Projects & Teaching


Adult and Community Education

York University: Faculty of Education
Adult and Community Education

Dates: April 4 to June 20, 2000 Course Director: Celia Haig-Brown
Time: 6:00 to 9:00 pm. Office: Ross S867
Location: Ross Phone: 416-736-2100 X 88786

At a time when the furthermost corner of the globe has been conquered by technology and opened to economic exploitation; when any incident whatever, regardless of where or when it occurs, can be communicated to the rest of the world at any desired speed...then, yes then, through all this turmoil a question haunts us like a specter: What for? -- Whither?-- And what then?
Heidegger, 1959 cited in Britton.

Simplifying to the extreme, I define postmodern as incredulity toward metanarratives.
Lyotard, 1984.

Calendar Description:

This course provides an introduction to the discourses and practices of adult and community education. The readings focus on historical, methodological and philosophical approaches and debates within the field. Inquiry into a specific site of adult education is a course requirement.

Course Purpose:

This course will provide students with an introduction to the study and practice of the field of adult and community education. Through becoming familiar with the debates within the field, students will have the opportunity to begin to articulate their own stance in relation to existing literature and programs. As well as reading and critiquing current and classic literature, students will be expected to conduct introductory field work in an existing community-based program.
Topics to be addressed will include some or all of the following depending on student interests and expertise: distinctions between informal and formal learning; credentialling and prior learning assessment; selected history of adult education in Canada and some other parts of the world; literacy and critical pedagogy; teaching English as an additional language; upgrading and higher education; feminist practices of adult education; adult education in indigenous communities; distance education; technologies and adult education; prison education; industry and union education. A critical assessment of discourses of adult education including terms such as andragogy, literacy, critical thinking, community, assessment, technicism/instrumentalism, partnership, equity, and diversity will be integral to the course.

...the ususal array of [ethnocentric and] androcentric gaps and distortions appears in [too many of] these recent studies too.
Sandra Harding, 1986 [with additions by CH-B, 2000].

The following books are available in the book store.

1. Britton, D. 1996. The Modern Practice of Adult Education: A Post-Modern Critique. Albany: SUNY Press.

2.Sapphire. 19 . Push.

3.Selman, G., M. Selman, M. Cooke, and P. Dampier. 1998. The Foundations of Adult Education in Canada, 2nd Edition. Toronto: Thompson Educational Publishing.

4.Reading kit to be distributed in class. Citations for articles included are attached to this outline.


a. Preparation and leading a class seminar on a topic as laid out in the course schedule pedagogical analysis of the process 30%
b. Midterm “draft” of field study 30% (ungraded)
c. Final paper based on field study or seminar topic 40%

Final grade will be based on assignments a and c and the satisfactory completion of b.


April 4, 2000 Introduction to Adult and Community Education (ACE)

Adult education is a cultural practice with moral and political consequences that reach far beyond the walls of the classroom.
Britton, 1995, p.33(original emphasis).

Here so far as the class is concerned, the teacher is an authority upon one subject only, and each of the students has, in [her/]his own particular field some skill or knowledge that the teacher does not possess.
Ruth Merton, 1939, (cited in Knowles, 1995, 43).

We’ve had years of training in which we have rightly learned to be cautious, avoid mistakes, and yet when I’m teaching a class my first guiding principle has to be to ensure the freedom for myself and others to make mistakes—if only because I stumble publicly so frequently....Out of this approach people may learn something about the hidden curriculum— that the teacher, the person in power, can take a chance and find it valuable to have things come apart and have them not work— not work more than they do work, perhaps. If they learn this, I’ve done my bit as a critical and creative educator.
dian marino, 1997, p.50.

Distribution and discussion of schedule
Structured discussion: Why “Adult? Why “Community”?
Other business

April 11, 2000 Problematizing the language of ACE

The field of adult education and training remains broad, fractured and amorphous, differently understood, labelled and defined in different countries and by different interests....We work in a contested terrain.
Malcolm Tight, 1996, 3.

As a practice, adult education existed long before it was named and operationalized in the quest for professionalization, and the struggle to define the field’s boundaries, to include and legitimate certain practices while excluding and delegitimating “others,” continues to this day, despite the establishment’s efforts to construct a “central” discipline.
Britton, 1996, 116.

One man’s (sic) common sense is another man’s non-sense.
Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann, 1966.


Malcolm Tight. 1996. Key Concepts in Education and Training. Introduction in Key Concepts in Adult Education and Training. London: Routledge, pps. 1-10.

Malcolm Tight. 1996. The core concepts. Chapter 1 in Key Concepts in Adult Education and Training. London: Routledge, pps. 11-33.

Selman, Chapter 1: Terms and Functions

Britton, Chapter 2: The Fear of Falling into Error

Preparation for Field Study: Ethics and Organization

1.) Ethics Guidelines: Bring Purple Handbook to class.

2.) Robert Emerson, Rachel Fretz, and Linda Shaw. 1995. Writing Up Fieldnotes I: From Field to Desk. In Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pps. 39-65.

April 18, 2000 Selected readings in the history of adult education

The terms “adult education” and “adult educator” in their generic sense are generally seen to have been a product of the period between the two World Wars. The landmark “1919 Report” of the Adult Education Committee of the Ministry of Reconstruction in Great Britain helped to put adult education on the map.
Selman et al.,1998, p.296.

Something new in the way of content and method must be produced as soon as possible for adult education, and probably it will have to grow up in the field. No teacher-training-college hen can lay an adult education egg.
David Mackaye, 1931, (cited in Knowles 1995, 42)


Derek Britton, Chapter 1: Engaging the Question of Adult Education.

Selman, Chapter 2: Adult Education in English-Speaking Canada (+ p. 84)
Chapter 9: Adult Education as Discipline and Vocation

Shauna Butterwick: “Lest We Forget: Uncovering Women’s Leadership in Adult Education” (In Selman: Chapter 4)

Fieldwork: Continuing discussion of /preparation for interviews, observations, participant observations and fieldnotes.

April 25, 2000 Field work day

The field study of an adult and/or community education site is an integral part of the course. In order to ensure that you have time to conduct the study, one class day is dedicated to the time you will spend at the site. You may schedule this time as suits your schedule and the place you will observe. During this time, you may want to be in e-mail contact with your research partner. By the first week of May, it is expected that you will have collected available documents for the site and that you will have conducted one extended or several shorter observation days in the place. These will serve as the bases for your field reports that we will take up in class as you analyze your notes from the study. You may also decide to conduct an interview or two but be careful that you keep the study manageable. It may give you some insight for your project or thesis work even serving as something of a pilot study.

May 2, 2000 Questioning Community

Guest: Doctoral Candidate (ABD) Kate Eichhorn on questions of “community.”

Community is an understandable dream, expressing a desire for selves that are transparent to one another, relationships of mutual identification, social closeness, and comfort. The dream is understandable, but politically problematic because those that are motivated by it will tend to suppress differences among themselves or implicitly to exclude from their political groups, persons with whom they do not identify.
Iris Marion Young, 1990, p 300.

It is up to us to make community: to find it, build it, or encourage it to grow in our fragmented world. But can we? Or should we even try, when in spite of good intentions, the effects of community are often more divisive, more exclusive, and more oppressive, than the absence of community it originally intended to remedy or remove?
Eleanor Godway and Geraldine Finn, 1994, p.1.


Eleanor Godway and Geraldine Finn. 1994. Community: Catechresis: Community. Introduction to Who is This ‘We’? Absence of Community. Montreal: Black Rose Books. pps. 1-9.(to be addressed by Kate.)

Karim Benammar 1994. Absences of Community. In E.M. Godway and G. Finn, 1994. Who is This ‘We’? Absence of Community. Montreal: Black Rose Books. pps. 31-43.

Iris Marion Young. 1990. The Ideal of Community and the Politics of Difference. In Linda Nicholson, ed. Feminism/Postmodernism. New York: Routledge. pps.300-323.

May 9, 2000 Program Planning: Adult Learning “Models”

Whereas banking education anesthetizes and inhibits creative power, problem-posing education involves a constant unveiling of reality. The former attempts to maintain the submersion of consciousness; the latter strives for the emergence of consciousness and critical intervention in reality.
Paulo Freire, 1971, p.68

What is known, however, is that historically many exemplary adult education programs never underwent systematic program planning process. Rather it was considerable amounts of intuition, creative thinking, and spontaneous decision making that represented the sum of the intellectual control of the specific program.
Selman et al., 1996, p. 164.


Paulo Friere, 1999. Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 20th Anniversary Edition. New York: Continuum. Chapters 2 and 3. pps. 52-67, 68-105.

Malcolm Knowles, Elwood Holton, III, and Richard Swanson. 1998. A Theory of Adult Learning: Andragogy. Chapter 4 in The Adult Learner. Houston, Tx: Gulf Publishing Co. pps. 35-72.

Sharan B. Merriam and Rosemary Caffarella. 1999. Andragogy and Other Models of Adult Learning. Chapter 12 in Learning in Adulthood: A Comprehensive Guide. 2nd edition. San Francisco: Josey-Bass Publishers. pps. 271-287.

Selman et al. Chapter 6: Elements of Design in Programs.

Video: Starting from Nina.

Reports from the field

May 16, 2000 Issues in Higher Education

Guest speaker: Dr. Pat Rogers, Director of the Centre for the Support of Teaching: President of STHLE.

Reports from the field.

May 23, 2000 Critical/Anti-racist/Feminist Perspectives

Inserting a chapter on women’s contribution is problematic, not only because more research needs to be done in this area but also because the notion of “women’s contribution” must be tempered with the recognition of the diversity of women’s experience and of how that experience is also about race, class, sexual orientation, ablebodiness, and age.
Shauna Butterwick, p 105.

Well, it was a long time ago and... so I’m a different person. But because it’s all Native students it makes a difference. There was a lack of, there seems to be a lack of competition. [In the other school] I think the mixture of people seemed to be a lot more competitive. There is something that we all share here. And that’s being the same race.
Nancy quoted in Haig-Brown, 1995, p.111.


Sharan B. Merriam and Rosemary Caffarella. 1999. Critical Theory, Postmodern, and Feminist Perspectives. Chapter 15 in Learning in Adulthood: A Comprehensive Guide. 2nd edition. San Francisco: Josey-Bass Publishers. pps. 340-366.

Tammy Dewar. 1998. Women and Adult Education: A Postmodern Perspective. Chapter 11 in Selman et al.

Sapphire, Push.

Video: Women of Summer

May 30, 2000 Informal/formal/escaping adult education

Informal learning is any activity involving the pursuit of understanding, knowledge or skill which occurs outside the curricula of educational institutions, or the courses or workshops offered by educational or social agencies.
Livingstone, 1999, 51.

The Indigenous Knowledge Instructors’ Program has developed a Pedagogy of the Land that will equip Aboriginal harvesters to pass on their knowledge and skills to students of all ages. By learning traditional values and practices, Aboriginal students will gain new respect for themselves and their heritage. This program will restore community health, pride, and economies, especially important in today’s climate of alienation, cultural disruption and high rates of substance abuse and suicide in our communities.
Kaaren Dannenmann, 2000, trapper of Trout Lake, Ontario.

To go beyond education and development means learning to abandon the path of progress that creates “needs” where previously none existed. It means escaping the mindset of “basic needs” — including “the basic human need for education.”
Prakash and Esteva, 1998, p.81.

Celia’s presentation:
“Part river now: Coalition work with Aboriginal teachers in community context.”


D.W. Livingstone. 1999. Exploring the Icebergs of Adult Learning: Findings of the First Canadian Survey of Informal Learning Practices. Canadian Journal of Adult Education 1, 3,2.pps. 49-72.

Madhu Suri Prakash and Gustavo Esteva. 1998. Grassroots Postmodernism: Refusenik Cultures. Part II in Escaping Education: Living as Learning within Grassroots Cultures. New York: Peter Lang. Pps. 35-85.

June 6, 2000 Policy issues, community colleges and adult learners.

In May 1965, amendments were introduced to the Department of Education Act that resulted in the creation of a provincial system of Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology.
Selman et al., 1998, p. 271.

Guest Speaker:Shirley Richards. M.Ed. 2000, Humber College Business School: The non-traditional adult learners’ perceptions of college reality.


Selman et al. Chapter 7: Public Policy Formation
Chapter 8: Public Policy in Canada: A Synthesis and an Appraisal

June 13, 2000 Ethics and Adult Learning

Adult education is a social activity. It involves people and their interactions with one another— people who have differing views on how things should be done, who feel obligated and responsible in different ways....Although most of adult education is designed to educate the learner in specified ways, there are often unintended outcomes affecting the people involved or their pattern of relationships.
Merriam and Caffarella, 1999, p. 371

Vocation refers to a calling and entails a firm commitment to the performance of worthwhile activities that are not merely calculated to advance personal career aspirations or fulfil minimum job expectations. It incorporates a strong ethical dimension, emphasizing an unavoidable necessity to make judgements about what should or should not be done and a readiness to take sides on significant issues.
Collins, p. 42.


Michael Collins, . Adult Education as vocation: The role of the adult educator. Chapter 3 in M.Collins. Adult Education as Vocation: A Critical Role for the Adult Educator. New York: Routledge. pps. 42-57.

Selman et al. Chapter 10: Philosophical Considerations.

Sharan B. Merriam and Rosemary Caffarella. 1999. Ethics and Adult Learning. Chapter 16 in Learning in Adulthood: A Comprehensive Guide. 2nd edition. San Francisco: Josey-Bass Publishers. pps. 369-386.
June 20, 2000 Critical Adult Education

By critical I mean a philosophy that acknowledges the limits of knowing.

The challenge, then, to those who want to pursue a pedagogy of engagement, is threefold: it is (1) to embrace “the tension between a refusal to close the field, to police it and, at the same time, a determination to stake out some positions within it and argue for them”; (2) to recognize that while practice or “knowledge is not closed,” there are times when theoretical or “arbitrary closure” must be brought to defend “points of difference or distinction” to “stake out” issues that demand political resolutions; and (3) to remember, however, that such solutions are always “a question of positionalities,” solutions that “are never final...never absolute,” solutions that “can’t be translated intact from one conjuncture to another,” solutions that “cannot be depended on to remain in the same place.”
Britton, p.118 with Stuart Hall interpersed.


Britton, Chapter 6: Toward a Postmodern Pedagogy of Engagement with Adult Education..

Michael Collins, . Critical adult education: Outlines of a transformative pedagogy. Chapter 7 in M.Collins. Adult Education as Vocation: A Critical Role for the Adult Educator. New York: Routledge. pps. 101-117.

Selman et al. Chapter 12: The Contemporary Scene.

Celia Haig-Brown ~ Last updated: 03-Feb-2005