A Learning Mashup

Emily Robinson Leclair, Community Learning Network

0 3 27 November 2023

Are you familiar with a mashup? Like me, you've probably heard one (or more) without knowing they have an official title. According to Wikipedia, "a mashup  is a creative work, usually a song, created by blending two or more pre-recorded songs, typically by superimposing the vocal track of one song seamlessly over the instrumental track of another and changing the tempo and key where necessary." Think Britney Spears and Elton John. I was inspired to try my own mashup after several recent conversations about Skills for Learning. In this blog I attempt to mash up the Literacy and Foundational Learning category, Skills for Learning, with Malcolm Knowles' Adult Learning Principles. Apologies in advance that there are no vocals, changes in tempo or actual music. 

When the CALP Guidelines became the CALP Policy Manual, we lost Appendix 10.1 Knowles’ Adult Learning Principles. Not to worry, these principles are readily accessible elsewhere, including here on the CALP Portal:

In the Building Literacy Guide, Dr. Allan Quigley explains:

Knowles built a major school of thought, what he called “andragogy,” that says adulthood needs to be seen from the viewpoint of the individual—not by society alone. Knowles said: “The psychological definition of adulthood is the point at which individuals perceive themselves to be essentially self-directing (i.e., wanting to make their own decisions for their own lives)” (1980, p.45). As he points out, “children enter the world in a condition of self-dependency…as they grow, their self-image develops…they move ever towards more independence” (p.45). While there are other views and other definitions, in this definition the two critical points for us are:

  1. At the point of adolescence and early adulthood, there is the development of a deep psychological need to be seen by others as being self-directing (pp. 44-45).
  2. Paradoxically, the experience of youth in schools…freezes them (adolescents) into self-concepts of dependency (p. 45).

Knowles’s observation is that most adults come into the classroom and sit back “waiting to be taught.” His point is that most adults re-assume a stance of learner-dependency because that is their primary frame of reference, as learned in past schooling. Certainly, schooling has a lifelong impact on all of us, but it is an important point for adult literacy.

Recently, I’ve been exploring the Literacy and Foundational Learning category, Skills for Learning, which is defined in the CALP Policy Manual as:

"Learning opportunities that support the development of the fundamental skills and habits of learning that support foundational learners to build confidence, develop an identity as a learner, advocate for themselves, and engage in foundational and other learning. While it may involve practicing a range of foundational skills, the primary intended learning objective of learning opportunities in the skills for learning category is to help learners build the following skills and habits needed to set and achieve their learning goals, be successful in further learning, and increase confidence in their ability to be a more self-directed, independent learner.

  • Recognizing oneself as a learner;
  • Taking risks in learning;
  • Actively engaging in the act of learning;
  • Developing learning strategies;
  • Building collaboration skills in learning;
  • Strengthening communication skills in learning"

I wondered if it was possible to tie the primary intended learning objectives of Skills for Learning to Malcolm Knowles' five assumptions (to create a bit of a mashup).

As a quick review, Malcolm Knowles based his theory of andragogy (Adult Learning Principles) on five assumptions that characterize adult learners:

  • Self-concept
  • Experience
  • Readiness to Learn
  • Orientation to Learning
  • Motivation to Learn

 Here's how I mashed them together:

Adult Learning Principle  Learners... Skills for Learning 
Self concept move from dependent to self-directed learner Recognizing oneself as a learner
Experience bring prior knowledge and experience to learning Building collaboration skills in learning
Readiness to Learn are physically, mentally and emotionally prepared to learn Taking risks in learning
Orientation to Learning move from hesitation to immediate application Actively engaging in the act of learning
Motivation to Learn move from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation Developing learning strategies


Not all adults come to Community Adult Learning Programs with the ability to self-direct their learning. Instead they need the support, positive reinforcement, intensity and duration that CALP learning opportunities provide to develop these Skills for Learning. As a result, many of the resources dedicated to developing Skills for Learning focus on confidence, learner identity and self-efficacy. Here are some examples from the CALP Portal:

Taking Charge (CanLearn Society)


The Taking Charge program is designed for foundational adult learners to develop self-determination attitudes, knowledge and skills while using and building their basic literacy skills. Self-determination means believing that you can have an impact on life’s events rather than life’s events having control over your life.

Taking Charge invites adult foundational learners on a learning journey that includes four main goals:

  1. Increase the foundational learners’ confidence in themselves and their abilities.
  2. Help them build positive learning identities.
  3. Talk, read, write and learn together.
  4. Promote a greater sense of aspiration for the future in adult foundational learners.

The list of topics are co-produced with program participants and based on what is important to them, but it also reflects key research in the area of self-determination and adult learning.  

Stronger (carya) 


The Stronger toolkit invites the exploration of a variety of jumping off points that are designed to support learners to build these skills for learning.

The toolkit provides ready to use, PICK & PULL sessions that can help you support participants on their journey of self-discovery and learning. You are invited to browse through the BIG IDEAS and PICK a topic that will be of interest to participants – the toolkit is flexible, adaptable and customizable. The Stronger Toolkit is divided into four main sections:

  • Taking Care of Our Time
  • Taking Care of Our Minds
  • Taking Care of Our Emotions
  • Taking Care of Our Relationships

Skills for Learning Modules (Norquest)


The Skills for Learning Learner and Facilitator materials are divided into 10 modules and each module contains:

  • Learner module - can be printed as is for your learner or pull just the activities you wish to use
  • Facilitator module - a duplicate of the learner module with additional teaching resources and information
  • PowerPoint Slides - pictures and examples from the learner modules that will help you support your students in a virtual/online setting (or in person!)

The topics covered in the modules are: Building Confidence and Self Esteem, Communication, Time Management, Study Skills, Goal Setting, Personal Change, Conflict, Problem Solving, Finding a Healthy Life Balance, Relationships and Personal Boundaries

These resources have been developed by CALP staff for CALP learners. They are intended to be adapted and modified to suit the needs of individual learners. Which resources does your CALP use when supporting the development of Skills for Learning? Please share by replying to this blog post. 

So the challenge for us as learners and as educators, is to make it possible to learn afresh. The need is for us in either role is to figure out ways to loosen the old learning that limits. Then we can explore how to create spaciousness for new learning, learning that opens fresh opportunities, not only in individuals, but more broadly in society." - Jenny Horsman, Too Scared to Learn.


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