The Open Collections website will be undergoing maintenance on Wednesday December 7th from 9pm to 11pm PST. The site may be temporarily unavailable during this time.

UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

A taxonomic framework for adult education practices in North America McCreary, Elaine Kathryn


As a domain of social scientific research adult education is plagued by-several methodological problems. Chief among these are: l) the inability to conceptually integrate several lines of research which currently examine isolated dimensions of this complex social practice; 2) the inability to compare concrete cases in their infinite detail; 3) "the inability to make explicit the influence of values on the choices which are made regarding practice; and 4) the inability to interpret the significance of historical shifts in the field of practice. These methodological difficulties are all attributable to a single major gap in theory - the lack of a comprehensive framework for analyzing variations in the field of practice. The problem undertaken in this thesis is how to assemble a framework of basic types of practice none of which will reduce into the terms of another, and which represent the minimum array of types that taken in combination can accommodate all variations of practice evidenced in the field. Based on the assumption that adult education is a normative field, helping adults to change in directions which epitomize certain values, four types of practice are defined in accord with the values implicit in their educational goals. These directions of adult development build on the "social functions" literature. Two techniques of social scientific methodology are employed to develop these four types. The "articulation of a domain of inquiry" as described by Abraham Kaplan (1964) is appropriate for use where a simple definition of a domain will not suffice. Articulation creates a matrix with observational categories ranged across a set of theoretical classifications. These classifications are created through the use of McKinney's (1966) procedural guidelines for implementing the technique of "constructive typology". The data which complete the matrix are drawn from semi-analytic treatments of five observational dimensions which remain when the goal dimension is used as the basis for defining the types. Those observational dimensions include program content, educational methodology, basis of evaluation, clientele characteristics, and delivery location. The extensive literature on these dimensions of practice is analyzed for those variables which are unique to one type of practice and therefore serve as discriminators between types, and those variables which are virtually pervasive of all types of practice. The results consist of four fundamentally distinct types of practice and a set of core characteristics which pervade all varieties of adult education. The relationships inherent in the framework are presented in a formal scientific model. It is argued that the framework and model together represent significant methodological advance over previous attempts to analyze the field such as uni-dimensional scales. Uni-dimensional scales merge the observational and theoretical axes and attempt to range all practices between polarities such as reactionary and revolutionary, or liberal and vocational. The framework may be readily adapted as an instrument to provide detailed "profiles" of empirical cases and used to test hypotheses regarding the contemporary and historical field of practice. The formal model provides a set of structural relationships which integrates a large volume of literature concerning adult education functions and practices, and goes beyond consolidation to suggest hypotheses for empirical test that can systematically advance this field of social research.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use