Postmodernism describes a way of thinking which has become pervasive in the Western world and has influenced education over the last generation. Postmodernists believe that truth is an artificial illusion, misused by people and special interest groups in order to gain power over others. In essence, this philosophy describes the world we live in today as being uncertain and untrusting. Following postmodern thinking, the purpose of education shifts from teaching academic knowledge and skills to providing for learning environments where students construct their own knowledge.
Post-modernism argues that no two persons will take away the same message from, for example, a lecture because of their different life experiences; and, no one perspective is more valid than any other perspective. Basically, postmodernism is the idea that there are multiple perspectives, interpretations, and truths. I believe postmodernism philosophy holds the promise of a complete and adequate scientific base for the nursing profession. This is because postmodernism challenges current dominant ways of understanding and does not place philosophy in a defined box or category. In fact, everything is contested and what has been considered true can be questioned, which can open up opportunities for alternative reflections that lead to change. Postmodern learners exist under the dogma of diversity, fluidity, illusionary, and contested reality. Life is fragmented with disruptions, personal experiences, and learning paradigms that no longer meet the needs of the adult learner. This postmodern dyad of the educator and adult learner, where boundaries are flexible, is built on collaboration, facilitation, socialization, and contextualize. The educator becomes the facilitator that integrates content and curricula through a holistic approach which builds upon the learner’s prior knowledge.
Constructivism, the main underlying learning theory in postmodern education, states that there are multiple meanings and interpretations leading to multiple truths and realities which exist simultaneously. The constructivist philosophy has roots in a number of disciplines including philosophy, anthropology, psychology, sociology, and education and is embedded in learning theories advanced by Dewey, Piaget, Vygotsky, Bruner, and Glasersfeld. The essence of constructivism is the active construction of new knowledge by the learner based on their lived experiences. To put it another way, a constructivist learning situation would allow a learner to use their prior knowledge and beliefs in order to build upon newly learned experiences. A lack of understanding of multiple perspectives of knowing by educators can result in disregarding other ways of knowing and learning. If educators understand multiple perspectives of knowing and learning, given that many different cultural groups are represented in the classroom, can result in a more meaningful and relevant teaching and learning experience. This requires us to consider the end of the traditional role between teacher and student and the diffusion of power between the two. Another postmodernist notion focus is on that of self. The self in modern times is understood as being unified, integrated, and authentic as opposed to the postmodernist view of multiple, ever-changing, and fragmented. Further, a postmodern perspective of the self-allows for understanding and fostering diversity within the lives of adult learners.
Postmodernism describes a way of thinking that has become very pervasive in the Western world over the last generation. The postmodern approach to learning was founded upon the contention that there is not just one kind of learner, or one goal for learning, or one way in which learning takes place, or one particular environment where learning occurs. This new era of thinking allows for an approach to knowledge and learning that can equip adult educators with frameworks to navigate a changing venue of adult education. This thought process aligns with the learning theories which focuses on learning as an experience of self.