The changing face of education: A catalyst for reinvention in working with adult learners

By Morgan Appel, director of UC San Diego Extension's Education Department

The advent of large-scale educational reform movements like Common Core State Standards have inspired any number of changes in the way practitioners are trained and serve as fodder for heated conversations in the professional, popular and social media. The infusion of the arts across the disciplines has motivated similar discussions and deliberations and it would seem that teacher education has once again become anchored solidly in creativity, metacognition and differentiation. As a provider of coursework leading to credentials and certificates for professional educators, the Education Department is very much aware of these phenomena and is eager to address the cognitive and affective needs of P-12 practitioners in rather conventional settings.

At the same time, there are hundreds of mini-revolutions occurring in relative obscurity that warrant our attention. For example, there is a plentitude of entities whose stock and trade is knowledge dissemination and acquisition among adult learners. Whilst postsecondary institutions are a significant presence among these organizations, we find that businesses and trades are also keen on delivering curriculum in a manner that resonates with andragogical precepts and highly personalized instruction. As purveyors of these skill sets, it is incumbent upon departments such as our own to broaden our own understanding of where and how education takes place. Thus, we are able to share our own insights and practices in experiential and kinesthetic learning in ways that are contextually grounded within a particular industrial culture.

Returning to postsecondary institutions, we have become cognizant of an increasingly meaningful role played by the community colleges in providing remediation for adult learners who are recent immigrants or who have fallen victim to the Matthew Effect during their tenure in P-12. Thus, we have been compelled as a Department to re-examine our reading and literacy coursework to ensure that a growing number of Community College instructors are well equipped to work with adult learners requiring reading and literacy basics.

This is not to say that our efforts in P-12 do not continue in earnest — they do, without question. It is to say however, that what once seemed rigid in educational segments now appears evermore porous and amorphous. If we are to address these changes with fidelity, we must change from within. The work promises to be exciting — and we are excited to share it with you as it unfolds. Please do join us.

For more information about this post or the Department’s work in non-traditional education, please contact Morgan Appel, Director at

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