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Education Theory Perspectives

As teachers of adult learners, our role is to create opportunities that help foster discovery of concepts to be learned and opportunities for application in real world practice so it creates relevance.  In today's world, learners want value in their educational investment.  Drawing the correlation to practical purpose is a useful strategy.  This is particularly true with workforce education in which the instruction in specific skills is a requirement for career entry.  Also, when learning moments are memorable and have significance to learners, the tendency is positive reflection, and therefore, reinforcement of learning transfer and retention.  Consider this progressive learning model. 

Adult learning is a construction process. As educators, we are the architects that creating lesson blueprints that start from the ground up.  Each learning experience provides purposeful knowledge to bring you to the next step.  With each step brings growth, depth, and achievement in knowledge acquisition to reach an end goal.  Incorporating meaningful experiences as an instructional approach with each step facilitates learning transfer with sustainable effect. 

Progressive ALF Model - RAnderson.jpg

"The aim of education is to enable individuals to continue their education . . . and the object and reward of learning is continued capacity for growth."

John Dewey


My educational philosophy stems from a more behavioral and progressive approach to learning, reflected in the foundational theories of John Dewey and Jack Mezirow.  


Dewey believed that if an instructor can create an experience that could inspire curiosity and initiative while demonstrating value through employing higher order application of knowledge, these experiences gain momentum in the progression to learning. This concept is how I approach my lesson planning and instructional designs so that I can achieve the best balance of conceptual and factual learning while still employing experiential opportunities to invoke critical thinking applicability to the real world practice of massage therapy. The best depiction of Dewey's philosophy comes from Kolb's experiential learning model where through a concrete experience a learner will draw his or her own observations and reflections and create a new perspective or approach that will be explored through experimentation becoming part of their knowledge. 

(Dewey, 1938) (Atkinson and Murrell, 1998)

"The adult learner must recognize both the learner's objectives and goals. The educator's responsibility is to help learners reach their objectives in such a way that they will function as more autonomous, socially responsible thinkers."

Jack Mezirow

Mezirow's vision of transformative learning was that if learners are open to allow for more inclusive, discriminating, and emotionally capable experiences, this will cause a transformation from their original mindsets and habits that may have been taken for granted.  Reflecting on these disorienting dilemmas will cause learners to transform their frames of reference and create meaningful change in their perspectives. (p. 84) The best depiction of this learning concept is in the recent film, "Freaky Friday" where it demonstrates the highest order of perspective transformation in the fortune cookie's verse - "when what you see is what you lack, then selfless love will change you back".

(Merriam & Bierema, 2014) (Walt Disney Pictures, 2003) 

As a massage therapy educator, I strive to create a learning environment for my learners support my teaching methods with solid instructional design primarily rooted in experiential and transformative learning theories.  The ultimate goal is to help the adult learners achieve core skill competencies beyond the basic lecture and summative assessment methods.  My focus in the classroom is to create strategies that help learners reflect on their experiences favorably and foster advancement and professionalism in the future development of massage therapy education.  

Atkinson, G & Murrell, PH (1988). Kolb’s experiential learning theory: a meta-model for career exploration. Journal of Counseling and Development, 66, 374 – 377.


Dewey, J, (1938). Experience & Education. New York: Free Press, 38.

Merriam, SB & Bierema, LL (2014). Adult learning: Linking theory and practice. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass; 84.

Walt Disney Pictures (2003). Freaky Friday [Motion picture trailer].  Retrieved from YouTube Movies at .

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