Eduard C. Lindeman: a Father of Adult Education

Is adult education the formal classes hosted by institutions of higher education and for-profit training centers? Or is it the other side where informal training experiences help advance knowledge and cognitive understanding in a particular subject matter?

Eduard C. Lindeman was an early contributor to the study of adult learning and his reflections and teachings continue to provide a foundation for scholarly discourse within the field of adult education.

Lindeman (1926) seems to support both avenues of adult education in his broad definition. He states:

“If we are to make the most effective use of whatever quantity of intelligence is available, we shall need to grant the right of each personality to rise to its own level. This means that increased inventiveness will be required to discover the kind of education which will most effectively meet the needs of varying capacities. Formal educational discipline cannot be accepted as the criterion for ability to learn” (Lindeman, 1926, pg. 18).

Lindeman (1926) was right when he said that intelligence is an individualistic concept. And to achieve each persons’ actualization of intelligence, both formal and informal educational techniques are needed. For instance, the leader of a Girl Scout troop, with no formal education, can achieve a high level of status, power, knowledge, and intelligence through informal training techniques targeted towards areas related to fostering achievement and leadership in youth. This example supports Lindeman’s concept that formal education is not the only criterion to showcase the adults’ ability to learn.

Later in his book, Lindeman makes several statements which move into an idealistic concept of education and how education supports society. For purposes of this short discussion, I will focus on the second: “How can education supply directive energy for collective enterprise? By transforming the battle of interests from warfare to creative conflict” (Lindeman, 1926).

Creative conflict in a diverse society is often contrary to human instinct. Creative conflict certainly occurs in ivory towers and Paris coffee shops, but for those of us who live in the real world, warfare, of varying types, often makes the decision. While this may be controversial, I think it is real. It would be a wonderful ideal if education can strive towards developing future leaders to embrace creative conflict; however, in reality, I think this will be a struggle.

Lindeman, E. (1926). The meaning of adult education. (1989 edition). Norman, OK: Harvest House, Ltd.

How Disney Makes Training Enchanting

When you visit a Disney Park, there is energy and magic that inspires you to smile, relax, imagine and dream. It is no wonder that Disney has bottled this magic into their one-of-a-kind Disney University and Disney Institute.

Disney University is an internal program that provides training using a curriculum centered on storytelling and tradition and communicates the “three magic imperatives: 1. Keep the park clean. 2. Create happiness. 3. Do your job” (Allerton, 1997).

Disney Institute offers customized professional development to businesses. The external programs extend the Disney magic into outside organizations and include training in personnel management, leadership development, and customer service management (Disney Institute, 2014).

Allerton (1997) describes what is coined as the “Disney Difference” at both the Disney Institute and Disney University. This “Difference” is summarized by a few key points: create fun in training; create a consistent organizational theme; empower staff; communicate priorities and their order of importance to staff; celebrate people who have moved positions within the organization; and, finally, guests (customers) perceptions are reality (Allerton, 1997).

The “Difference” promotes fun, infuses fun and practices fun in training. The “Difference” provides unexpected surprises in training. The “Difference” creates positivity in training, a concept both young and old can relate to and embrace.

Innovative, positive, fun training techniques will help a diverse group of learners to rally together. Disney demonstrates the success of this model. Hopefully, you can add the “Difference” to your next training program.

Allerton, H. (May 1997). Professional development the Disney way. Training & Development, 51 (5), 50-57.
Disney Institute. (2014). Our story. Retrieved from:

eLearning – Beyond the Buzz

eLearning –Beyond the Buzz

The concept of eLearning is hot. Blogs, wikis, tweets and even journals are proclaiming the rise in eLearning as one of the fastest growing phenomena in higher education, or so it seems. Computer-based education has actually been around a long time. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign introduced a computer-based Education Research Laboratory project in 1959 (Lepi, 2012; SAM, 2012). The University of Alberta Department of Medicine offered early versions of online courses in 1968 (Lepi, 2012; SAM, 2012). The University of Phoenix opened its online doors in 1989. The University of St. Francis in Joliet, Ill. launched its fully online MBA in 1997. These brave instructors and administrators were pioneers in eLearning education! So folks, eLearning is not new. There just happens to be much more bandwidth these days, and it seems everyone wants to jump on board.

So moving beyond this latest hype surrounding eLearning, let us focus on the tactics of eLearning. There has so many tools to produce effective synchronous and asynchronous learning modules, but most of us who are teaching in the medium are not doing enough to incorporate these tricks of the trade into our course designs. And the tricks mean more than simply linking to a YouTube video or recording an opening introductory audio “welcome to class” recording. The advantages of eLearning are that we can incorporate features into an online course that do not even exist in the face-to-face format. eLearning provides us with the ability to interact using writing collaboration tools (i.e. GoogleDocs), real-time interactions between instructors and students (i.e. webcasts), learner-created resource guides (i.e. wikis) and much, much more.

The eLearning buzz needs to push the envelope a bit more. The eLearning buzz should be about: are we doing it well?


Lepi, K. (2012, November 12). Who actually started online education? Edudemic: Connecting Education and Technology. Retrieved from:

SAM. (2012, October 9). 11 early online education pioneers who paved the way for today. [blog post]. Avatargeneration. Retrieved from:

Unplug 101: Is the internet driving you mad?

Unplug 101: Is the internet driving you mad?

Have you ever thought about just getting away, and, dare I say, unplugging yourself from everything?

We are constantly on the move; we are on our smartphones, tablets, laptops, and sometimes, we even fire up our desktops. The question we need to be asking is what is all of this connection doing to us?

According to numerous studies conducted in more than a dozen different countries, it is definitely not all good. On average we spend half our waking hours looking at a computer screen, and The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has added “Internet Addiction Disorder” to its list of disorders (Dokoupil, 2012).

In 2006, one in eight individuals showed an unhealthy attachment to the internet (Dokoupil, 2012). That was before Steve Jobs introduced the world to the iPhone!

In the summer 2012, Newsweek ran a cover story titled “Is the Onslaught Making Us Crazy?”  It chronicled the overloaded screen time that each of us faces on a daily basis.  And that was in 2012. Just think about how much has changed since 2012.

The irony of this is not lost on me.  As I write this article (on my computer) warning about the hazards of the internet, you are reading this article via the internet.  The world wide web is a great resource, but we need to find that proper balance.

In my personal life, I have definitely found there are challenges with the age of the internet and trying to raise a family. My husband and I have stayed on the cautious side – we were the last to buy our kids phones; we still have “parental controls” turned on for our teenagers; we know their passwords; we read their text messages. But it is tough. Our whole family is screen-time heavy, and I do worry about the dangers and potential psychological damage pointed out in the Newsweek article.

“The computer is like electronic cocaine,” says Neuroscientist Peter Whybrow (as cited by Dokoupil, 2012).

“The internet ‘leads to behavior that people are conscious is not in their best interest and does leave them anxious and does make them act compulsively,’” says Nicholas Carr author of the Pulitzer nominated book The Shallows, about the web’s effect on cognition (as cited by Dokoupil, 2012).

According to the Newsweek article:

“The brains of Internet addicts, it turns out, look like the brains of drug and alcohol addicts. In a study published in January, Chinese researchers found ‘abnormal white matter’—essentially extra nerve cells built for speed—in the areas charged with attention, control, and executive function. A parallel study found similar changes in the brains of videogame addicts. And both studies come on the heels of other Chinese results that link Internet addiction to ‘structural abnormalities in gray matter,’ namely shrinkage of 10 to 20 percent in the area of the brain responsible for processing of speech, memory, motor control, emotion, sensory, and other information. And worse, the shrinkage never stopped: the more time online, the more the brain showed signs of ‘atrophy’” (Small, 2008 as cited by Dokoupil, 2012).

I have heard my colleagues and extended family joke about how family time is everyone sitting in the living room on their laptops, and they talk to each other through Facebook rather than turning to the person sitting right next to them. I think we need to be cognizant of the advantages of technologies, but also the disadvantages.

I am reminded of the television commercial in the 80’s/90’s about drugs. It was the one where all you see is the egg being cracked and then fried on the stove: “This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?” (Partnership for a Drug Free America).  The next public service announcement should be:

“This is your brain. This is brain on the internet. Any questions?”


Dokoupil, T. (2012, July 16). Is the onslaught making us crazy: What the new research says? Newsweek. Retrieved from:

Can leadership be sustainable?

“Sustainability” is one of those modern day words that is often overused and abused. Every business proposal, grant opportunity, reorganization plan contains the word sustainable. After all, why would you make a change or receive funding if you cannot prove sustainability?  Despite the word’s bad reputation, we propose viewing sustainability through the lens of leadership…

More: Visit our guest post on Pat Sullivan’s Blog

Originally posted on July 7, 2014 by Bonnie J. Covelli and Jeanne Washburn on Pat Sullivan’s Leadership blog.


10 Strategies to be Successful as an Online Student

10 Strategies to be Successful as an Online Student

“1. Avoid procrastination.

2. Plan & organize weekly coursework.

3. Set goals and manage time effectively.

4. Develop and engage good study habits, then practice them.

5. Keep up with assignments and post in a timely manner.

6. Allocate time in work schedule for rest, exercise, proper nutrition, and social interaction.

7. Participate in online discussions and check into courseroom based on course requirements.

8. Communicate with professors, as often as necessary.

9. Take keyboarding class (before beginning online class) if typing and computer skills are not proficient.

10. Take notes while reading and practice becoming a good note taker and developing outlines” (Barr and Miller, 2013).

Barr, B. A., & Miller, S. F. (2013). Higher Education: The Online Teaching and Learning Experience. Online Submission, Online Teaching and Learning.

6 keys to reaching and teaching adult students

6 keys to reaching and teaching adult students

Whenever I talk about training adults, there are really two questions that need to be answered before you can begin diving into the topic: Who are the students, and do you really need to teach adults differently?

Who are the students? The snarky answer is “adults” but the diversity within that umbrella term makes subdivision rather important. Sure, corporate trainers and healthcare trainers teach adults, but do they teach the same way just because they happen to both be teaching adults? These practitioners understand the differences among adults, and the instructional strategies required to inspire them. They understand the importance of connecting the learning to the adult’s life; they practice the art of presenting training material in a way that appeals to the physical and psychological needs of their student.  The needs of the adult student are not feared in these programs and workshops and training sessions.

Why then, do we need to research and present academic scholarship on training and development of adults?

Because adults, much like teenagers and grade-schoolers, are remarkably different and constantly changing. As a corporate trainer nearly two decades ago, I developed expertise in working with adults at various stages of their lives, but if I used the same strategies and materials I did then to teach adults now, I wouldn’t get anywhere with the students. The way teaching has evolved over the past twenty years has dramatically changed my style and choice of media in teaching.

Diversity among adult student groups could be discussed at length, and how this diversity affects the instructional environment would be as varied as the training setting, the training location, the training purpose, etc. Even the categorization of the age of an adult student is a floating reality. Is your 20 year old student an adult? What if the 20 year old has a spouse and a child? How does a 25 year student differ from a 65 year old student? I think we can all agree that there are differences.  The research and academic scholarship surrounding the adult learner helps us better understand these differences in order to better serve the needs of the student.

Andragogy, one such academic scholarship theory, was defined by Knowles in the mid-1960’s, as: “the art and science of helping adults learn” (Knowles, Holton and Swanson, 2011).  The theory helps align the unique needs of adult learners with the practice of facilitating learning.  The model presented by Knowles, Holton and Swanson (2011) outlines six adult learning principles that trainers or teachers should recognize and foster as they seek to meet the needs of the adult learner.

Knowles, Holton and Swanson (2011) six adult learning principles

(1)   Adult learners need to know the purpose of training and must understand why or how the learning affects them.

(2)   Adult learners tend to be self-directed, and the learning environment should create opportunities for self-directed exploration.

(3)   Adult learners bring with them and relate their learning to prior experience.

(4)   Adult learners must be ready to learn, and their personal environments often impact their readiness.

(5)   Adult learners often approach learning from the perspective of problem solving or hands-on application.

(6)   Adult learners are motivated to learn for different reasons but often it is related to internal or external rewards and benefits.

These principles transcend the environment and diversity of the student. Regardless of what life stage they are in or their demographics, these principles can guide educators and trainers to better engage their “adult” students.


Knowles, M.S., Holton, E.F., & Swanson, R.A. (2011). The adult learner: The definitive classic in adult education and human resource development. (7th ed.). New York: Routledge. [Kindle paperwhite].

The Art of Strategic Planning

The Art of Strategic Planning

Strategic planning is essential. It is how organizations set priorities, focus energy and resources, keep stakeholders working towards common goals, and fix directional problems.  Strategic planning can also serve as a benchmark to judge performance against.

Sometimes, though, consultants present strategic planning as a mystical, magical procedure that requires a wizard to be done properly.  The process of updating the model keeps the consultant employed and provides a new “proposal” every five years or so.  I am not saying the models should not be updated – after all, industries, economies and circumstances change – but I will suggest that the fundamental foundation of strategic planning remains the same over the course of a lifetime:

·         Organizations should plan.

·         They should do so thoughtfully and methodically.

·         They should collect data to inform the planning.

·         And they should plan purposefully with a proactive process that leads to specific, measurable outcomes.

There are numerous models of strategic planning including: the John Bryson Strategy Change Model; the OGSM (Objectives, Goals, Strategies, Measurements) Framework; the Visions-based or Goals-based process; and more.

Regardless of the model used, the important components of strategy planning include:

1.      Develop the right team.  This might be an executive team or a cross-functional, cross-departmental, interdisciplinary team.  The context of the team depends on the type of organization, the goals for the strategic plan, and the impact the plan will have across the organization.

2.      Gather the right data.  Too often, strategic planning is based on incomplete or inaccurate data or, dare we say, no data at all.  In the current environment of big data and big data analysis, it can be a daunting task to be charged with the task of gathering data; however, without the proper mix of internal and external factors affecting an organization, strategic planning faces the obstacle of developing goals and strategies in a vacuum.

3.      Let the data inform the process.  Have you ever sat down in a board room to discuss planning, and the President or CEO hands you a list of pre-determined goals?  Strategic planning needs to begin with the data. End of story.

4.      Let the team be flexible in conversation but rigid in decision-making.  This means that the team (the right team) should be given latitude to brainstorm and discuss mission and vision. They should be allowed to dream big and even unrealistically at the early stages of the process. This provides for intelligent dialogue regarding the future of the organization.  However, each strategic planning meeting should end with rigid decision-making where consensus is built around concepts.  At the beginning of the process, these decisions can be small “wins” that the group agrees upon.  At the end of the process, the decisions should be specific (see point five) and should narrow the field of goals and objectives.

5.      Be specific.  As you build the strategic plan, whether it is a one-year, five-year or other plan, be specific about the goals the organization should hope to achieve.  The goals (or objectives, tasks, action items, strategies, tactics or whatever you choose to call them) should be measurable and reasonable within the context of the organization.

6.      Build an implementation plan.  Many strategic planning processes end with the plan. Take the next step to build the implementation piece of the plan.  Without implementation, the plan is a dusty set of pages approved at a board meeting.  Strategic plans should be living, breathing documents that have life after the consultant or facilitator ends the process.

These six principles establish the base for useful and powerful strategic planning. The organizations and individuals who keep these ideas in mind while developing a strategic plan, will have a head start in creating the magical tools that consultants promise.

Foundations of Adult Education and Training: 7 Definitions

Foundations of Adult Education and Training: 7 Definitions

When does adult education really begin?  In our 20’s? 40’s? 60’s?  Or is the foundation for adult education and training built earlier in our life, possibly as early as our grammar school days?

In the study of pedagogy (theories of teaching and learning) and andragogy (theory of teaching adults) in education and industry, there is much debate as to what constitutes adult learning.  The truth is that from the day we are born until the day we die, we are always learning. Merriam and Brockett (2007) suggest that the definition of an adult learner depends on who you are teaching, where you are teaching and the general context of what you are teaching.

In the study of adult learning, we could go as far back as Confucius, Aristotle and Plato who were teaching adults using a process of mental inquiry and facilitation of cognitive development within the student’s mind (Knowles, Holton, Swanson, 2011).  In 1926, Lindeman wrote about the teacher as a guide to the adult student’s learning process. And modern theorists and even neurological scientists continue to study the way in which adults learn and how this is similar and different to the way a child might learn.

The following seven definitions of adult learning clearly demonstrate the continuing evolution and interest in the field.

Lindeman (1926): “If we are to make the most effective use of whatever quantity of intelligence is available, we shall need to grant the right of each personality to rise to its own level.  This means that increased inventiveness will be required to discover the kind of education which will most effectively meet the needs of varying capacities. Formal educational discipline cannot be accepted as the criterion for ability to learn.”

Bryson (1936):  “Adult education consists of ‘all the activities with an educational purpose that are carried on by people, engaged in the ordinary business of life’” (as cited by Merriam & Brockett, 2007).

Knowles (1980): Adult education is “the process of adults learning” (as cited by Merriam & Brockett, 2007).

Houle (1972): Adult education is “a process involving planning by individuals or agencies by which adults ‘alone, in groups, or in institutional settings…improve themselves or their society’” (as cited by Merriam & Brockett, 2007).

Courtney (1989): Adult education is “for practitioners…those preparing to enter the profession, and…curious others who have connections with the field” (as cited by Merriam & Brockett, 2007).

Merriam & Brockett (2007): “Activities intentionally designed for the purpose of bringing about learning among those who age, social roles, or self-perception define them as adults.”

Merriam, Caffarella & Baumgartner (2007):  “Adult education is a large and amorphous field of practice, with no neat boundaries such as age, as in the case of elementary and secondary education, or mission, as in higher education. Adult education with its myriad content areas, delivery systems, goals, and learners defies simple categorization.”


Knowles, M.S., Holton, E.F., & Swanson, R.A. (2011). The adult learner: The definitive classic in adult education and human resource development. (7th ed.). New York: Routledge.

Lindeman, E. (1926). The meaning of adult education. (1989 edition). Norman, OK: Harvest House, Ltd.

Merriam, S. & Brockett, R. (2007). The profession and practice of adult education: An introduction.  (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Merriam, S., Caffarella, R., & Baumgartner, L. (2007). Learning in  adulthood: A comprehensive guide. (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.