fair to conclude that the present, prevailing approaches to adult education and extension work are not only ineffective but actually are detrimental to the development of Tanzanian farmers and villagers.
The Dialogue Approach
The dialogue approach, illustrated in Table 1, is the opposite of the traditional, top-down approach. Its essence is the horizontal sharing of ideas between trainers/learners, learners/ trainers in a process of reflecting and acting on the world in order to understand it and control it better. It is based on faith in people, in his or her ability in cooperation with others, to be able to understand self and situation, and to act on it and change it.
The dialogue approach assumes that both the trainer or extension agent and the student or farmer know something about the subject of interest, especially if the goal is for the learner to apply what is to be learned. Although one may have more general or abstract knowledge and the other may have more informal and specific knowledge, this difference does not make one or the other superior in the situation. It is the shared knowledge both have in the situation which is superior. Within the constraints of each party's environment, each can learn and change as a result of interacting with each other.
While all farmers have some knowledge, they are not always aware of this knowledge. In fact, because they are constantly told that they are backward, lazy, ignorant and thereby made to accept that they are "hopeless," they often feel that they know nothing. When farmers can be drawn out in dialogue as a group, they are often surprised at how much they already know, collectively, about a wide range of production or development problems. It is important, in the beginning, to draw out what the farmers or villagers already know to be able to build on it. As Mwalimu Nyerere points out, by drawing out what the farmers know (which can only be done through dialogue) and showing the relevance of what is known to what is being learned, the trainer achieves three things:
He has built up the self-confidence of the man who wants to learn, by showing him that he is capable of contributing. He has demonstrated the relevance of experience and observation as a method of learning to be combined with thought and analysis. He has shown what I call the ''maturity" of learning -that is, by sharing our knowledge, we extend the totality of our understanding and our control over our own lives.
The trainer's role in dialogue is not to present knowledge to the learner but to lead the learner to an examination of problems --to ask the learner to critically reflect and act on problems (problem-posing). Knowledge or learning grow out of this reflection-action cycle. The farmer will never learn the benefit of a practice and the problems associated with it until he has actually tried it and then thought about his experience critically.
Neither will the trainer or extension agent know the value of his ideas until he has shared them with the learner and tested them out against the farmer's perceptions and experience. Dialogue thus requires both action and reflection, experience and thought. Without action, teaching is merely verbalism and amounts to exhorting the farmers to do this or that without showing them how to do it and thus has limited impact on their farming practices. Without reflection, extension work can become mindless activism in which farmers are forced to follow certain practices without understanding them and without the farmers themselves being developed.
Is Dialogue Feasible ?
Let us examine two objections to the use of the dialogue approach often made by extension agents, educators and government officials.
1. The first is that it is impossible to dialogue with farmers or villagers because they know little or nothing about modern agriculture or how to make a village cooperative work.
2. The second objection is that it is too slow and expensive, that our problems need urgent solutions and therefore cannot wait for a long process of dialogue to take place.
[Ukrainian] [English] [Russian]