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In Defense of Norm Circles: A New Normative Foundation for Adult Education

, Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

IJAVET Volume 5, Number 2, ISSN 1947-8607 Publisher: IGI Global


According to Michael Welton, because of its capacity to support social learning, critical adult education has a pivotal role to play in human emancipation. Drawing on Jürgen Habermas's critical theory of communicative action, Welton argues that critical adult education's deepest contemporary purpose is to foster social learning that can enable people to resist the destructive colonization of lifeworld contexts. This paper argues that, while Habermas provides important insight into the normative foundations of critical adult education, his theory of communicative action does not possess an ontology that can sufficiently illuminate the ways human learning shapes and is shaped by lifeworld contexts. The emergent ontology of critical realism, the paper argues, especially as mobilized by sociologist, Dave Elder-Vass in his discussion of norm circles, provides an additional theoretical basis for enabling critical adult education to realize its fullest emancipatory potential.


Plumb, D. (2014). In Defense of Norm Circles: A New Normative Foundation for Adult Education. International Journal of Adult Vocational Education and Technology, 5(2), 45-59. IGI Global. Retrieved January 25, 2020 from .