July 1984 // Volume 22 // Number 4 // Tools of the Trade // 4TOT2

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Adult Learning

Adult Learning: Research and Practice. Huey B. Long. New York: Cambridge Co., 1983. 367pp. $19.95.

Ronald M. Jimmerson
Washington State University

Adult Learning: Research and Practice. Huey B. Long. New York: Cambridge Co., 1983. 367pp. $19.95.

If you're planning to buy only one professional book this year, it should be Adult Learning: Research and Practice. The book reports and discusses the best and most recent research related to the education of adults. In a sense, it's a summary of where we are in our understanding of adults, how they learn, and how adult education can help promote the learning process. More than 600 sources are cited in the book representing about 10% to 15% of the items reviewed in developing the manuscript. The up-to-date reference list alone provides a sort of who's who in adult education.

Extension educators should find this book especially helpful for gaining a broad perspective on the issues they face in their day-to-day programming. They can then pursue specific concepts, approaches, or perspectives that appeal to them, using the references provided. For example, one chapter deals with needs assessment, the various concepts and definitions of need, and procedures for identifying them. This review can help Extension practitioners understand credible studies related to needs assessment and help them form their own needs assessment.

A particular strength of the book is its beginning chapter about the status of research in adult education. It outlines types of research and criticism of research in a way that reminds us "facts" in our field are relative, and we may not agree about how to discover new knowledge. It sets the stage for interpreting the research reported in the rest of the book. The remaining 13 chapters are organized into 5 areas. Part 11 reviews adults' learning abilities and discusses concepts such as crystallized and fluid intelligence, cognitive styles, and anatomical/chemical factors in learning factors that provide a basis for determining Extension methods. This section should help explore basic assumptions about adults and their learning processes.

Part III summarizes research related to a critical issue for Extension educators- participation of adults in education. It includes reasons and motives for participation and findings related to dropouts. Part IV covers program development research including program elements, a conceptual basis for programming, and five concepts of planning. In addition, this section includes the chapter on needs assessment mentioned earlier and a chapter on marketing our programs and recruiting adults.

Part V reviews knowledge and concepts related to the teaching-learning transaction. It discusses the learning process, learning models, and important personal variables such as intelligence, learning style, experience, anxiety, curiosity, and motivation. This section also discusses social/environmental variables, including the learning activities themselves. Finally, it focuses on more recent formats including telecommunications media and computer-assisted learning. The last section of the book deals with adult education as a field of practice and study and discusses its historical foundations, concepts and terminology, parameters, purposes, content, professionalism, and philosophy.

Extension educators should find Parts 111, IV, and V directly applicable to Extension programming. Parts 1, 11, and VI provide more basic concepts, also critical for good Extension programming. The book is a comprehensive summary of what we know about adults and how they learn. Extension educators will find this book a valuable resource for reexamining their own assumptions and practice in light of recent research and study in the field.