Unravelling mysteries of the great learning divide : barriers to learning : a thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Education in Adult Education at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
This thesis was motivated by a personal determination to alter my own beliefs about what I, as a learner, was capable of achieving and, in the process, unravel some of the mysteries surrounding students who leave school with low, or no, educational attainment. My own limited school achievements, and subsequent success as an adult learner, have led me to question the appropriateness and relevance of our formal learning and teaching systems, particularly at school, but also in the adult sector. By looking deeply into the human mechanisms of learning and other influential factors I began to understand why my school experience had been so inadequate and gained some insight into why it is that our school learning systems are destined to fail a great number of its students. My investigation aimed to identify why some of us appear to fail to discover our learning potential whilst others around us seem to excel. How is it that so many young people (approximately 40%) leave their schooling without gaining even the most basic skills required to enable them to manage many of the critical applications of living? Is this a reflection of ability, or does this indicate something else? What blocks or barriers have these individuals met/faced? What limitations have been imposed or imagined? How can the educators support the kind of education that enables all children grow into complete and fulfilled adults able to contribute something (positive) to their society? Looking at Adult Learning Theories what strikes me is how these theories seem so perfectly applicable across all learning and teaching situations. They are not 'rocket science', as the saying goes, but perfectly logical and reasonable assumptions about the needs, motivations and goals of the majority of learners. Why are they not more widely employed? Memories of my own secondary school learning suggest that these theories have not been a feature of our formal school systems. Had they been I believe some of us might have achieved different outcomes.