Independent adult learning
This research examines the nature and extent of independent adult learning. A sample of twenty-five independent learners was assembled, all of whom had achieved local or national recognition for their achievements in their respective fields of interest. Their expertise had been developed without the benefit of class attendance or participation in any other form of planned instruction. These adults were judged to have assumed the overall responsibility for their learning. They developed evaluative procedures as these seemed appropriate, they planned intermediate and terminal learning goals, and they devised patterns of problem-solving. They were adept at using existing information sources to their advantage and created learning networks of fellow enthusiasts for the exchange of information and advice. They also showed considerable entrepreneurial and promotional skills in prompting non-enthusiasts to develop an interest in learning. The independent learners' experiences were compared with those of a sample of ten correspondence students. It was hoped that by contrasting the correspondence students' perceptions of the institutionalised, prescriptive framework within which they worked with the independent learners' attempts to explore their fields of knowledge, the distinctive features of the latter would be thrown into even sharper relief. Although the correspondence students were separated from their tutor and fellow students, such physical separation did not imply cognitive independence. The material to be studied and the rate of its assimilation, as well as the evaluation of progress, were all the responsibility of the correspondence institution. The method used to investigate these activities was that of the informal, semi-structured interview. These conversations were tape-recorded and then transcribed and the subjects concerned were invited to confirm the accuracy of the transcripts. The study concludes with some suggestions as to the way in which independent adult learning might be supported by adult education agencies.