Skip to main content

2016 Annual Conference

November 7–11, 2016

Albuquerque, NM

Differentiation of Society through Adult Education: Luhmann's Systems Theory Applied to Adult Education

Thursday, November 10, 2016 at 4:30 PM–5:15 PM Mountain Time (US & Canada)
Enchantment B (27)
Session Abstract
This presentation uses Niklas Luhmann's framework of systems and how it differentiates society to better understand the role adult education plays in educating students. My thesis is that teaching and learning needs to be coupled coupled with systems analysis in order for students to meet their full potential.
Target Audience
The target audience is all adult educators including those working in adult literacy, higher education, community and organizational development, and social movements. All adult educators operates in various systems unique to their specialty. Though they may see their role as transferring knowledge or empowering learners, wittingly or unwittingly their primary role is to sustain the system in which they operate. This presentation will focus on how systems shape the practice of all adult educators and suggest strategies to better serve learners within these systems.
Session Description
Niklas Luhmann offers educators an opportunity to understand how systems affect learning and information transformation. He takes the simple notion of open and closed systems (those dependent on their environment vs. those which operate independent of their environment) to a more complex understanding of autopoietic systems which allows them to self-produce through their operations and structures within their environment. The presentation apply's Luhmann's systems theory to any teacher-student interface where knowledge and information is transferred. According to Luhmann, schooling exasperates social and psychic differentiation as a system, and in essence is a means to socially construct the student and therefore is a vehicle of social differentiation. Hence adult education is not merely about bettering the students lives but differentiating students based on acceptable patterns of behavior. This is achieved through curriculum, teacher remarks, testing and communicated expectations. Based on Luhmann's systems theory, education is less about transferring knowledge and more about self-production of the educational system. This presentation will highlight how adult education, educators and students are shaped by systems, and suggest strategies that enable students and teachers to gain more control over their lives and careers.

Primary Presenter

Dr. Jeff Zacharakis, Kansas State University

Additional Presenters: Enters In Order