The Relationship between Adult Learning and Development: Challenging Normative Assumptions

M. Carolyn Clark, Sharan B. Merriam, Jennifer Sandlin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In this chapter we examine the connections between adult learning and adult development from a narrative perspective, arguing that the master narrative of modernity shaped both fields in their earlier stages and that their interconnections derived from their sharing of that narrative, one that presumes an autonomous, rational self capable of agency, and that embraces a belief in the value and attainability of progress. In our postmodern era, many counter-narratives have arisen and we explore two that provide very different ways of conceptualizing the interconnections. Critical cultural pedagogy sees individuals as embedded in and shaped by cultural contexts, and it provides a means of understanding how master narratives of adult identity are portrayed and perpetuated, and how they can be resisted through hegemonic and counter-hegemonic public pedagogies. Non-Western cultures offer a perspective on adult learning and adult development that is communal rather than individualistic and interdependent rather than independent, valuing family, community, self-sacrifice, and spirituality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Reciprocal Adult Development and Learning (2 ed.)
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199940639
ISBN (Print)9780199736300
StatePublished - Sep 18 2012


  • Counter-narrative
  • Critical cultural pedagogy
  • Master narrative
  • Modernity
  • Non-western perspective

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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