Adult Learning and Human Nature: Personal values and assumptions   Leave a comment

Reflecting on my world views led me to focusing on my personal values and assumptions about human nature. I was raised to believe that everyone is good until told or shown otherwise and given the right circumstances can learn and grow. This instilled an assumption about human nature deep within me as Brockett and Hiemstra (1991) reported, “…their model of self-directed learning, the Personal Responsibility Orientation (PRO) model…fundamental ideas espoused by this philosophy: [T]hat human nature is basically good…” (Merriam, Caffarella, & Baumgartner, 2007, p.107).

            My mother was a social worker who worked and dealt with Harlem street gangs, prisoners, ex-prisoners who resided in Rykers Island, and wayward kids. She had a tendency of bringing clients home. Our home was robbed at least five times in three year period. Everything would be replaced only to be robbed again. I was home alone during one of the home invasions.

Chene’s  (1983) discussed the ability to make choices and critical judgments based on values and beliefs, “These values and beliefs give them a solid foundation for conceiving goals and plans, exercising free choice, using rational reflection, having the willpower to follow through and exercising self-restraint and self-discipline”  (Merriam, Caffarella, & Baumgartner, 2007, p.122). That night my actions were based on past experiences with the knowledge of quickly calling the police, hiding and being perfectly still and quiet until help arrived. Because my mother believed there was good in all people, I followed her lead to incorporate the concept into my own belief system.

            Someone said to me once that I should be a prejudice type person against certain races based on my past experiences and yet, I’m just the opposite. In my opinion, if we were to believe that human nature was evil then we would have placed personal barriers on our learning capabilities due to fear. The lessons learned from each of those experiences revolved around having and losing; and the question of what was really important in life, meaning that everyone was safe and no one was hurt.

            Each robbery opened the door to a new experience leading to new knowledge and a new transition stage. McClusky’s theory incorporated four factors assessing strength: the situation, the self, external supports and strategies developed to handle stress. (Merriam, Caffarella, & Baumgartner, 2007, para. p.96). In exploring these times a connection can be seen as proactive learning was going transpiring when dealing with the stress and its repercussions.

            Adult learning theories based on age/stage could not be applied due to the accidental factors such as, being robbed at different ages. What happens when a learner does not follow the map? Tennant (1988) suggests that adult educators have favored theories and frameworks that offer stages because they give us “roadmaps” to follow” (Rossiter, 1999, p. 56). My tasks (how to survive) were based on critical challenges and there appeared to be a connection to Havighurst’s developmental teachable moment proposition description. Courtenay (1994), commented, “…that point in individual’ lives when they already to learn the knowledge and skills to complete one of life’s task” (Courtenay, 1994, p.146).

            One value that had been instilled in me was the importance of education and the need to continue in order to reach my goals. My mother always told me that I should do the best I can, and regardless of the grade I received, she would always be proud. As a young child it was innate to strive for the highest grade and disappointed in myself if I didn’t reach my own intended goal. Being an adult learner means we are motivated to learn by an internal driving force to succeed combined with a readiness to learn. I became more independent and self-directed as I matured and began a college program in which I participated in the process of planning in my learning. It was here that my self-esteem increased as well as my confidence level and where I could apply the organismic world view. As adult learners we have our experiences (integrated structural features of an organism, parts) in which we build upon to be the persons we are today (whole). With this lens it is not the external influences but the internal ones that guide me on my path to learning. When adult learners learn something new they are reorganizing their knowledge to incorporate the new. According to Overton (1984), “The hard core of organismic program is expressed in an ontological commitment to a Kantian-Hegelian philosophy of Becoming, wherein activity, change and organization are understood as natural and necessary features of the cosmos and not simply as the product of contingent accidental factors” (p. 204).

            It is through my world views, assumptions and beliefs that my perspective of adult learning and development takes form. I am learning that my development is more complex as different theories can be utilized when examining my adult learning process and how I work with other adult learners. I believe we are all life-long learners in the adult learning process which increases growth, knowledge and intelligence, we then apply our experiences as Lindeman commented, “Experience is the adult learner’s living textbook.” (p. 7), resulting in education and learning being defined as a never ending journey.


Courtenay, B.C. (1994, Spring). Are psychological models of adult development still important for the practice of adult education? Adult Education Quarterly, 44 (3), 145-153. Retrieved November 1, 2013 from,

Images: November 13, 2013 Retrieved from,

Lindeman, Edward. (1929). The Meaning of Adult Education. New York: New Republic Inc. Retrieved November 9, 2013 from,   xtbook

Merriam, S.B., Caffarella, R.S. & Baumgartner, L.M. (2007). Learning in Adulthood: A   Comprehensive Guide (3rd Ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Overton, W.F. (1984). World views and their influence on psychological theory and research: Kuhn-Lakatos-Lauday. Advances in Child Development and Behavior, 18, 191-226. Retrieved November 7, 2013 from,

Rossiter, M. (1999). A narrative approach to development: Implications for adult education. Adult Education Quarterly, 50(1), 56-71. Retrieved November 10, 2013 from,



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