Nutrition and Health Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Consumer Behavior in the Health Marketplace: A Symposium Proceedings, Ian M. Newman, Editor, Nebraska Center for Health Education & University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 1976.


What I would like to do is explore with you what I think we know (and I will try to separate what we know from what we speculate about, as far as I can) about the behavior in the marketplace of adults as learners. Those of you who are in health education will find relevance in terms of patient teaching, of public health education, and even in pre-service and in-service education of health educators. Those of you who are not in health education can make applications to your respective fields of work.

Let me start by developing a little historical perspective. All of the great teachers of ancient history were teachers of adults, not teachers of children. In ancient times, Confucius and Lao-tse were teachers of adults, the Hebrew prophets and Jesus were teachers of adults; the ancient Greek educators Socrates, Aristotle and Plato were teachers of adults. The great Roman teachers Cicero and Quintillian were teachers of adults. The Institute of Alexandria where Euclid worked was an adult institution which did not admit persons under 18. It is interesting, therefore, that the writings about learning, the theorizing about learning in the ancient literature, were based upon experience of teachers with adults. And what they had to say about assumptions concerning learning were actually assumptions that we are now beginning to discover are true with adults.