Book Review – Developing Programs in Adult Education: A Conceptual Programming Model (2nd Edition)

This is the second time that I’ve had an opportunity to read Boone, Safrit, and Jones’ book, Developing Programs in Adult Education: A Conceptual Programming Model (2nd Edition). The first time I read it,  I was a grad student taking Dr. Cliff Harbour’s course on program planning and evaluation.  The second time is while teaching the same course to graduate students for the University of Wyoming. I have mixed feelings about this book because I am looking at it and two different frames of reference. On one hand, I’m looking at it from an academic perspective and on the other hand, from a practical perspective.

This book has a tremendous amount of content in it. Unfortunately, for my aged eyes, it is in very small print, making it was very tiresome to read. This was due primarily because of the language, which was very academic and the size of the print.

The book is 307 pages long and has seven chapters along with an appendix. The different chapters included:

  • Introduction
  • A review of major programming models in adult education
  • A theoretical approach to programming
  • Planning
  • Design and implementation
  • Evaluation and accountability
  • Programming: A challenge to adult education

In the introduction, the authors indicated their objective is to “present a conceptual model that can be used to guide adult educators in planning, designing, implementing, evaluating, and accounting for adult education programs” (Boone, Safrit, & Jones, 2002, p. 1). In this first chapter, they looked at various assumptions about programming, assumptions about the planned program, and assumptions about the adult educator. They also look at the various roles the adult educator would take on in programming. Finally, they briefly looked at their concepts of programming and the subprocesses which included planning, design and implementation, and evaluation and accountability. They call this their conceptual programming model.

In the second chapter, Boone at al. looked at 13 different programming models and compare them to their conceptual programming model. The table they included in this chapter highlighted how these different models accommodated the different aspects of the conceptual planning model in terms of planning, design and implementation, and evaluation and implementation. They also wrote in great depth about each model as they examined the models’ various strengths and weaknesses. At the end of the chapter, they looked at the conceptual programming model and begin outlining the various subprocesses. As I look at their model, I easily compared it to the ADDIE of instructional development, which includes analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation.

As I was examining the different models, I was pleased to see that there was quite a number of references to Cooperative Extension. I feel Cooperative Extension have been leaders in adult education through the last century.

Chapters four, five, and six focused on the major elements of their model. These elements included:

  • Planning
  • Design and implementation
  • Evaluation and assessment

Planning

For a successful program, each of the elements is essential; however, I believe a program will fail if planning is not thorough. Boone et al. began with a discussion of assumptions and concepts related to planning. They then moved on to the planning subprocess focusing on organization context and linkage with the publics. Proper planning begins with the organization’s mission, vision, and values in mind.

“On the organizational level, the organization’s leaders constantly revisit the organization’s mission/vision, values, philosophy, and goals/objectives as they adapt and reposition the adult education organization within a constantly changing external social and political environment” (Boone et al., 2002, p. 96).

The authors thoroughly addressed the organization’s role in planning along with key points related to the selection of personnel to help with the planning.

One of my favorite sections of the book dealt with linkage with publics. In this section, the authors provided great detail on what to include when assessing the public’s needs. Topics in this section include:

  • Environmental scanning
  • Studying, analyzing, and mapping, current and emerging publics
  • Identifying and ranking target publics
  • Identifying leaders
  • Interfacing with leaders

This section was rich with specific areas to assess while developing a plan.

Design and Implementation

The design and implementation chapter also addressed assumptions and concepts. Within the design and implementation subprocess, Boone et al. began with the needs identified in the planning process and created a program. As they explained, there are four procedural tasks to develop: needs, objectives, change strategies, and outcomes. Objectives are tied to needs, change strategies are tied to objectives, and outcomes are tied to change strategies. Once these are all identified, a plan of action is created and a  sequencing of events. Boone et al. also addressed elements necessary for implementing plans of action. These elements include:

  • Resources
  • Marketing strategies
  • Monitoring
  • Reinforcement and feedback
  • Using evaluation to redirect learning activities

The chapter provided general guidance for taking basic needs and in the end, turning them into an action plan.

Evaluation and Accountability

The last section of the conceptual planning model focused on evaluation and accountability. This is an essential part of the model, and as the authors note, evaluation is hard to do well. I believe it is more difficult if there was not a proper planning cycle. If done correctly, the evaluation should build upon the plan. In the chapter, the authors outline a number of assumptions and concepts related to the topic. As the authors outlined the processual tasks, they provided ample detail. This would be an excellent chapter from which to build an evaluation framework. The tasks they detailed for evaluation and accountability include:

  • Reclarifying intended outcomes
  • Analyzing inputs and outcomes
  • Associating objectives and outcomes
  • Checking needs against objectives
  • Assessing impact
  • Reporting outcomes and impacts
  • Analyzing the organization and its programming process
  • Recommendations for organizational renewal

As I noted, this chapter was rich with detail. It certainly provides a lot to consider when trying to evaluate a program.

If you are interested in developing programs for education, I would then definitely recommend reading Developing Programs in Adult Education: A Conceptual Programming Model. Understand that it is packed with research and it is very academic in nature. It will take time to read and digest it; however, the lessons are worth digesting.