Innovative Higher Education

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 19-29

First online:

Creating learning environments conducive to change: The role of fear/safety in the adult learning process

  • Thomas E. Sappington

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This paper addresses the adult educator's responsibility to establish an emotionally safe learning environment. Such a climate enables students to address constructively the fears they bring to the learning event. This empowers the learner to risk change-the goal of adult education. The research of Maslow, Rogers, Knowles, and Freire supports an atmosphere of mutual respect as the key to adult learning. Trainers/Teachers of adults were interviewed to identify the kinds of fears that adults bring to the learning event. This paper explores the attitudes and techniques used by the facilitator to create an atmosphere of respect.