September 1984 // Volume 22 // Number 5 // Tools of the Trade // 5TOT1

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Lifelong Learning


Connie McKenna

This publication packs 41 tightly written papers on current theory and practice about non-formal adult education into 1 highly readable volume. The conference proceedings include a wide range of Extension-related topics, such as volunteerism, Extension education, community development, international education, aging, teaching methods, and research methodology. The busy reader will appreciate the scanning and screening help provided by the alphabetized content groupings in the table of contents and the 100-word abstracts preceding each paper.

The conference itself was designed to facilitate dialogue between researchers and practitioners, to help bridge the gap between theory and practice, and build linkages among agencies and institutions dealing with adult education. The fact that nearly a dozen entities co-sponsored the conference gives solid evidence of the groundwork laid to accomplish this goal. The fact that papers presented were selected "blind" by a peer review committee attests to the openness, objectivity, and quality control built into the conference.

Opening this publication is like lifting the lid of a small box and finding a surprising number of treasures. Individual tastes dictate which contents will be most appealing. Those looking for new insights into Extension work will gravitate toward in-house papers: "Development of a Career Life/Work Planning Workshop for Washington State University Cooperative Extension Faculty," and the North Carolina study on "Self -Perceived Changes in Leadership Capabilities of Participants in an Extension Training Program."

Because of Extension's recent emphasis on accountability and evaluation, many will be attracted to McNiff's "Impact Study: Community Education in Maryland" and Moore's "Summarative Scales for Measuring Attitudes Toward Community Satisfaction." There are other treasures, too, with an integral, but perhaps less immediately visible, Extension potential. One of these is "Farming Systems Research and Development: A Participating Approach to Development" in the international section and others on television and interactive video in the technology section. An unexpected, if eclectic, treasure is the list of references with each paper.

Twenty-four papers present research results and 17 are descriptive. The studies evolve from literature searches, implications of current theory and/or practice, or suggested new approaches to adult and continuing education. For Extension professionals unable to attend the conference, the proceedings serve as an update on recent research and provide stimulating challenges to traditional thinking-as well as some justification for Extension's existing "cultural beliefs."