Program planning and development in adult education
By obedt Gurrirab
e-mail: [email protected]
This article briefly reviews how program planning has evolved from the behaviorist
product focus to the humanist process focus. Adult educators should take the time to
review models which have influenced programming like Tyler, Houle, Knowles, Sork, and
Caffarella. These models may have limitations that include ignoring power
relationships and social contexts. Moving from point A to point B may not be as direct as
a model assumes. Today’s planner needs a globally integrated model which takes into
account multiple and simultaneous responsibilities, last minute decisions and
adjustments, conflicting interests, and can begin or end, whenever and wherever
stakeholders determine. Ultimately, program planners must determine what is to be
accomplished as a result of a program and what evidence will be accepted that the
program has accomplished its results. Planning models can help a planner navigate
seemingly uncharted waters.
In a review of the literature of program planning which included Caffarella
(2002), Houle (1996), Jarvis (1995), Knowles (1990), Knox (1980), Kowalski (1988),
Sork (2000), and Tyler (1949).
I have found more task description for planners in adult
education and prescription of the steps to take rather than a thorough body of research
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supporting either of these. I have not discovered in these readings a single, formally
accepted, succinct definition of program planning in adult education. Nor have I found a
source that recommends one planning model over another or even provides a
classification of models according to their application. (I don’t find Pennington and
Greene’s charts very applicable in a day-to-day program planner way of thinking.)—
Pennington and Greene (1976) discovered at the outset, “Research findings on which to
base decisions about the superiority of one approach to planning over any other are
difficult to find” (p13).
The literature is replete with guides for program planners each
conceding that it is not a panacea or recipe for all programs. The literature provides
suggested benefits (Kowalski), models of planning (Caffarella, Cervero and Wilson,
Houle, Knowles, and Sork), a history of program planning (Nowlen), research on adult
learning projects (Cross and Tough), and ways to evaluate adult education programs
(Knox , Sork, and Tyler).
Most agree that program planning is necessary and beneficial
for all involved; however, “the limited research that has been conducted in this area has
failed to produce conclusive evidence of all these suggested benefits” (Kowalski, 1988,
Thomas Sork has provided an informal definition of planning via his adult
education program planning theory 514 online syllabus dated for the summer session
Planning is a complex process that substantially influences and is influenced by the context in which it
occurs. Planning is also a social process so it is influenced by the same social, cultural, political and
economic factors that influence other human social endeavors. Planning is fundamentally about
The Essay on Adult Education
Adult education in the contemporary society has been perceived as an avenue or tool for solving economic and social related problems. Many scholars and educators including policymakers are for the idea of Adult education. Adult education in the contemporary context took many different forms (Webster et al 2001). Many institutions including universities and colleges put in place programs that ...
attempting to shape and control events in the future.
A number of players enter into the program planning picture. Prime among them is the
planner. “. . . the planner is the person or thing [organization, business, industry]
responsible for more than half of the detailed day-to-day planning and deciding in a
learning project . . .” (Tough, 1979, p77).
“. . . program planners . . . are practical
theorists who must use their intuition to make judgments about what to do in specific
contexts . . . (Cervero citing Brookfield, 1994, p19).
In essence, the person or group of
people who plan a program must navigate a number of issues that include personal
interests, organizational expectations, facilities, budget(s), subject experts, public
perceptions, societal values and beliefs, and others in order to create an understandable,
accountable learning situation.
Kowalski (1988) has pointed out there are different interpretations of the scope of
program planning. A program can encompass a single event like an adult
cardiopulmonary resuscitation class. Or a program ma y mean a series of educational
events over a period of time like a wellness program that is comprised of special events,
classes, and activities during a semester. According to Kowalski (1988), “If one refers to
all the adult education offered by an organization, one is talking about the comprehensive
program. It is the sum of the various courses, experiences, and the like which are
planned within the functions related to designed learning” (p88).
Before a planner begins to plan s/he brings with him/her a personal orientation
that will include basic beliefs about the process of education. Houle (1996) called this set
of beliefs credos. Houle’s (1996) six credos included the belief that men and women
were mature enough to know what they need and that educators must find this out and
tailor teaching methods and content to the learners (pp6-7).
Houle (1996) supports more
of a learner-centered or humanistic approach to education. In some situations such as
skills training, adults are expected to learn a specific method or way to perform. An
The Essay on Program Planning And Evaluation
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organization, business, or industry has a certain expectation of its workers with regard to
skills training. This establishes a slightly different orientation; one that is behaviorbased.
Behaviorists have influenced program planners to have objectives that are precise,
measurable, and observable. Jarvis (1995) calls these two approaches classic and
romantic. Essentially, the classic or behaviorist approach focuses on skills, instruction,
and relay of information. The educator would expect obedience, conformity, and
discipline of his/her students. The usual means to relay this information is lecture, tasks,
and quantitative examination. The romantic or humanistic approach is learner-centered.
It takes into account the learner’s experience and emphasizes creativity, discovery, and
originality. Androgogy falls into the humanistic orientation. The method of evaluation
used is self- assessment (Jarvis, 1995, p197).
Of course there are other theories such as
cognitivist, social learning, and constructivist on which planning could be based;
however, the models in print (Tyler, Houle, Knowles, Sork, and Caffarella) seem to have
elements of behaviorism, humanism or both. Planners should beware of the model they
wish to use. Very few, Buskey and Sork (1986) found in their analysis of program
planning models, have theoretical explanation (p92).
A model without a theory, may also
be a model that has not been tested and proven which could set the uncritical planner up
The practice of adult education is an art based on science . . . Effective practice as an art because it
encompasses responsiveness, interpersonal relations, and values. Effective practice is based on science
because it draws upon tested knowledge from various scholarly disciplines” (Knox, 1980, p2).
If a planner is engaged in the process of planning, s/he will have to be able to slip
between micro and macro views of planning. A micro view is what a planner would do if
s/he focused on a specific educational program for a specific audience. The planner
would mainly focus on establishing goals and objectives around a targeted group of
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learners or an individual in a specific time frame in a specific context like a class.
Springer (1995) has outlined an explanation of the confusing mass of program planning
models. “[The] integrated nonlinear planning models are really macro-models and
integrated linear models are really micro- models . . . They are not separate models, but in
fact, the integrated linear model is a subset of the higher level integrated nonlinear
Linear models such as Tyler’s describe steps a planner is to complete in
order to create a plan. Linear models insinuate that step B cannot be begun until step A is
complete. For example, a program schedule cannot be finished until location,
instructor(s), and topic have been chosen. Linear model critics fear that “simplicity and
efficiency increase the likelihood that institutional objectives will dominate programming
decisio ns” (Kowalski, 1988, p100).
[The classical view of planning] “does not account
for the dimensions and variability of planning contexts, the nature of practical judgments,
or the values that influence how judgments are made . . . (Cervero, 1994, p17).
“Nonlinear models attempt to provide greater flexibility in terms of time and resource
allocation. They avoid presenting lockstep avenues to creating educational experiences”
(Kowalski, 1988, p96).
Nonlinear models try to take into account the context in which
planners make decisions. For example, planners must consider political situations within
an organization and must be aware of the influence of the learners and educator(s) in
relation to socio economic status, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, and disability.
Commonalities among planning models are identified by Caffarella (2002) as
. . .the needs and ideas of learners, organizations, and/or communities as central to the program
planning process; the importance of context in the planning process; and identifiable components and
practical tasks that are important to the planning process (p20).
One framework that is popular and contains all but one of the commonalities is Houle’s
(1996) Design of Education. Houle’s (1996) framework consists of two segments:
The Term Paper on Program Planning And Evaluation 3
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categorizing the educational program and moving through tasks in the framework.
Houle’s (1996) situational categories include individualized learning, group learning,
creation of an institutional learning design, and mass public education design. Of his
framework Houle (1996) says, “. . . one may begin with any component and proceed to
the others in any order . . .” (p60).
Houle (1996) tries to accomplish a systemic
framework that breaks free of the linear models. While Houle’s (1996) sys tem seems
comprehensive, Jarvis (1995) critiques, “it does adopt the perspective of the adult
educator who is able to design an educational programme [sic] free from external
constraint, which may not actually reflect the reality of what happens during the process”
The issue of context and power seems to hinder the practical application in some
instances of Houle’s (1996) model.
Cervero and Wilson (1994) address external constraints in the form of power.
“. . .planning . . . is accomplished in a world of power relationships, some constraining
and some enabling, that define the terrain in which planners must act . . . power
relationships define planning situations” (p118).
Cervero and Wilson (1994) place
planning in a social context and use critical theory as its basis.
By framing planning in this way, they effectively exclude other equally plausible and more complete
explanations of what is happening. And if there are other processes occurring beyond negotiation, then
their assertions about what skills and knowledge are needed to plan responsibly are at best incomplete
and at worst misleading” (Sork, 2000, p179).
What planners need is a globally integrated model of planning which takes into account
the multiple and often simultaneous respons ibilities, last minute decisions and
adjustments, and conflicting interests. Such a model may be embodied in Caffarella’s
(2002) interactive model.
Caffarella’s (2002) model “has no real beginnings or endings” (p21).
cyclical. Caffarella’s (2002) model is, in my opinion, what Springer (1995) is imagining
The Business plan on Program Evaluation Paper
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as he discusses the issue of cycle and sequence.
“. . . program planning is without question, a cyclical process, but possesses an inherent sequentiality.
The inherent sequentiality is at the micro-level and must be adhered to by each of the subactivities,
while the cyclical outer process is what provides us with the macro-view we call nonlinear program
planning. The outer/macro process provides the framework which allows for the cycling to take place”
Caffarella (2002) has thoroughly reviewed the program planning models from the past
and taken the criticisms of practicing program planners into account to design the
interactive model. Like Houle (1996), Caffarella (2002) provides her credo in the form
of assumptions. Her principles and practices echo of Knowles (1990) and her inclusion
of navigating ethical decisions and conflicting values and beliefs follows Cervero and
Wilson’s (1994) sentiments. It is difficult to criticize a work that appears to be so
thorough in both research and presentation. I did, however, find an area that I thought
was minimally treated: dissolving partnerships. Her model is the first that I have
encountered to mention this aspect of programming; however, a few lines and no
examples of dissolution simply do not help the programmer who finds himself/herself in
the position of dissolution. I have found that dissolutions can be aided through
evaluation data. If a planner has gathered both formative and summative data about a
program, s/he can make a clear determination based on evidence of whether or not a
program should be dissolved. However, if no such data exist, the planner puts
himself/herself in the position of being personally blamed for the outcome of a
dissolution. This is not always desirable.
Tyler (1949) has determined that program evaluation should determine whether or
not the program has changed student behavior. The evaluations, Tyler (1949) says,
should occur somewhere toward the beginning of the program, one toward the end of the
program, and one at some time period after completion of the program (pp106-107).
Houle (1996) warns against evaluation becoming an end in and of itself and that a
programmer should not ignore determining changes in values and beliefs of learners
Houle’s (1996) belief stems from the changes according to Knowles (1990) that
occurred in the late 1970s when programmers realized that evaluation “requires getting
inside the skulls of the participants—and inside the social systems in which they are
performing—and finding out what is happening in their way of thinking, feeling, and
The issues that have come to light over the years regarding program
evaluation involve whether to take quantitative or qualitative evidence or both and
whether to perform formative or summative or both kinds of assessments. Kowalski
(1988) cites Scriven (1967) in defining summative evaluation “as a process designed to
determine if a program should survive” (p151).
Groteleuschen (1980) says that “most
evaluations for accountability are done on activities or programs that have been
Most summative evaluations occur because and external source (state
or federal) has initiated the request. Summative evaluations are goals driven, that is, the
primary intent of the evaluation is to see if the program achieved its goals (Brown, 1984,
Formative evaluations, on the other hand, are evaluations that occur while the
program is running with the purpose of gathering information about what to improve and
how to improve the program (Deshler 1984, p7).
Internal personnel conduct formative
evaluations. According to Deshler (1984) “Formative evaluation is most likely to be
appropriate when a program is in its early stages. Summative evaluation is most helpful
for a fully developed program” (p11).
Ultimately, if evaluation is conducted
systematically and integrated into the planning process, the program planner has a greater
chance at gaining evidence fo r the purposes intended. Caffarella (2002) states, “There is
no one acceptable systematic process for conducting a program evaluation” (p230).
Program planners must keep in mind a number of issues when deciding on evaluation.
The task of evaluation can be as complicated as the entire plan itself or as uncomplicated
as a paper and pencil summative evaluation.
Program planners have a wealth of models and evaluation literature from which to
choose. Planning has moved from the realm of the educator working in a vacuum of
sorts isolated from external factors to change a learner’s behavior into the realization that
many factors influence the educator, learner, and sponsoring organization and that while
all negotiate toward intended outcomes there are also unintended outcomes which must
be acknowledged in the process. Program planning has evolved from product focus to
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