Lexi Rodebeck History Paper

History of Informal Adult Education

In the 1960’s

Lexi Rodebeck

EDAC 631 Group 3


Name Commented On:
Joe DeGraaf Group 2
Michelle Hobby Group 4

1960’s History of Informal Adult Education



In the 1960’s, many Americans believed that they were a part of the beginning of a “golden age”. In the early 1960’s John F. Kennedy became president of the United States, and led America to think that he was the answer to many problems they had within the country. Although, Americans thought that this was going to be a “golden age era”, it was actually the complete opposite of that. It was the beginning of an era that our country fell apart in (A&E Television Networks, 2015).

John F. Kennedy became president in 1960, with very big ideas. He came up with the “New Frontier,” which was a group of laws and reforms that sought to eliminate injustice and inequality within the United States. The “New Frontier”, never made it to far, because Kennedy was shot in 1964,and Lyndon Johnson took over. Johnson told our country he would make it into a “Great Society”, which poverty and racial injustice didn’t belong. He developed a variety of programs that gave the poor “a hand up, not a handout”. Things that were included in this movement were, Medicaid, Head Start programing, and job corps that trained unskilled workers for jobs (A&E Television Networks, 2015).

The country struggled with civil rights, but was defined in 1964 when President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. The Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination within public places. If states did not follow this act, it gave the Justice Department the right to sue them if they discriminated against minorities, women, and equal opportunities within the workplace. The Act did not solve racism within our countries unfortunately; many minorities started to self defend themselves and their families.


In the 1960’s many great things happened with Adult Education. To name a few highlights that helped improve the overall concept of adult education include the Vocational Education Act of 1963, the Economic Opportunity Act, and The Manpower Act. All of these were main points within this particular decade that had impact of informal adult education. In 1962, the Committee on Education and Labor attempted to get a bill passed to help fund programs that provided basic adult education. Although, the bills were defeated, so adults coming back from the war were depending on different ways to gain access for informal education to help provide them jobs (U.S. Department of Education, 2013).

The Kennedy administration was the first to acknowledge that poverty and adult literacy were a major concern. After Kennedy was killed in 1964, Lyndon Johnson built off Kennedy’s ideas to create a variety of programs to help end poverty and increase improvement with adult education (A&E Television Networks, 2015). This is when they passed the Economic Opportunity Act; which was the first Adult Basic Education program that was granted by the state. The states’ funding the first year was $18.6 million, and in 1965, 37,991 adults enrolled nationally in Adult Basic Education (U.S. Department of Education, 2013). The overall purpose of this act was to focus on people 18 years and older who could not read or write English, in which made them ineligible to get a job. As you can see, before this they would rely on other within their lives to help them obtain this type of information from their parents, friends, and family. Although, if those people were not around, due to wars they had nobody to learn from.

In 1965, President Johnson announced the launching of a “nationwide” development program”. This was the law, “The Manpower Training Act of 1965”, which was an opportunity of those who were in need of federal job training programs to help with unemployment. With this particular law, it helped reduce unemployment rates. In hand with this act was the Higher Education Act of 1965, which was to help strengthen the educational resources of our colleges and universities and to provide financial assistance for students within post secondary education and higher education. Within this act they created grants, loans, and other programs to help those wanting to further their education (U.S. Department of Education, 2013).


Influential Factors

            In the 1960’s it was one of the first era where they started to encouraging workers to develop skills and gain knowledge on their own. They referred to this as “self directing learning”. Self –directed learning took off in the 1960’s due to many studies that were published in the 1960’s. As stated above, many laws and acts were developed in supporting continuing education for adults. I think that the Manpower Training Act of 1965 was one of the first things that influenced people to start providing themselves with informal training. They wanted to gain experience not only for jobs, but for life as well (U.S. Department of Education, 2013).



(Chart, Carliner, 2013)


In 1968, Malcolm Knowles proposed the concept of andragogy, which was originally a European concept, and he defined it as the art of science helping adults learn”. There are 5 assumptions that andragogy describe the adult learner as someone who; (1) has an independent self-concept and who can direct his or her own learning, (2) has accumulated self-concept and who can direct his or her own learning, (3) has learning needs closely related to social roles, (4) is problem-centered and interested in immediate application of knowledge, and (5) is motivated to learn by internal rather than external factors (Merriam, 2001).

Informal adult education had been around for a while within the YMCA before Knowles released his book in 1950, but this provided information for those needing to learn within the 60’s about different opportunities that they could take, instead of going to formal classes. He classified informal learning as; “general programs” that adults can attend in organizations like community centers, libraries, churches, and museums (Smith, 2002). Knowles tried to focus on making these certain types of education as “friendly and informal”. Informal learning provided adults with learning opportunities that were flexible, provided them with experience, enthusiasm, and commitment form those attending. People felt that going to these informal learning programs were almost more stable, due to having less commitment, and having more interest in the topic(s) that were being discussed. Also, that it was open and more for entertainment; they really didn’t realize they were actually learning something from the program.

Throughout people’s lives, we have learned to perform jobs, daily tasks, and other life skills from our parents and other adults. Young adults would gain hands on experience learning how to cook, farm, sew, how to become leaders whether it be within the community or in their family. People would also learn how to a variety of skills by just watching others doing these types of tasks. While people developed these skills (mentally or physically), other adults would provide feedback and tips to help increase those learning.



After researching quite a bit about the history of informal education, I have realized that although this is something that we tend to do every day in our lives, we really don’t realize that we are doing. I feel as if those communities providing such programs to those people who need extra learning opportunities, but don’t necessarily want to go back to school has highly impacted our world today. I think back to all of the times I have attended learning and development classes that were free of charge, and it was something I was interested in, but have came out with such a better grasp of the topic. I think that as Knowles’ studies have shown, people are more relaxed and entertained by this type of learning, than having to sit in a formal classroom setting (Smith, 2002).

Referring back to picture above, you can see that informal adult education has come such a long way over time. History has shown how much more now we are learning informally. I think a great example of this is Lynda.com, it is a website where you can watch videos about certain topics, programs, the options are endless! I will sit at work a lot of times, and listen to these lectures, to better knowledge myself on certain topics that are beneficial to my work. I don’t really think of it as an education session. This also leads to going to the zoo, and reading about animals, listening to the dolphin trainer about dolphins, and even watching the animals interact with one another. As Saul Carliner stated in his text, “How have concepts of informal learning developed over time?”. “Informal learning has so many definitions and so many clash with one another”(Carliner, 2002), I find it true because I felt when researching, everything I found contradicted with what I just read in another article. I think what we can take away from this time period is mainly that learning on our own and what we are interested in, will impact us more overall, than trying to learn something we are forced to.


Areas Summary
Social Background John F. Kennedy as president, trying to make the 60’s the “Golden Age”.

Kennedy was shot not long after, and Lyndon Johnson took over. Johnson created “Great Society”.

Civil Rights movement was going on

Civil Rights Act was developed.

Highlights Economic Act

First Adult Education Program was implemented

The Manpower Training Act

Higher Education Act

Influential Factors First era of Self Directed learning

Malcom Knowles projected the concept of andragogy and really defined informal learning; also became more popular


Implications Adults are more likely to retain knowledge by learning willingly and with something they are more interested in.

Higher education is needed, to help adults be able to keep up with society.

Informal is hard to define, but we really do it everyday of our lives.







  • A&E Television Networks.(2015). The 1960s. Retrieved from



  • Carliner, S.(2013). How have concepts of informal learning developed over time? Performance Improvement, 52(3), 5-11. Retrieved from EBSCO.COM


  • Jones, S.(2011). A hundred years of teaching adults. Retrieved from

http://www.thegaurdian .com


  • Merriam, S.B.(2001). The new update on adult learning theory. Retrieved from



  • National Trio Clearhouse. (2003). The early history of the higher education act of 1965. Washington, DC.



  • U.S. Department of Education. (2013). Federal adult education: A legislative history 1964-2013. Washington, DC; Office of Vocational and Adult Education.