The Modern Practice of Adult Education

A Postmodern Critique

By Derek Briton

Subjects: Adult/continuing Education
Series: SUNY series, Teacher Empowerment and School Reform
Paperback : 9780791430262, 176 pages, July 1996
Hardcover : 9780791430255, 176 pages, July 1996

Table of contents



1. Engaging the Question of Adult Education

2. The Fear of Falling into Error

3. Facing the Dilemma

4. Enlightenment and Modernity

5. Choosing a Research Paradigm

6. Toward a Postmodern Pedagogy of Engagement in Adult Education

Postscript: Living through the Question of Adult Education




Critiques the modernist tenets and moral integrity of contemporary adult education practice. Challenges educators to reconceptualize adult education as a postmodern pedagogy of engagement.


Briton challenges the dominant depoliticized vision of adult education, calling into question the modernist tenets and moral integrity of contemporary adult education practice. By examining his own struggle to escape the confines of modernist thought, the author delivers a succinct yet decisive critique of modern educational practice and challenges educators to reconceptualize their field of endeavor as a postmodern pedagogy of engagement.

In refusing to deny its conjectural foundations, to mask its tenuous structure, or to defend its precarious integrity, the book assumes a form that distinguishes it markedly from its modernist counterparts. In favoring commentary over empirical evidence, a multiplicity of voices over a prescriptive narrative, the development of an ethical attitude toward practice over formulaic prescriptions for practice, and inter-over intra-disciplinary sources to substantiate its claims, this work calls into question a whole range of modernist predilections. By repeatedly breaching the narrowly prescribed parameters of adult education's orthodoxy and constantly promoting reflective inquiry, this book reveals how different, yet equally valid, forms of evidence can be drawn upon to develop an ethical postmodern perspective that calls the modern instrumental practice of adult education into question.

Derek Briton is in the Department of Educational Policy Studies at the University of Alberta.


"This book addresses very important issues in adult education. Not unlike the work of Apple, Giroux, and McLaren, Derek Briton poses in this text a normatively driven notion of what adult educators should do. Its major advantage—the one that gives it its most important 'edge'—is its postmodernist theme and tone. This contribution to adult education cannot be underestimated.

"One of the book's most important contributions is to further the growing critique of 'technicism' in adult education by explicating the historical roots of this critique. Thus the issues raised in this book are central to the political and ethical practice of adult education and to the preparation of adult educators."—Arthur L. Wilson, North Carolina State University