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Do Adult Learning Theories offer adequate explanatory or predictive foundations for HRD? Offer an analytical response to this question with reference to a case study of your choosing.

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Introduction

Do Adult Learning Theories offer adequate explanatory or predictive foundations for HRD? Offer an analytical response to this question with reference to a case study of your choosing. Introduction: Adult learning theories and theorists seek to establish education as a continuous and lifelong process. Similarly, in the context of human resource development (HRD) professional and personal development can never be exhaustive, but continues in a cyclical and continuous improvement pattern: Identify Learning/Training Needs Evaluate Plan Implement Learning/Training Kolb describes this cycle as both iterative and interactive (Wilson, 1999 p.195). Wilson goes on to suggest that adult learning can instruct the field of HRD to recognise both formal and informal learning and the development thereof. Through an analysis of adult learning theories I aim to demonstrate how the HRD practitioner can apply the models of adult and lifelong learning to enhance the evolution of individuals, organisations and nations. Furthermore, my exploration endeavours to demonstrate how adult learning theories and practice can act as explanatory and predictive foundations for HRD. Wilson (1999) summarises three main adult learning theories. Behaviourist theories of learning recognise learning as a response to external stimuli. Maintenance of the new behaviour is enforced by positive and negative reinforcement, a system of punishment and reward. Cognitivist theories of learning emphasise the proactive nature of development. This school of thought perceives human beings as seekers of knowledge in an attempt to understand our own identities and positionality. Humanist theories believe that learning occurs as a result of our natural inclination towards it. People learn because in an environment of 'warmth, care and understanding,'(Wilson, 1999 p.197) we cannot help it. In this sense education is learner-centred; the student initiates the development environment and needs assessment. Whilst these theories impact on and explain the processes and practices of some areas of HRD, I have decided to focus upon critical and cultural learning approaches and their impact on national and organisational HRD. ...read more.

Middle

Her poststructural perspective then questions whom the environment is made safe for. She cites an example of her own experience as an adult educator. An African-American woman proposed a dissertation topic of women's hair in relation to adult development, As an instructor (and as a white woman) I didn't see what hair had to do with adult development. I questioned it ...my whiteness informed what I initially saw as valid or relevant knowledge (Tisdell, 1998 p.148). Tisdell recognises that although her positionality defines her as the 'official' teacher, the African-American women were the real teachers, as they informed her of the symbolism of hair in terms of racial and gender identity in their culture. This form of reflection is developed in the 'feminist classroom'; thus one is encouraged to reflect on one's own and others actions and reactions. Poststructural feminist educators encourage students to 'take into account peoples' emotions as well as critical thinking in learning and working for social change' (Tisdell, 1998 p.152). Relationship between feminist learning theory and HRD The Plusspferd Women's study camp in Slovenia represents an incredible example of the relational aspects of women's learning and the importance of this recognition for HRD. The event was organised by the Frauenanstiftung (FAS) an international organisation based in Hamburg. The organisation received drastic fund cuts from the German Green Party and thus Dadzie (1996) notes that the initial problem faced was a decreased budget- an important factor in any HRD initiative. The camp was developed to overcome the prospect of insufficient funds for travel, accommodation, speakers and conference space. The transnational planning group of 8 women also faced many practical considerations. Dadzie cites these as organising cr�che facilities, (a problem which Marks (1999) suggests should be addressed in many UK universities), ensuring travel subsidies for the poorest women, catering, location and liasing with the local, onsite organisers. The female participants were allowed to sign up for any course on offer and in developing the camp the organisers tried to connect available resources to learning desires. ...read more.

Conclusion

On the reverse side of this the critique provided leads the teacher to question the learning content, questioning why it is that we deem specific knowledge to be relevant. Secondly, learning theories can affect the 'how' of HRD, addressing and transforming traditional training methods. Through an examination of adult learning theories the HRD practitioner can gain insight into numerous teaching alternatives, which would be more effective in the emerging culture of the 'learning organisation.' Perhaps most importantly, is the discussion of the 'by whom' of training and development, questioning the positionality and cultural specifics of the instructor. The titles of teacher/instructor/trainer/developer imply a knowledge and power base that can be used negatively, if one exploits the authority of the position to reinforce our own ideology. Or through investigation of innovative teaching methods the positionality of the teacher can be altered without affecting their authority or control in the learning situation, but promote a safer environment for training. Whether adult learning theories alone provide adequate explanatory and predictive foundations for HRD is questionable. In organisations that strive towards a vision of continuous learning and development, adult learning theories could provide endless resources and foundations. A more economic perspective on the role of HRD as a developer of adult learning theories would have to question firstly, the cost of the research that would be required before any instruction could take place. Secondly, whether practitioners should focus upon theoretic approaches when organisations require practical responses. Thirdly, whether this investment in the employee or citizen is going to provide economic gain or growth in the future. Although, as many of my case studies have demonstrated, economic requirements often create barriers for learning, they are a factor that in practical terms must be taken into consideration. That is why I perceive Griffith's reflecting team model to be the most effective example I discovered in researching this essay. The model is grounded in and developed from critically assessing adult learning theories and most importantly for the practitioner provides an energetic and effectual response to the problem of the power hierarchy of the traditional classroom. ...read more.

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