Inclusive Adult Learning Environments Essay

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Inclusive Adult Learning Environments

I've just changed completely from when I first (entered school). I used to take this little African body and force it into this European square peg. And you know, it didn't work. I kept trying to do it and trying to change who I was and tried to fit in. . . . When I finally decided to be the person that I am, I started feeling more comfortable. (Taylor 1995, p. 84).

Ever since Malcolm Knowles (1970) introduced the concept of learning climate, adult educators have been aware of how the environment affects learning. As reflected in the words of the returning woman student quoted here, however, adults may still find some learning environments to be inhospitable. Rather than learners trying to
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Current discussions on learning environments have broadened to include the need to confront issues of sexism and racism (Hayes and Colin 1994), interlocking systems of power and oppression (Tisdell 1993b), and social justice (Shore et al. 1993). This broader understanding of factors that affect learning is leading adult educators to consider how they can create environments that address "issues of power that are inherent in cultural diversity, whether that diversity is based on nationality, race, class, gender, sexual orientation, disability or some other factor" (Merriam 1993, p. 58).

Developing Inclusive Learning Environments

How can inclusive learning environments be created? Tisdell (1995) suggests that a learning environment needs to attend to inclusivity at three levels. A truly inclusive learning environment should "(1) reflect the diversity of those present in the learning activity itself in the curriculum and pedagogical/andragogical style; (2) attend to the wider and immediate institutional contexts in which the participants work and live; and (3) in some way reflect the changing needs of an increasingly diverse society" (p. 4). Because learners "do not live in a vacuum" (ibid.), addressing institutional and societal levels is important, but the most significant level is the selection of appropriate materials and methods that address the characteristics of learning group members.

Addressing the diversity of learners by selecting

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