Cover Image
close this bookNon-formal Education Training Module (Peace Corps, 1991, 182 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentAcknowledgements
View the documentPreface
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentWhat is Nonformal Education?
View the documentAdult Learning
View the documentSession: 3 Helping People Identify Their Needs
View the documentFacilitation Skills - Part 1
View the documentFacilitation Skills - Part 2
View the documentNFE Materials Development
View the documentGames in NFE
View the documentPlanning
View the documentEvaluation
View the documentLooking Back/Looking Ahead
View the documentAppendix I: Warm- Ups
View the documentEvaluations
View the documentReferences

Adult Learning


Participants are all involved with adult learning, whether or not they ever facilitate a training session. By living and working with adults every day they are influencing people's behavior, their ways of thinking about themselves, their knowledge of the outside world and their aspirations for the future. To do this more effectively they need to know how adults learn, both in their own society and in their host country. Participants learn about adult learning by adult learning methods, that is, by discussing and reflecting on a case study that hints at different ways adults might teach and learn. In this way, participants are encouraged to come to their own conclusions and take responsibility for their own learning.

Objectives of Session

· To compare teaching and learning in the host culture to the Volunteers' experience.
· To explore ways that the Experiential Learning Cycle is used in NFE activities.
· To examine effective ways that adults learn.

Activity Sequence

1. Warm-up

10 minutes

2. Role Plays

40 minutes

3. Individual Learning Styles

20 minutes

4. Experiental Learning Cycle

30 minutes


15 minutes

5. Case Study: Adult Learning

40 minutes

6. Eight Non-Tenets of Adult Learning

15 minutes

7. Evaluation of Session

10 minutes

Total Time Required

180 minutes

Materials Needed

· Flip chart paper
· Markers
· Scissors
· Flip chart stand or blackboard and chalk
· Masking tape
· Flip charts:

Learning To Sail
Experimental Learning Cycle
Eight Non-Tenets of Adult Learning

· Handouts:

How to Prepare Role Plays on Teaching and Learning in the Host Country - One per HCN involved in role plays

Processing Questions for Role Plays - One per participant
Adult Learning Case Study - One per participant

Trainer Preparation

1. Read Peace Corps NFE Manual, Chapter 3.
2. Read through the session with your co-trainers and decide together on the options that you want to use.
3. Assemble all materials.
4. Work with HCNs to prepare role plays for Activity 2. (See How to Prepare Role Plays on Teaching and Learning in the Host Country page 38)
5. Make a large drawing of a common object on flip chart paper. Cover with a second sheet of flip chart paper. (See Warm-up Activity 1, Frames)
6. Prepare Learning To Sail on flip chart paper. (See page 30)
7. Prepare Experimental Learning Cycle (See page 31) on flip chart paper.
8. Prepare Eight Non-Tenets of Adult Learning on flip chart paper. (See page 35)
9. Prepare Eight Non-Tenets of Adult Learning handouts if desired - One per participant.
10. Prepare a sign-up sheet for participants to lead warm-ups and evaluations for the remainder of the workshop. (See "For Next Time" at end of session)

Activity 1: Warm-up, Frames

Activity Time 10 minutes
Purpose To have participants reflect briefly on the need for a larger view than the one they presently have.

Step - by - Step

1. Post your prepared flip chart with a large drawing of a common object covered entirely by a second sheet of flip chart paper (See Trainer Preparation, 5).

2. Let the group know you are going to cut a hole in the flip chart paper so they can see what is underneath. Cut a small, rectangular hole in the top (blank sheet) so that a bit of the drawing shows through. Ask participants to guess what it is. Don't tell them if they are right or wrong. Quickly write their guesses on the board or another sheet of flip chart paper.

3. Now enlarge the rectangle a little and ask them to guess again. Add or scratch off guesses as they change their ideas of what it is.

4. Continue to enlarge the rectangle a few more times, continuing to solicit guesses from participants until the view is large enough for everyone to see what the object is.

5. Process the activity a little, bringing out the following points:

· That we all have individual frames through which we view the world.
· These frames are useful, but they can be limiting.
· Suggestions from participants on how to enlarge and change each person's viewpoint so that more of a situation or problem can be seen and understood.

Activity 2: Role Plays - Teaching and Learning in the Host Culture

Activity Time 40 minutes

Purpose To understand how adults in the host culture learned and were taught as children, and to compare those to Volunteers' own experience.

Step - by - Step

1. Lead into this activity by mentioning to the group that as NFE facilitators we need to enlarge our view of teaching and learning. It is not enough to know how to practice NFE we also need to understand the backgrounds of the people we are working with: what kind of learning they have done in the past, what kind of teaching techniques and relationships they are used to, and how these may differ from the Volunteers' own experience.

Let the group know that the HCNs (language instructors, cultural coordinators, etc.) will present two role plays, one illustrating teaching and learning in a traditional community setting and the other illustrating teaching and learning as it occurs in host country schools. (See How to Prepare Role Plays on Teaching and Learning in the Host Country to orient the HCNs beforehand.)

HCNs present role plays, about 10 minutes each.

Ask participants to take a few minutes to jot down everything that they observed in the role plays about the ways people teach and learn in the host culture.

Take 20 minutes to process the role plays by asking the large group the following questions.

NOTE E: Because these particular questions will be given to participants later to demonstrate how they follow the Experimental Learning Cycle, you need to use them to process this activity. If you change your processing questions substantially, remember to change the handout Processing Questions for Role Plays as well.

a) What interesting things did you notice about the ways people teach and learn in the host culture? (Go around the group asking for things they wrote down in 4, above). List on flip chart paper.

NOTE: It is important to know that in the host culture, contemporary learning in certain situations both in and out of school may be similar to what Volunteers have experienced in the U.S. In the processing, try to bring out more traditional types of teaching and learning to help Volunteers understand the cultural differences better.

b) How are these different from the way you are accustomed to teaching and learning in your own culture?

c) How are they similar?

d) How do you feel about these ways of teaching and learning?

e) Given the differences in teaching and learning between the two cultures, what things do you need to keep in mind when working with adults in this culture?

f) How might you need to change your own behavior to work better with HCNs in this culture?

NOTE: If possible, involve some or all of the HCNs who have presented role plays in the processing. Ask their opinions, especially about Volunteers' answers to the last two questions.

FOR IST: If Volunteers have been in the host culture for more than a few months, have participants stage the role plays themselves. It counterparts are present, it is amusing and instructive to have everyone portray scenes from both the host culture and "typical" American culture.

Step - by - Step for IST

Activity Time 40 - 50 minutes

1. Divide the group into two. For added fun, have both HCNs and Volunteers in both groups. One group will play an American scene, the other, a host culture scene.
2. Ask participants to decide on the scenes they want to portray in order to make a point about teaching and learning in the two cultures.
Examples: A high school classroom in the U.S. vs. one in the host culture. Learning to swim at the neighborhood pool vs. learning to plant crops in the host culture.
3. Ask the two groups to meet in separate rooms for 15 minutes to discuss the things they want to portray and to practice their role plays.
4. Present role plays (5 - 10 minutes each).
5. Process the role plays in the large group for 15 minutes, going through the same questions as in Step 5 on page 28. (You will use these same processing questions to make a point about the Experiential Learning Cycle in Activity 3).

Activity 3: Individual Learning Styles

Activity Time 20 minutes

Purpose To dramatize the important differences that exist in the ways people learn, even within the same culture.

Step - by - Step

1. Read the following instructions to the group:

Imagine you are given the responsibility for sailing a boat across a three mile lake. You don't know how to sail, but you have a day to learn. You are sitting on the beach with a variety of resources at your disposal.

2. Post flip chart: Learning To Sail

Learning to Sail a. A manual on how to sail b. A sailboat ready to sail (with safety gear) c. A video on how to sail (complete with battery-powered VCR and monitor) d. A child who knows how to sail e. An encyclopedia of sailing techniques f. A workbook on sailing with a self-test on procedures g. Pencil and paper h. A peer to learn with you (who knows as little as you do about sailing)

3. Ask participants to think about the resources they (as individuals) would choose in order to learn best. They may choose any number of resources. They can write them down if they like. Ask them to put them in the order they would use them.

4. Going around the group, ask people to tell which resources they would use and how they would use them. Process this a little by asking people to notice how many different ways of approaching the problem there are within the group. What conclusions can they draw from this activity? What implications might this have for facilitating NFE activities?

Activity 4: The Experimental Learning Cycle

Activity Time 30 minutes
Purpose To understand the Experiential Learning Cycle in relation to participants' own experience.

Step - by - Step

1. Sum up the previous activity and lead into the present one by saying something like this:

As we have seen in the previous activities, people have the inclination to teach and learn in different ways. However, people who have studied adult learning have noticed that when we learn from experience, we all go through similar stages.

(Put up flip chart on Experiential Learning Cycle and draw arrows as you explain this.)

First we have the experience, then we reflect on the experience, either alone or by discussing it in a group, then we analyze the experience, and finally we apply what we have learned from the experience to future action.


2. Tell the group a story of a time when you learned something from experience, or ask them to help you with the example below:

Did any of you learn to cook as an adult? First you might have tried OUT a recipe experience(.). Then you tasted it and decided if it was good or not, or if it was too salty or burned, or whatever (reflection on the experience). Then you thought about what you did to make it come out that way, such as setting the oven too high, or forgetting about it when it was on the stove, or spilling the salt into it (analyzing the experience). Then you planned how to do it differently next time (applying what you have learned), and then you tried it again (experience).

3. Ask the group for a few examples of learning from their own experience as adults that they think would illustrate the Experiential Learning Cycle. (For example, if they just arrived in country, you might ask them how they learned something on their own such as taking a taxi, or buying something in the market.) As they tell how they learned something, point to the appropriate stages of the cycle.

4. Tell the group:

In practicing NFE we try to facilitate learning from experience by helping the group go through all the stages of the cycle. It's important we don 't just present the experience and let it go at that, but to help the group reflect on it, analyze it and discover how it might relate to their work or their life.

Experiential learning is especially important in NFE because it stresses the components of reflection, analysis and planning.

Developing these skills is crucial in helping people take control of their own lives, becoming "active transformers of their world. "

We help the group reflect, analyze and plan by processing, that is, asking questions of the group after they have had an experience that will take them through the entire cycle. In other words, after providing an experience such as the role plays we just saw, or the warm-up we did at the beginning of the session, we ask the group: WHAT? 50 WHAT??, and NOW WHAT? (Write these words on the flip chart paper as you say them.)


5. Post the completed flip chart diagram in a prominent place in the training room.

NOTE: To stress the importance of the Experiential Learning Cycle, leave the flip chart posted in the training room for the remainder of the workshop. As participants carry out various activities you may want to refer to the chart to ask them where they are in the cycle.
We will occasionally note these opportunities throughout the remainder of the workshop.

6. Suggest to the group that if they TAKE a look at the questions you used to process the role plays they will see how they relate to the Experiential Learning Cycle. Explain that these questions take participants around the entire WHAT? SO WHAT? NOW
WHAT? cycle.

7. Give each participant the handout Processing Questions for Role Plays. Give the group a few minutes to read them carefully.

8. Ask the group which questions are WHAT? questions, which are SO WHAT? questions and which are NOW WHAT? questions.

NOTE: These categories are not rigid. There is bound to be some variation in response from participants, especially in the WHAT? and SO WHAT? categories. The main point is to let them see that some of the questions fall into each category, thus touching on all the parts of the cycle. (Reference: Peace Corps NFE Manual, page 32.)

9. Ask participants to think of some other questions in each of the categories that they could use to process the role plays. Have them work for a few minutes with a partner on this if no one can think of any. Then go around the circle asking for ideas.

Examples of Processing Questions:

· How did you feel while playing the roles? (WHAT?)
· Is your own preferred way of learning similar to the way people in the host culture are accustomed to learning? (SO WHAT?)
· Is it better to adapt your presentations to the ways people in the host culture learn or to try to introduce some new ways of learning? (NOW

NOTE: Understanding and writing good processing questions is difficult! Don't let the group get discouraged if they don't understand how to do it immediately. Tell participants that they will have other opportunities later in the workshop to write their own processing questions.

Activity 5: Case Study - Adult Learning

Activity Time 40 minutes

Purpose To reflect on ways that adults teach and learn from each other.

Step - by - Step

1. Remind the group that so far in the workshop they have been focusing on teaching and learning: both what people from this culture are familiar with and what NFE theory stresses. Now they need to bring these together by exploring how they can effectively facilitate learning within a different cultural context.

2. Let the group know that they will have 20 minutes to read and discuss a case study about adult learning.

3. Ask participants form groups of 4 or 5, either by counting off or by any other method they choose. Each group should appoint a note-taker to record the group's main points.

4. Hand out an Adult Learning Case Study to each participant.

5. Have groups adjourn to separate rooms or corners of the large training room to start their discussions.

6. Keep time.

7. After 20 minutes, re-assemble participants in the large group. Ask participants to sit with members of their own small group.

8. Take about 20 minutes to process the small group discussions. Ask members from each group the same questions they discussed in their small groups, bringing out the following points:

· How they think the local people perceived the three
Volunteers, and why they think so.
· Which approach they think is most likely to be effective, either in the context of the case study or in the local cultural context.
· What other approach(es) they might suggest to these Volunteers
(either in the context of the case study or in the local culture) that fit the definition of NFE
· What conclusions they have come to about adult learning from their discussions

NOTE: Assure the group that their conclusions can be tentative ones, based on the limited information the case study provides. The idea is to get them thinking about different ways they might use to get across new ideas in their host communities.

Activity 6: Eight Non-Tenets of Adult Learning

Activity Time 15 minutes

Purpose To introduce some principles of adult learning that should be reflected on, added to, and modified by participants as they gain experience working with adults in the local culture. (Reference: Peace Corps NFE Manual, page 22.)

Step - by - Step

1. Mention to the group that people who have studied how adults learn have made some important points about the kind of learning environment and the kind of facilitation necessary for effective adult reaming. (Post flip chart of Eight Non-Tenets of Adult Learning. You may also give each participant a handout of the eight non-tenets at this point.)

8. Non-Tenets of Adult Learning

1) Adults expect to be treated with respect and recognition.
2) Adults want practical solutions to real-life problems.
3) Adults can reflect on and analyze their own experiences.
4) Different adults have different learning styles.
5) Adults can be motivated by the possibility of fulfilling their personal needs and aspirations.
6) Adults need the support of their peers in their learning.
7) Adults need to communicate their feelings in culturally appropriate ways.
8) Adults are capable of making their own decisions and taking charge of their own development.

2. Let the group know that these points are called "non-tenets" because they are not to be memorized or swallowed whole without questioning or reflection.

Say that you are presenting them here to give the group something to think about, and that you expect that as their service progresses and as they gain experience working with adults in the host culture they will add to or modify some of these points.

3. Read the eight non-tenets aloud or have the group read them silently.

4. Ask the group to think of one concrete action they could take to put each of the points into practice when working with adults in the local culture.

For example: How could they treat adults with respect and recognition? Perhaps by taking the time to go through traditional greeting ceremonies, or by asking people's advice and opinions about the work they (the Volunteers) are doing, or by choosing to spend their free time with local people rather than socializing with other Volunteers, etc.


Instead of working with the large group on all the Non-Tenets, work through one example with the large group. Then divide the group into seven, assign each minigroup one of the remaining "non-tenets" and have them brainstorm for a few minutes to come up with three or four things they could do to put these principles into practice in the local culture. Each mini-group then reports back to the large group.

FOR IST: Ask the group to think of incidents or examples in their work that illustrate the eight non-tenets. Ask them to think of additional things they could do to put the non-tenets into practice. If there is time, ask them if from their experience working in the host culture they would add some tenets and/or modify some of these principles of adult learning.

Activity 7: Evaluation of Session

Activity Time 10 minutes

Purpose To evaluate the effectiveness of the session.

Step - by - step

1. Ask participants to take a sheet of paper and write down one concrete way that this session put one of the eight non-tenets into practice. You might say:

Look over the Non-Tenets again. Choose one that we took into consideration in designing or carrying out this session. Write what the non-tenet is and exactly how we succeeded in using it in this session.

Example: In this session we had the support of our peers in our learning-we worked in small groups and usually felt comfortable giving our own opinions in them.

They should also write down one way that future sessions could be improved, again using a "non-tenet" and a concrete suggestion of how to do this. ("Look over the Non Tenets again. Find one we did not do so well in this session. Write what the non tenet is and a concrete suggestion for what to do to improve this in later sessions. Although you may have valid and important complaints, please don't just gripe - give a constructive suggestion for improvement")

Example: In future sessions we need to be able to express our feelings more openly. Maybe we could have a suggestion box, or we could do some group-building exercises to improve the climate.


Choose and carry out a different evaluation technique from Appendix II.

For next lime

Ask participants to read Chapter 4 of the Peace Corps NFE Manual.

Participants can now start leading warm-ups and evaluations, either alone or in pairs. Pass around a sign-up sheet for each of the remaining sessions. Suggest that they use the warm up activities in the text or in Appendix I and evaluations from Appendix II.

Or, encourage them to think of their own warm-ups and evaluations to fit the time available.

Time Saver #1

1. Role Plays

40 minutes

2. Individual Learning Styles

20 minutes

3. Experiential Learning Cycle

30 minutes BREAK 15 minutes

4. Case Study

40 minutes

5. Quick: Evaluation (Appendix)

5 minutes

Total Time

150 minutes

Time Saver #2

1. Warm-up

10 minutes

2. Role Plays

40 minutes

3. Individual Learning Styles

20 minutes

4. Experiential Learning Cycle

30 minutes

5. Eight Non-Tenets

15 minutes

6. Evaluation of Session

10 minutes

Total Time

125 minutes

Time Saver #3

1. Warm-up

10 minutes

2. Role Plays

40 minutes

3. Experiential Learning Cycle

30 minutes

4. Eight Non-Tenets

15 minutes

5. Quick Evaluation (Appendix)

5 minutes

Total Time

100 minutes

Srinivasan, L. Tools for Comrnunity Participation
Vella, J. Learning To Teach

Werner, D. Helping Health Workers Learn, Chapter 1

How to Prepare Role Plays on Teaching and Learning in the Host Culture

For HCNs

You can help Volunteers understand how people in your culture teach and learn by presenting two role plays, one about learning in formal school and the other about learning in the traditional way in your society. The role plays should last about 10 minutes each.

In-School Learning Volunteers' experience in school was perhaps more undisciplined and active than yours was. Discuss the differences with the workshop facilitator in order to decide what to emphasize about your culture in your role play. You might want to show a typical high school lesson, or even an elementary school classroom. Use humor where appropriate!

Traditional Learning In all cultures, children learn from their parents, siblings, extended family and community members. Usually these ways of learning are different in some ways from formal school.

Think about how you learned things as a child, especially if you were brought up in a traditional fashion (Examples: how to fish, how to tend animals or plant crops, carry water, cook, or care for children; how you learned religious rituals, or family or clan history, or other traditional knowledge).

Volunteers also learned some of these things as children, but in different ways. They were more likely to learn from television or children's books, or by asking questions, or by having things explained to them verbally when they were very young.

Choose one or two reaming situations to show in your role plays and talk with the facilitator about how to exaggerate the ways that traditional learning in your culture differs from the Volunteers' experience. This way, Volunteers will understand and appreciate the ways you do things in your culture (or the old ways that are now dying out) and will be more likely to respect them in their work with Peace Corps.

Processing Questions for Role Plays

1. What interesting things did you notice about the ways people teach and learn in the host culture?

2. How are these styles different from the way you are accustomed to teaching and learning in your own culture?

3. How are they similar?

4. How do you feel about these ways of teaching and learning?

5. Given the differences in teaching and learning between the two cultures, what things do you need to keep in mind when working with adults in this culture?

6. How might you need to change your own behavior to work better with HCNs in this culture?

Case Study-Adult Learning

In Session 1 you met Julie, who had done some successful NFE work with small businesswomen and was now nearing the end of her Peace Corps service. But Julie's life as a Volunteer hadn't always been so successful. Here's how it was a few months after she arrived.

"that does, it, we're going home, said Julie to her husband as she shut the door of their bamboo house with as much of a bang as she could. Steve knew she didn't mean it. Both of them had said this off and on to each other for the four months they had been stationed in the village.

"What happened today?, asked Steve gently' though he knew the answer.

"Nothing, that's what happened, said Julie. "We're getting nowhere.

"Didn't the women's group show up?, asked Steve.

"Oh they were at the community center, said Julie. "They just didn't want to do anything. I don't know how they want me to help them find ways to earn money, or if they want me to help them at all. Every time I suggest an idea they sort of bat it around for awhile, and then it falls flat.

"So what did you do?, asked Steve

"We talked. We sat around. We watched people walk by.

"What did you talk about?.

"Oh, marriages, babies. It's incredible how much women's lives here revolve around babies. I don't know where they get the energy. I'm not saying I don't like spending time with the group. You know me, I like babies and marriages. And I know they care about us, too. Remember when they brought us all that food when our garden dried up?

"Yeah", said Steve.

"And when they showed us how to use a digging stick when we were breaking our backs with the hoe and bush knife you bought in town?.

"I remember," said Steve.

"Nice people," sighed Julie. "But I wish I knew what I was doing here. Anyway, how was your day?.

Not much better than yours, said Steve. He was out in the bush cutting trees for the community center. As usual, nobody showed up to help. Then after awhile a guy came down and started watching. He just sat there for a couple of hours. He didn't seem to want to tall: much, so I kept on cutting. After awhile he came over and was looking at the chain saw. I told him the only reason I was using it was because I couldn't swing a bush knife the way they do around here. No muscles. We laughed about that. Then he wanted to know how the saw worked, so I gave him some of the safety gear I'd brought along and showed him how to use the saw. He was pretty good at it, too. I wish more of the men around here would ask to learn to use it. Then who knows, maybe they'd decide to invest in a saw for the village so they could cut and sell a little amber from their ancestral lands. That way they'd improve their economic base so they wouldn't feel they had to sell off all their resources to the logging companies.

"You know," said Julie. "I keep wondering if we're doing something wrong. I mean, look at Kay, she's busy at the clinic, really working hard."

"Yeah," said Steve. "At least she's got something to do. Every day there are mothers bringing in their kids for vaccinations."

"And she's really teaching, said Julie. "she's set up a class in the waiting room to explain what foods they ought to be giving their kids. You know, she was telling me the number one problem here is really malnutrition because of the taboos on fish in the coastal villages. The people think that malaria is their biggest health hazard, but actually, it's protein deficiency.

"Does she feel she's making headway?, asked Steve.

"Well, it's slow," said Julie. "She told me she uses the broken record technique. She explains the food groups over and over, very slowly, sometimes in story fashion, the way people do here. She's got this great flannel board with cutouts of all the good local foods.

"And does she find that families are changing their habits?"

"Always the skeptic!" said Julie.

"No, I'm really interested, said Steve.

"Well, she says they're sort of slow learners, said Julie. "After all, they have very little education to begin with. They've never been introduced to nutritional concepts or even basic hygiene. Kay says she's got a lot to do to educate them. Of course I'm not sure I like the way that sounds. "educate them." I guess I'd feel uncomfortable working the way she does."

"At least she'll be busy for her two years here," said Steve. "But what'll we have to show for our Peace Corps service?.

Questions for Discussion:

(Please appoint someone in your group to record your answers to share with the large group.)

1. How do you think the local people perceive the three Volunteers in the case study?


2. Which approach to working with the community is likely to be the most effective?


3. What other approach(es) might you suggest to these Volunteers?