Leadership Coach, Organizational Consultant, Writer, Adjunct Professor - Argosy University, San Diego
"Education" is best understood after taking a careful look at its Latin root word, e-ducere, "to lead forth."
In children, the instructor leads forth the child's basic learning capabilities, forming the child's basic working knowledge of the world. The student gains a sense of the breadth of knowledge available, the personal effort necessary to acquire it, and becomes formed, or enculturated, in elementary and secondary academic disciplines.
In adults, it is a different matter. The thirst for knowledge changes considerably. Thus adult education, better thought of as adult learning, becomes a more complex undertaking.
Adults learn best when they are in a safe and trustworthy environment. When adults are offered a learning project that they are to manage themselves by a) identifying their own resources, b) contractually negotiating with their mentors, c) choosing their own learning objectives, d) freely collaborating with colleagues, and e) working through the project in their own time frame, there are several benefits.
First, their chosen topic carries greater weight. Their objective tends to be motivated personally as well as professionally. That level of motivation is deeper and longer lasting. Second, the learning process, once it is truly embraced as self-managed, is learned more thoroughly and retained longer than if the curriculum is another's.
Third, and most important, good adult learning, when it follows the above guidelines, is transformative in nature. Where the child was formed by his acquisition of knowledge, the adult is transformed by it.
Transformation in this sense means the adult learner more fully develops certain innate capacities and skills and becomes internally empowered. Once the mind stretches to this new dimension, such empowerment does not dissipate. Rather, it compounds itself. The adult learner is freer to pursue real world knowledge and applications, as well as investigate more abstract notions tied into his or her primary interests.
More could be said, especially about the role system theories plays in adult transformation. But it should wait for another time.