Must the precepts of Knowles’ Andragogy be solved before Mezirow’s Reflection is possible?

Merizow’s (1990) Theories of Transformational Learning reflection leads us into the intellectual culture of ivy league castles and may not provide the resources that students with a life poverty or trauma may have. When people come to our Learning Centers, we must identify in the individual what their personal issues are that both motivate and block them from learning. How do we handle the hurdles of hurt values before clear intellectual thought is possible?

 When Adult learning methods are used with students of poverty, or trauma, we do not have Carl Roger’s (1959) “Self-actualized” cognitive personalities that would yield a clear reflective process. Instead oppression from poverty and trauma yield a reflective process that drowns the spirit in a downward spiral of failure thoughts and negative self talk. My experience with poverty is that reflections of an oppressed life are filled with failure and pain and can easily turn into a private hell. This battle of the mind in negative reflection is a big challenge in a recovery process that Merizow’s theories do not address.

In transforming personal recovery of negative corporate cultures, I have taken a simple three step approach. 1. Identify the issue, 2. Design change objectives, and 3. Provide the experience to change. With rebuilding the self extreme of an ADHD child, it is the same process;  set the child up in situations that you know they can win, then reinforce the win as much as possible. We simply replace the pattern of losing with a pattern of winning. Once trust and positive beliefs are established, learning can begin.
Case: Mary comes to the learning center and says, “My kids have asked me to come to the center. I know I need a GED, but I hate school, am afraid of learning and really do not believe I will get something from it.”

Asking Mary to simply reflect on this will send her back into the same fearful loops of failure she has always been in. The chance that an urban center walk in has been trained in Ivy League style “relativeness” cognitive skills would be rare. We need to “Uncouple the negative associations with the learning process before the learning process (or a reflective process) can begin. Basically, we must fix Knowles issue of the adult learners’ internal conflict and patterns before reflection can take place. In addition, destructive beliefs will only reinforce themselves in the reflective process. In this we can see that Knowles (1990) precepts must be satisfied before reflection can take place. It is not Adrogogy vs. Reflection, it’s a case of Adrogogy before reflection. Mary’s cognitive processes must be healed  of negative values on learning before the reflection techniques can be deployed within the safe guidance of the group.

Method: Remember how Mad Libs were so much fun because of the contrast of randomly changing the context words in a sentence? We can use similar techniques with values in the sentence Mary originally gave us.

First: Please fill in the missing words: I know I need a GED, but I am (emotion)__________ of school, am (emotion) _______ of learning and really (Do – Do not)____________ believe I will get something from it.”

Second. Ask to following questions related to the sentence:
  1. a.       What happened that makes you (emotion) of school?
  2. b.      How come you feel (emotion) of learning and what would it take to get you to love learning?
  3. c.       What makes you believe that you (will or will not) get something from a GED?

Third is to uncouple the negative experience with school, learning and the future with first evidence and then the experience that will transform one set of destructive context/values with a productive set of values. Note Coupling and Uncoupling of context is part of my development work on the Personal Learning Framework.

            “Well, Mary, you are free to walk around the Learning Center, talk with students and the staff. I believe you will find that:”

a.       “I think you will discover by the smiles, laughter and focus of the students that this place is more than safe. The students and volunteers love what they do and are very encouraging.”

b.      “You will see in the center that we work in circles, encouraging one another and love our unique culture. We make learning a long string of successes and fun. We have faith in your capabilities and ability to contribute to your groups.”

c.       “We place 85% with jobs and a number of our volunteers were once students. Would you like to talk with them?”

d.      “We are an open book and would love to have you join. You are welcome to spend some time with us and make your own decision if this is what you want to do. I think you will be surprised at what you are capable of doing.”

My question is what do you do in your learning center to open students up to feel safe to start learning?

Knowles, M. (1990). “Exploring the World of Learning Theory and Chapter Four: A Theory of Adult Learning: Androgyny.”  Chapter two: The Adult Learner, A Neglected Species. 

Mezirow, J.  (1990). “How Critical Reflection Triggers Transformative Learning.” In Mezirow, J. and Associates.Fostering Critical Reflection in Adulthood: A Guide to Transformative and Emancipatory Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Pescitell, D. An Analysis of Carl Rogers' Theory of Personality 3,13,2014 Retrieved from :

Rogers, C.R. (1959). A theory of therapy, personality and interpersonal relationships, as developed in the client-centered framework. In S. Koch (ed.). Psychology: A study of science. (pp. 184-256). N.Y.: McGraw Hill.


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