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Adult Learning

Ph.D. Program in Educational Studies: Adult Learning

The Adult Learning Specialization focuses on increasing the knowledge base of those who work with adult learners and prepares future leaders in the field of adult and continuing education. This specialization was designed to meet the needs of students who are engaged in or are oriented toward careers as administrators; instructors of adults; staff developers; or program planners in learning environments such as business and industry, community development, staff development, professional continuing education, corrections education, literacy and adult basic education, religious education, human services, correspondence and distance learning, higher education, and university extension.

In the Adult Learning Specialization, students pursue a combination of individually designed study in a domain of adult learning and teaching, structured by the student under the supervision of residency faculty and a doctoral committee, and 45 credits of study. Two residencies per year combined with six months of on-line learning create an educational forum to integrate theory and everyday practice. The program gives candidates an opportunity to use their own experience to clarify and challenge assumptions that underlie adult education, while transforming their own practice. The content of thematic residencies focuses on major theories of adult learning and application of theory to develop effective learning communities. The emphasis in this program is on scholarship and community. Study involves integrating the areas of cognition, learning and human development with the study of institutions, organizations, and cultures. Central to the study of adult learning is the paradox of examining one’s self as an adult learner and educator while exploring and critiquing the field of adult learning. Learning is examined within the context of community and societal issues; participants critically examine educational research and literature and address a commitment to reflective practice, critical thinking, and lifelong education.

Students in the Adult Learning Residency model will follow the three phases of doctoral study including meeting phase requirements of required courses, the development of a research plan and 21 credits in Phase I; meeting the Sociocultural Perspective Standard, participating in human subjects protection training, completing required coursework and writing the qualifying papers in Phase II; and in Phase III, submitting the dissertation proposal and completing the dissertation.

Qualifying questions will demonstrate mastery of the four major areas of the PhD in Adult Learning specialization: Education Design and Program Development, Adult Learning Theory, Leadership, and Research.

Conceptually the Adult Learning specialization within the current Educational Studies PhD program builds upon four Central Questions:

  • How do adults learn?
  • What is the relationship between learning and development?
  • How does culture affect learning?
  • How do the environments in which adults learn impact their learning?

Dialogue, discovery and new knowledge around these central themes are framed through four areas of study or lenses: Education Design and Program Development, Adult Learning Theory, Leadership, and Research. The program is designed to provide multiple windows into the core academic questions guiding student experience and program outcomes. Each semester, students will engage doctoral study collaboratively in groups, individually, and in Independent Studies mentored by Program faculty.

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