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Title: Teaching adults with learning difficulties : a Rogerian approach
Author: Brown, Rosemary
Awarding Body: University of Derby
Current Institution: University of Derby
Date of Award: 2001
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This thesis uses an evaluation of a course based on a Rogerian approach to education to challenge the efficacy of the normative/behaviourist approach, which has been used to train adults labelled as having learning difficulties. Unlike behaviourist approaches, Rogers' work seeks to empower students to become self-directed learners and claims to teach them how to become their own behaviour change agents. The research questions focused fIrstly on whether it was possible to use genumess, acceptance and empathic understanding to build the 'climate of trust' that Rogers claimed facilitates student learning (Rogers, 1983: 18) and secondly on the learning that took place in such a 'climate.' Primary data were gathered usmg participant-observation, written records and tape recordings throughout the two-year action-research programme. The evaluation took place post hoc. The evidence demonstrates that the adoption of Rogerian principles to develop the skills of communication, decision-making and self-evaluation generated a 'climate of trust' in which student learning and 'trust' became mutually reinforcing. Evidence from the second year, in the form of case studies, showed how different each individual student was, how their talents and needs varied and how they developed increased self-esteem and self-confidence. However, the Rogerian approach was not implemented without problems. His beliefs about genuineness, acceptance and empathic understanding do not recognise that the source of genuineness is the tutor's subjective values, whilst empathy requires an imaginative leap to grasp the students' subjective meaning. The tutor may well have to face dilemmas where her personal values are in conflict with her empathic understanding of her students' perspectives. Conflicts also arose between the needs of individual students and the needs of the group as a whole. Furthermore, Rogers' work largely ignores the pedagogic skills required of the tutor. In advocating breaking down the 'us and them' divide between tutor and taught, he ignores the problem of establishing a structure of legitimate authority. This was resolved by establishing a form of democratic decision making as a radical alternative to the praise/blame culture of the traditional classroom. Rogers' ideas may be utilised by tutors in ways that help students labelled as having learning difficulties drop the 'defensive strategies' (Goffinan, 1968:44) and 'facades' (Rogers, 1983:24) associated with stigma and 'spoiled identity.' The importance of 'critical events' (Woods, 1993:3) as turning points for learning following the building of trust, is highlighted. Several incidents highlighted the problems that arise for tutors who lack background knowledge of students' involvement with other professionals. This has led to unresolved issues and hence to a recommendation for more research into the potential for greater team-work. The Rogerian approach is not a formula. It engenders a climate of mutual respect where trust can grow. It is recommended to tutors working with adults labelled as having learning difficulties as it empowers them to direct their own learning and to become their own behaviour change agents.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Teaching adults ; Adults with learning difficulties ; Learning difficulties Education