The Mysterious Malcolm Knowles

Malcolm Knowles, informal adult education, self-direction and andragogy
“His work was a significant factor in reorienting adult educators from educating people to helping them learn.” Knowles 1950: 6.

I know this makes me a nerd, but when I got home at 9:30, I popped in the third Monterey Pop DVD and my husband and I enjoyed some lovely pinot grigio and played on our computers while reminiscing about the amazing music that surrounded us as we grew up. I had to open Inspiration and start working on my own concept map. It’s an interesting process but I stumbled on a seeming mystery: who is Malcolm Knowles academically? The infed article from which the quote comes (I love the distinction between education and learning) indicates that he went to Harvard and took classes in philosophy, literature, and law. No psychology, no sociology. So, where does he fit? Maybe that’s part of the reason that adult educaton as a theory gets a bad rap: it doesn’t fit into a discipline.

I tried working on the “personal” piece of the learning concept map. Get at the variety of learning experiences we’ve discusssed in class. Knowles ended up in that part of the map. I think part of the struggle in class last night as we tried to work on this map together was the differing perceptions of what it should do. Some wanted to make it a personal learning concept map but I think that leads us to make unsupported statement about learning, trying to suggest that our personal experiences define learning for everyone.

Lots of the words thrown out were, IMHO, more like synonyms than concepts. For instance, what about the proposition that learning is growth? I would argue that not all learning leads to growth. I took an access class some years ago and while I learned to use access, I don’t think I really experienced a whole lot of growth. Growth becomes a concept when it becomes part of a theory. So, Maslow and Rogers provide a conceptual framework that does suggest that learning is growth.

My starting draft is attached. I did use Inspiration because I like its ease of manipulation.

What is Learning?


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