The Purposes of Adult Education - An Introduction

Bruce Spencer & Elizabeth Lange

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The Purposes of Adult Education

An Introduction

By: Bruce Spencer and Elizabeth Lange

This new edition is intended as a complement to Building on Critical Traditions: Adult Education and Learning in Canada, edited by Tom Nesbit, Susan M. Brigham, Nancy Taber, and Tara Gibb and published in association with the Canadian Association for the Study of Adult Education (CASAE).

ISBN 978-1-55077-245-6
Edition Third
Year 2014
Page Count 228

$ 34.95


The Purposes of Adult Education introduces adult education to students who may have had some experience in the field but are new to its study. This edition substantially updates and expands on the previous edition, especially in relation to the social foundations of adult education, education for diversity, globalization, and the fast-moving technologies that are shaping the content and delivery of adult education today.

It concludes with an overview of adult education for the twenty-first century, with special attention to the issues of distance education and computer-mediated communication. This second edition updates and expands the first edition, especially in the areas of workplace learning and with respect to the fast-moving technologies that continue to affect the content and delivery of adult education as we move forward in the twenty-first century.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Education for Adults: Exploring the Foundations

  • What Are the Foundations of Adult Education?
  • Defining Adult Education
  • The Field of Adult Education
  • Adult Education as a Movement
  • Philosophies of Adult Education
  • Social Purpose Education
  • Historical Examples of Canadian Adult Education
  • Conclusion
  • Suggested Readings
Chapter 2: Education for Adults: Understanding the Social
  • Structural Functionalism
  • Symbolic Interactionism
  • Andragogy
  • Conflict/Critical Paradigms
  • Structure of Society
  • Suggested Readings
Chapter 3: Education for Economy
  • The Knowledge-Based Economy
  • Learning at Work
  • Human Capital Theory
  • Worker Education and Training
  • Workplace Change and Workplace Learning
  • Learning Organizations
  • Workers Co-operatives: The Example of Mondragon
  • Suggested Readings
Chapter 4: Education for Transformation
  • Perspective Transformation
  • Psychoanalytic Transformative Learning
  • Critical Social Theory
  • Education for Social Transformation
  • Old Social Movements and New Social Movements
  • Suggested Readings
Chapter 5: Education for Diversity
  • Diverse Audiences, Diverse Purposes
  • Feminist Paradigms
  • Gender Diversity and Adult Education
  • Anti-Racist and Postcolonial Paradigms
  • Racial Diversity in Canada
  • Racial Diversity and Adult Education
  • Diversity in Labour Education
  • Suggested Readings
Chapter 6: Education at a Distance: Online and Open
  • Distance Education
  • Removing Barriers and Enhancing Openness?
  • Modeling Open Education
  • Critical Distance Education
  • Suggested Readings
Chapter 7: Canadian Adult Education in a Global Context
  • Education and the Mantling/Dismantling of the Social Welfare State
  • Neo-liberalism and Adult Education
  • New Spaces for Adult Education
  • Canadian and International Adult Education Organizations
  • Ethical Adult Education as Vocation
  • The Purposes of Adult Education, Revisited
  • Suggested Readings

About the Authors

Bruce Spencer

Bruce Spencer is a Professor at Athabasca University’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies. He is Director of the Human Resources and Labour Relations (HRLR) program and teaches courses in adult education and HRLR.

Elizabeth Lange

Elizabeth Lange is an Associate Professor of Adult Education at St. Francis Xavier University. Her research focuses on transformative learning, sustainability education for adults, pedagogies for social change, and transcultural learning and immigration.