Teachers, Technology and Training

Article excerpt

APPROACHING ADULT EDUCATION LITERATURE USING THE DONLEVY TEMPLATE OF PERSPECTIVES: A FOCUS ON THE SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE

ABSTRACT

The field of adult education may be approached with the same template of perspectives sketched by Donlevy and Donlevy to examine the K-12 education and school reform literature: the technological, psychological, ideological, and sociological perspectives. This article reviews the Donlevy Template and examines adult education literature authored from the sociological perspective.

INTRODUCTION

In Volume 25 (1), Teachers, Technology and Training (TIT) applied the Donlevy Template of Perspectives to literature in the field of adult education (see also TIT in Volume 23 [1-4], Volume 24 [1-3] and Volume 25 [2-4]). The article suggested that the field of adult education may be examined profitably through the lens of four perspectives: technological, psychological, ideological and sociological. In addition to providing a tool for capturing and thinking about divergent approaches to the field of adult learning, the template allows for examination of literature across the K-12 and higher adult and continuing education landscapes from common reference points--the perspectives. In this article, a brief description of the four perspectives again will be provided, followed by a closer examination of adult education writings authored from the sociological perspective.

training initiatives, including important adult literacy efforts, frequently result from these kinds of studies.

The descriptive writings also include those that provide comparative and international perspectives. The Handbook of Adult and Continuing Education (1989, p. 71) describes comparative adult education as an "area of study that ... focuses on provision of organized learning activities for men and women across international or intercultural boundaries." The Handbook states that "international studies refers to organized educational activities designed to assist men and women to become more knowledgeable about and sensitive to the cultures and people of other lands and the global issues that affect human life" (p. 71).

The descriptive sociological perspective also contains writings that discuss adult education from a historical, sociocultural or philosophical point of view. Works such as Darkenwald's and Merriam's (1982) Adult Education: Foundations of Practice, for example, offer philosophical underpinnings to issues current in the field and provide a way to consider material in adult education from a deeper frame of reference.

Generally, the template offers a way to think about adult education from four different points of view. Reviewing the literature, it is clear that some adult education writers focus directly on the workplace. These writers typically suggest program development strategies and techniques. Many other writers consider adults from the psychological vantage point and primarily look to their development; these authors sketch factors that either support or inhibit it. Another group of adult education writers focuses on power and its insidious capacity to keep certain adult groups at the margins of society. These writers labor to improve the conditions of those kept away from the mainstream. In addition to the descriptive sociological writers mentioned above, there are others who focus on the larger society; these are the communitarian writers.

The Communitarian Sociological Perspective

The communitarian writers are those with the broadest interest in adults and the societies in which they live. The communitarian authors, for example, are concerned about the decline of communities in the United States in recent decades and have reacted to what they consider a one-sided focus on, and preoccupation with, the psychological development of individual adults. While the communitarian writers embrace the developments of psychology and recognize the importance of improving individual lives, they nevertheless underscore the supremacy of the broader society. …