Should John Dewey be considered to be a theorist that best understood an adult learner? Why?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Dewey's ideas can be understood well by both children and adult learners.  I think that the adult learner would understand some of Dewey's notions of instrumentalism a bit more because their experience would validate such a philosophical approach.  Dewey's assertion was that consciousness requires change and understanding that there are instances in which experience will dictate divergent understandings of being in the world.  This helps to further Dewey's notion that there is not a singular and absolutist notion of the good.  Rather, it is an instrumentalist one where "different tools are used for different jobs" as the socially democratic experience is broadened to include more voices.

It is in this idea where I think that the adult learner could find their voice heard in Dewey's theories.  Dewey's theories are ones in which the adult learner could understand how experience must be validated through instruction and ethical understanding.  The child learner would gain this insight, also.  Yet, the life experiences of adults, bringing these into the classroom setting as part of the instrumentalist notion of understanding, and seeking to validate them through instruction is where the adult learner could gain much from Dewey's theories.