Book Reviews

Book by Victor C.X. Wang
Review by Amy K. O’Dowd
Academic Advisor
Redeemer University College
Ancaster, Ontario, Canada  


Newspaper headlines and the economic forecast are just some of many reasons colleges and universities are seeing increased numbers of adult learners in their halls.  Adult learners bring a wealth of knowledge with them – experiences which enrich a classroom and a campus – but they also demand something different from their education. They want a curriculum that has practical applications for their life and embraces their unique needs. Curriculum Development for Adult Learners in the Global Community, Volume I, Strategic Approaches, draws upon the work of scholars from the fields of Adult Education and Human Resource Management. It also includes leaders from the public and private sector, to compile a tome that examines adult learners and provides a variety approaches to developing curriculum suited to this burgeoning student demographic.
     
The book begins by examining the characteristics of adult learners and the accompanying implications for instructional design.  It goes on to discuss learner-derived curriculum development and what the adult learner can contribute to the curriculum.  The topic of disadvantaged learners is also broached: How the diverse lives of many adults around the globe both drive the curriculum and are impacted by it. This chapter discusses barriers to effective instruction that can arise from financial instability, political unrest, and physical and mental disabilities. The teaching and learning process is discussed in a chapter entitled, “Sequencing Instruction in Global Learning Communities,” and the book concludes with an examination of a specific case from the public service sector, that of developing curriculum to train police and fire fighters.
     
This book provides a wealth of information about the characteristics and unique needs of the adult learner.  Many academic advisors spend their time with young undergraduates, but now we recognize these “non-traditional” students as a growing demographic. It is imperative that advisors familiarize  themselves with  these students, what  these students are looking for, and the contributions  these students bring to the educational sphere.  Advising an adult learner who is taking classes for personal development should be different from advising a student who has returned to campus to improve their skills or complete a degree. Knowing that an adult learner may be trying to balance school and caring for aging parents, or trying to compete in a job market where the majority of applicants are significantly younger, should help advisors to craft the questions they will ask and the academic or campus resources they will recommend. In the first chapter of the book, author Laura Bierema points out that for adult learners, “the learning must also be about something adults care about and find useful”  (12). Convincing any student of the importance of a core requirement that falls outside their area of interest can often be challenging, but perhaps more so for the adult learner. Bierema comments, “Adulthood is full of multiple demands so learning will most likely be sought when it is relevant to a life issue or problem” (12).
     
Although there is knowledge within this volume to assist advisors in their service to adult learners, the technical jargon of curriculum development makes it a cumbersome read.  And while it was geared more specifically towards those in curriculum development and teaching, than to those serving in student affairs, academic advising, or advising administration, did excel at describing the adult learner in a wide variety of contexts.


Curriculum Development for Adult Learners in the Global Community: Volume I, Strategic Approaches. (2008) Book by Victor C.X. Wang (Ed.) Review by Amy K. O’Dowd. Malabar, FL: Krieger 276 pp., $36.50, ISBN # 1-57524-296-6
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