Reflecting on Learning Theories Related to Adult Education

Cycles of learning.pngExamining various learning theories related to adult education is a crucial step in ensuring that I keep up to date, both with well-established and the latest paradigms, in order to improve my teaching process. It is too easy to get into a rut and merely do what is simplest or most familiar. I have a responsibility to improve my teaching practice, and contribute to existing educational knowledge bases. Familiarity with learning theories is a necessary foundation.

For my assignment entitled “Learning Theories Related to Adult Education: Comparing Behaviourist and Experiential Learning Theories”, I had to compare one of the learning theories discussed in the primary text (Educational Technology for Teaching and Learning) with a learning theory not discussed in the main text or study guide. I decided to compare behaviourist and experiential learning theories. I believe that using these two theories in conjunction with each other can create a more holistic learning environment. The behaviourist learning perspective focuses on external, observable changes, whereas experiential learning emphasises the internalisation of and reflection on the learning activity. Using these two frameworks together can enable an integration of objective and subjective aspects of the learning experience.

As an educational instructor, I need to have a dual focus: the daily practice of teaching, as well as creating and contributing toward a theoretical body of knowledge. As de Vos and Strydom (2011, 43) argue, the purpose of professional research is “not only the solving of practical problems applicable to a specific practice setting, but also the forging of a genuinely indigenous theoretical base”. In order to be a successful educator, I need to balance these two tasks: developing my teaching methodologies, techniques, and educational paradigms, and adding to the existing body of knowledge. This assignment in which I compared two learning theories provided a practical foundation on which I can consider ways of improving my practice and reflecting on existing theory, and perhaps even consider new avenues of research in which I can potentially give to the existing body of knowledge.

I am a young teacher who has many years of experience ahead of me. This task provided me with an insight into what the educational giants of the past have offered to the vast store of knowledge about teaching theories, and how a working knowledge of these theories is an essential part of any teacher’s toolbox. I have only briefly explored a limited branch of the tree of educational knowledge. It is essential that I am aware of the various teaching theories related to adult education, and that I employ various theories in my teaching practice.


De Vos, A.S. & Strydom, H. (2011). Scientific theory and professional research. In De Vos, A.S., Stydom, H., Fouché, C.B., and Delport, C.S.L. (Eds.) Research at grass roots: for the social science and human service professions. Pretoria: Van Schaik Publishers.

Newby, T.J., Stephic, D.A., Lehman, J.D., Russell, J.D. and Ottenbreit-Leftwich, A., (2011). Educational technology for teaching and learning. Boston: Pearson. Fourth Edition.

Check out the assignment on which this reflection is based.


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