First Impressions – on learning about adult learning

Context for Adult Learning

Participation in a Community – It struck me when the idea came up that “learning is about participation in a community”. There are so many contexts for learning — so many areas of life where we are faced with the unknown and have the opportunity to stretch our boundaries in many aspects – emotionally, intellectually, socially and also spiritually… I’m not quite clear about the implications of this concept yet, but it is intriguing to reflect on and further explore.

Barriers to Learning – There are so many parameters when considering barriers to learning. One that struck me as part of our discussion was how often there are internal barriers that participants can put up, especially when a learning event is considered mandatory in an organization. In such a setting there can often be a feeling of dread from people who have to come… ‘oh, God, another boring workshop or training…” It seems people often feel that there may be nothing relevant for them or that they’ve already done it all. Especially, if there are those with a lot of experience in a certain area there can be the sense that, ‘I already know all this stuff… what can I learn from you?’ There can also be challenges for people to work in group settings – they may be shy to contribute in large groups or speak out over others. Of course, the varied types of activities can help with this: 1-1, small group, etc. (like we did in Class 2…).

Stories – Yes, stories are a powerful way to contribute to vicarious learning…

Class format: I enjoyed the format of the class – using media, reflecting, 1-1 or small groups and the large group too. Getting in to the small groups was a nice way to connect with others in the class. It was interesting to see impact of projected video  – it really adds a dynamic I haven’t experienced yet in a formal learning environment. Yes, I have seen video in a communications workshop and used video when doing public speaker training and seen the powerful effect of the participants response to seeing themselves, but somehow this seemed different. It was interesting to see it used in this context. I thought it was definitely effective in prompting reflection and discussion.

However, the last slide-show with all of the statistics seemed to be a bit overwhelming with information. Perhaps that was part of the point. The information age – ‘one week of the NY Times has more info than an average person would get in their lifetime during the 18th century…’, ‘computers will be able to have more power than the human brain in year so-and-so’, and more…

Human Being and the Machine: The main thing that struck me here was to consider what place the human being will have in such a context. What is unique about the human’s capacity to learn vs. the capacity of a machine to process data in some kind of logical way. Is is really possible for machines to duplicate or surpass the human being’s capacity for the higher values such as compassion, empathy, understanding, service, sacrifice and love… What’s so unique about these qualities of the human? Can they be attributed so something more than the chemical firing of neurons racing around the brain…? How about consciousness itself? What is consciousness? Where does it come from? Is is just a biological reaction or is there some higher aspect to it?

Is there something we can learn about consciousness and learning that can help us be better human beings?

Do I fit in???: It helped to see that there are some others in the class that are near my age and maybe one or two even older. I guess I still have a bit of anxiety about getting back into a formal learning environment – schedules, assignments , writing papers… It will be interesting to watch this unfold. I’m happy about the challenge. I think I will be stretched. I also am excited about the topics and enjoy the format and the way the class was conducted. I did feel comfortable in the class and felt OK about contributing and felt that I also had something of value to contribute…

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1 Response to “First Impressions – on learning about adult learning”


  1. 1 Terry Carter 5 September 2008 at 9:19 pm

    Hi, Jonathan,
    Welcome to your first courses in the Adult Learning program; I am delighted that you were able to get into Dr. Muth’s and Dr. Graham’s classes. I can also see that you have a “wide open” attitude about your entry into graduate education and intend to make the most of this experience. Most of our learners resume their studies with a bit of trepidation — that fear of “can I really do this again?” after having been out of school for a while, but I think you’ll find learning in this context contagious — and you seem to have gotten off to a great start!

    The ideas behind a community of practice are ones that I think we embrace in our program; our intention is that the students here are a community of learners. Within a CoP, meaning is negotiated and socially constructed, a common language develops, and newcomers to the community learn by adopting the practices of those more experienced in its ways. Welcome! I look forward to following your progress throughout the semester. Terry Carter


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