Learning environments that effectively meet the needs of adult students build upon the wealth of knowledge in the classroom, are student-driven, and have direct application to the problems of the adult's everyday life. In this essay, I will reflect upon a traditional learning experience that I experienced as an early college student. Additionally, using Knowles' theory of adult learning, I will consider how the experience could have been adapted.
Traditional Learning Context
As a 17 year old in the mid 1990s, I enrolled in an introductory psychology course at a private religious college in central Virginia. The college was traditional in most every way, from the way coursework was organized to the ways in which classroom activities were delivered. The course textbook was the primary reading for the course, the lecturer delivered the readings with a traditional lecture using an overhead transparency projector, and students regurgitated the lectures via scantron, fill in the bubble tests. Little discussion was encouraged in the class. In fact, if students were whispering among themselves in the large lecture hall, their behavior was rewarded by being called upon by the lecturer. Usually, being called upon by the lecturer meant that he wanted the students to recite an obscure fact from the textbook. A student who could not cite the required facts from the textbook would be “called out” in front of the class for failing to do the reading; occasionally, the lecturer would summarily dismiss the student from lecture.
Much of the course was, indeed, unmemorable. In fact, the only lecture that I remember was the lecture on sexual orientation identity. Consistent with the school's firm conservative roots and policy on same sex desire—homosexuality was reason for being called upon for disciplinary/conduct issues and being expelled from the college, the lecturer spent a great deal of time on Freud's view of homosexuality. Freud believed that homosexuality in men was a result of phallic fixation, too much coddling much by a overly-protective mother, and closeness with his mother that resulted in identification with women rather than making them objects of sexual desire (Ellis, Abrams, & Abrams, 2009). This position has been widely discredited. Though all references to homosexuality were removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (APA, 1994) , and most credible professional organizations in psychology and the human services had stated positions of affirmative practice with lesbian, gay, and bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities (APA, 2008; NASW, 2005), the lecturer made it clear that he endorsed Freud's position. That day, the class remained silent, without whispering. As a young gay man coming to terms with my sexual orientation identity, I, too, remained silent in the class.
Knowles theorized that mature adults move from learning that is dependent toward learning that is self-motivated and directed...