The present paper deals with a concept of leadership of adults and a phenomenon of community education programs. The adult leadership is a topical term in the current course of time that functions in different areas of the professional performance of adults. The significance of this notion, its current position and further opportunities for efficient and progressive development are regarded in terms of community education process and its exemplar programs. The paper aims to present the multidimensional nature of the concept of adult leadership and provides focal examples of its implementation, namely, use of the issue in question in teaching and volunteering practices.
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The notion of community education is defined as a unity of educational and developmental processes for the individual within a particular community and according to its demands and needs. Hamilton defines this concept as “an extension of self-education (for the group) to community education for citizens”. The key role of the adult education in the analyzed phenomenon is explained by it efficiency, conscious determination and self-directed nature. The adults are considered to have certain advantages in terms of learning new material as well as acquiring new skills, for instance: they are more goal-oriented since they know what exactly they need to learn, what outcomes of educational process they expect and why they need them; moreover, they are more persistent, hardworking and consistent in the process of learning.
The course of constant improvement in terms of community education aims at development of the adult leadership that should be comprehended as a regular practice of continuous learning process performed by adults with the purpose to acquire new skills, knowledge in the professional scope as well as relevant values and attitudes. The aforementioned notions will be regarded in terms of practical implementation, its efficiency and perspectives in the fields of teaching and volunteering in order to provide in-depth insight, objective picture and constructive analysis.
Rothwell defines the notion of learning in the following way: “Learning is embedded in everything workers do to achieve results on their jobs” (p. 2). Moreover, the author highlights an uncertain status of the majority of learning professionals since they are rarely certified in the recent course of time. The course of learning includes such focal practices as gaining new skills, studying new data, finding new solutions and approaches as well as acquiring new methods, techniques, attitudes and values. In order to succeed in this process, it is obligatory to know the essence of learning in general and to comprehend the peculiarities of the adult learning in particular since it has significant differences in comparison with the target audience of pupils. Actually, the course of adult learning is related to separate educational practice named andragogy. Furthermore, Rothwell highlights the crucial difference between the notions of learning and training. Training is regarded as a “push” strategy, whereas learning is a “pull” one. Therefore, it is necessary to unite them in order to gain maximum efficiency.
The leadership development is one of the key aspects of adult education since it is an obligatory feature for every scope of activity. The most frequently applied areas include business, teaching and volunteering dimensions of professional performance. The general definition of leadership followed in the current discussion is provided by Klein et al.. According to Klein et al., a true leader may be recognized by the following actions and attitudes:
- place student learning at the center of all decisions;
- understand the importance of, and ensure, clean data collection so that they have confidence in what their data tell them;
- analyze data using a variety of strategies.
Moreover, the leadership also requires to be capable a) to instill the right direction of the educational process; b) to position the focus of the learning course properly; c) to predict and help the learners to overcome the barriers and obstacles in terms of studying experience; d) to provide constant improvement of the learners. Hence, it is apparent that the leaders should permanently evolve – both personally and professionally in order to be an efficient and constructive leader in the scope of their activity.
There is one essential aspect that should be taken into consideration in the current context. According to Allen and Wergin, the majority of specialists in the field of concern considered that the final point in terms of the individual development was marked by adolescence. Moreover, they stated that this moment was a starting point for gradual, but natural decline of the cognitive self of every person. Nonetheless, ”In the past 30 years or so has the term “adult development” been taken seriously, and the insights gained from this burgeoning research have implications for the development of leaders.”. It means that adult leadership is an adequate, perspective and fruitful practice that becomes a relevant part of the process of further education and consequent improvement of the ambitious adults.
Nonetheless, the currently discussed issue has also significant drawbacks, obstacles and challenges apart from the perspectives and opportunities. For instance, the adults are more reluctant when it is necessary to alter their views, beliefs, values and attitudes. This practice is often obligatory nowadays as far as the permanent evolution of the world and of the mankind demands constant changes and improvement. The adults unwillingly experiment with leadership styles and appear to be more conservative in terms of newly introduced technologies preferring the old ones they have huge experience with. Moreover, they are more reluctant to follow the policies of change which are necessary for every modern corporation and organization. Therefore, special methods should be developed in order to provide efficiency and consistency of the educational process. Motivation should be targeted at the final ramifications of the educational process and be strongly connected with the perspectives of potential promotion and qualitative improvements of the learners. The individual approach to the course of education is also effective.
Furthermore, the contemporary epoch has particular demands and peculiarities which should be taken into consideration in the process of education and leadership development of adults. According to Klein et al., “Emerging technologies, an increasingly diverse adult learner population, demands for increased program accountability, the pressures of a rapidly changing workplace, budgetary fluxes, and world events all contribute to the changing face of leadership”. It is obvious that the classic approach to the issue in question is obsolete and inefficient. Especially, the innovative comprehension of the leadership development is important for the administrative personnel, for example, the positions of principals, directors and administrative executives of different levels. They should demonstrate more profound and insightful focus on the processes of efficient teaching and learning as well as improve such focal aspects of leadership as “professional development, data-driven decision making, and accountability”. These points of fruitful leadership are effective in every scope of professional performance since they are universally applicable and crucial in their nature.
The area of volunteerism presents a vast space for the discussion in the given context. Volunteers are often the part of the community education programs. Moreover, the volunteering practice is usually regarded as constructive practice of leadership development. To be more precise, the volunteers are considered to acquire a so-called learned leadership. Moreover, the investigators of the analyzed phenomenon also highlighted the key features and skills which may be developed in the course of efficient volunteering activity: “networking, listening, communication, problem-solving, and collaboration skills … as well as conflict management, strategic planning and grant writing skills”. Furthermore, such abilities as follow time management and learning how to learn are claimed to be the central one for the leadership development in the process of participation in community education programs. They are considered to be the basis for the development of other leadership skills.
The course of leadership development in the teaching practice is also significant, and basically has two functioning dimensions, namely, leadership in relationship with pupils and leadership in relationship with colleagues. Actually, there are different leadership styles which are correspondent to both purposes, an every leader should select not only the most efficient style, but that one which is more appropriate to the target audience (for instance, the pupils’ audience may require more autocratic approach, whereas leadership in terms of relationship with the colleagues may rely primarily on the transformational one that is based on efficient communication and motivation.
Allen and Wergin put an emphasis on the following aspect of the leadership development: the potential leaders should not only improve and evolve both professionally and personally by means of acquiring new skills and knowledge, values and attitudes, but also they are expected to identify their prejudices and biases, in order to develop wise and constructive approaches to the solution of existing problems and diminishing of the identified challenges. Hence, the course of leadership development is connected not only with innovative and creative adjustment, but also with qualitative changes, constant evolution and constructive solutions.
Nonetheless, there are also more controversial and miscellaneous approaches to the understanding of adult leadership development. Whereas the aforementioned approaches relied primarily on the learning, training and gaining new experience practices, Baltes presents a lifespan approach according to which the success of adult development depends on life circumstances and person’s potential to adapt to them. Moreover, the investigators highlight the essence of such an approach in the following way: “Baltes and his colleagues theorize that development occurs as a function of what they call “adaptive capacity,” or the extent to which an individual is able to make positive changes as a response to adversity”. The currently discussed development theory positions such ‘cultural’ resources to be of primary significance for leadership development as cognition, motivation and socialization. Actually, the efficiency of leadership improvement is directly dependent on the effective actualization of the aforementioned resources under the given circumstances.
Thus, adult education is a topical modern phenomenon that includes adult leadership improvement as a focal constituent element. It occupies important place in the community education programs, and is implemented in majority of professional fields, for instance, in teaching and volunteering practices. The notion of adult leadership is multidimensional and miscellaneous in its nature. Nevertheless, the discussion resulted in identification of the key aspects of efficient adult leadership, namely, effective time management, learning how to learn, acknowledgement and adjustment of the existing biases and prejudices, permanent improvement and goal-orientation.