Characteristics of facilitators of adult education

Given the above principles of adult learning, we now turn to the characteristics of the "ideal" facilitator of adult education. See how you match up!

Tough (1979) identifies four characteristics of the "ideal" facilitator:

  • They are warm, loving, caring, and accepting of the learners.
  • They have a high regard for learners' self-planning competencies and do not wish to trespass on these.
  • They view themselves as participating in a dialog between equals with learners.
  • They are open to change and new experiences and seek to learn from their helping activities.

Pratt (1981) developed five broad clusters of desirable teaching characteristics for those involved in adult education:

  • Developing adult-to-adult working relationships.
  • Developing understanding of and responsibility for instruction.
  • Dealing with closure and ending, in other words summarizing learning accomplishments and indicating future learning.
  • Establishing role clarity and credibility.
  • Guarding the contract, in other words keeping the instruction within the agreed boundaries.

In the process of examining the interactions of mentors with beginning teachers, Feiman-Nemser and Parker have conceptualized three different roles. It is likely that these roles are universal and not just continued to beginning teachers.

The one role is mentor as a local guide. In this role the mentor would attempt to smooth the entry of the novice into the new situation. Mentoring would involve helping the novice get to know the ropes and to provide techniques and tips to survive the first year of teaching. Hence it is essentially a short term role.

A second role is termed an educational companion. As implied this could be a much longer relationship, and probably more extensive than the first. The mentor helps the novice develop sound reasons for his or her actions in addition to just getting to know the ropes. The mentor helps the novice develop his or her own style, and to reflect on strengths and weaknesses. However, it is a two way relationship, both assuming the roles of learners and teachers as appropriate.

A third role is that of mentor as an agent of change. It is probably all of the above and more. It begins to include what was referred to as praxis earlier. It involves a long term relationship committed to action and reflection. The focus is not just on learning the ropes, but retying, removing and replacing them.

The above does not imply that any one of the above roles is more important than the others. It does suggest, however, that there ought to be clarity in the role reached as a result of negotiation between both mentor and mentee.