The early educational practitioners realized the significant differences between adult education and the education of younger people. Consequently, adult educations programs were theoretically scrutinized and redesigned to meet the needs of the adult population. Currently, most of the educational programs that are targeting adults are increasingly being planned to ensure quality education for this particular social group (Merriam and Caffarella, 1999, p.47).
The history of the contemporary adult educational program models dates back to the periods when the Veteran administration public schools were formed in the 1930s during the great depression. Throughout the 20th century, adult educational programs continued to develop along various disciplinary lines and, therefore, affected the larger organizations (Knowles, 1980, p.70). Some of the notable disciplines that contributed to the growth of these programs included psychology, philosophy, and sociology. For example, the early philosophers attempted to synchronize the theories of adult learning with the learning models through experimental learning. One of the most significant practitioners who championed the use of learning philosophy as a basis of adult learning programs was John Dewey. Dewey particularly pioneered the sub-field of reflective learning which eventually brought a number of new experiences to adult educational theories and perspectives. According to Dewey (1963), “learning is a lifelong process and individuals continue to learn new things and grow throughout their life times” (p.19). This view, however, contradicted the previous view that both growth and learning processes are finite and diminish once an individual has reached adulthood. Dewey also proposed that learning can only take place best within an institutional setting which does not obstruct any experience, and, therefore, learning environments should be designed to create new experiences and develop personality of the learners. The current workshop model of adult education programs is largely built on Dewey’s ideas. The modern models of adult educational programs have also been significantly shaped by developmental psychology, particularly through the use of social psychological theories of adult learning and development. According to these theories, adults are psychologically different from the normal young college students who are often in their adolescence ages. Consequently, the adult educational program models should demand a relatively different learning structure. For example, the theory of psychological development suggests that personality development occurs throughout the life span of an individual. As a person grows and matures, there is often a desire for new meanings which naturally is absent in childhood. On the other hand, Havinghurst (1971, p17) believed that the learning processes of adults are largely shaped by their subconscious social developmental tasks such as their need to find a mate, quest of how to live with a partner, how to develop their career goals, and how to establish their civic responsibilities. According to this perspective, adults can only learn best when they use learning programs that motivate and allow them to learn new behaviors that will enable them to achieve these task demands. Similarly, other moral development model of adult education programs were developed on the basis of the demands of cognitive development in adults.