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University of Central Oklahoma (405) 974-2972 Adult Education & Safety Sciences CTL 221 , Box 206

Teaching Philosophy

Ed Cunliff


Philosophical Grounding - In my field of adult and higher education, I draw on many sources and those continue to expand and contract and morph. There are five core sources that continue to shape my understanding of and my philosophy of education: adult learning theory, transformative learning, radical educational theory, Bloom’s taxonomy, and currently MBE (mind – brain – education) or neuroscience.


From adult learning I take the idea that adults want to be involved, are motivated intrinsically, and bring great information and skills to the circle. I deviate from many traditionalists in adult education in that I hold profound respect for the value and importance of experience of youth as well. This valuing youth has taken me down a path where I find myself completely re-thinking adult education principles and thinking more in terms of respecting individuals rather than distinguishing between adults and youth. Still in process on this.


Transformative learning says to me that learning is more than just gaining more knowledge and skill and that it involves an openness to change, to see and experience the world differently, to take the diversity that exists around us and to intentionally include pieces into who we are. As I look at transformation with an understanding of Kuhn’s concept of scientific revolutions and paradigm shifts, then transformative learning must be considered as a deep learning process associated with reinterpreting meaning.


The works of bell hooks, Paulo Freire and John Dewey are important as they remind me of the strong connection between educational process and democracy and social change. I strongly believe that education of the public is necessary for a healthy, functioning democracy in which citizens are thoughtfully involved.


Bloom’s taxonomy describes my hope for learners to move beyond memorization to higher levels of synthesis and creativity in their thought processes. My hope for graduate and under-graduate students is that they become creators of knowledge and information.


The improvements in the science of the brain can impact the way we learn and facilitate learning. We are discovering more about MBE that can be of great assistance, but will challenge some old paradigms regarding education. I’m learning and incorporating elements of neuroscience into my educational way of life. These are significant elements of my philosophy of education.


I am currently studying as much as I can in the neuroscience of learning and I make a point of sharing what I learn with students and colleagues. This is an exciting area of study and I bring small pieces into my practice – currently in terms of intentionality, physical engagement and mindfulness. I’m pleased to have been involved with a faculty learning community for over four years now that has explored this area and is looking towards the creation of an Embodied Brain Institute of some sorts. I strongly believe that this will reframe many of our educational practices in the future.


While I have many hopes for students (especially reaching their educational goals), I do hope that their work with me will support them as thoughtful, intentional learners and as critical thinkers. Those two skills, I believe, will greatly help them in their educational and life journeys.

Education and Certifications


1983                University of Oklahoma                                                      Norman, OK

                        Ph.D. in Adult and Community Education, minor in Administration                       

1974                 University of Oklahoma                                                        Norman, OK

                         M.A. in Human Relations, emphasis in Organizational Development and Counseling

1969                DePauw University                                                         Greencastle, IN

                        B.A. in Spanish, emphasis in Education and Sociology

1967 – 68         University of Madrid, Spain

                         with Indiana University

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