I spent about a week going through “The Art of Teaching Adults” by Peter Renner.
I picked it up because it was available at my local library and because the title was pretty spot-on with what I was looking for. I was expecting a nice overview of the field, and I pretty much got one. Renner defines “the field” a little differently than I do – he doesn’t relate anything specifically to English Language Learners, or even to remedial education in general, but his discussion was still useful to me.
As Jen mentions in two comments, Renner seems to go back and forth between “educational miopia” and “practical and helpful ideas.” (Jen, I’m not 100% sure I know what you mean by ‘educational myopia’, but I’m about to go off on my own interpretation. Feel free to hit the comments to add your two cents as it was intended.) I see him as myopic in two ways – in that he doesn’t really seem to say anything new or see beyond his time, and in that he’s looking closely to dissect but not necessarily at the big picture. These limitations worked pretty well for me – I needed some reflection of the time and some small bites of methods and techniques. And Renner does a great job of citing some big-picture people his work is derived from.
In fact, I’d say that one of the chief values of this book for me was that it was a gateway. Renner introduced me to other authors’ work, noted his discussion pretty thoroughly, and I’ve been able to identify and include works on my syllabus that I want to peruse. I’m considering making note of his whole bibliography for future reference – we’ll see.
You should know that I’m going to have frustrations with pretty much any book I read. I’m picky. One of my chief frustrations with this book was when I felt his content to page-space ratio was page-space-heavy. At times I also found myself wondering about his editor – why was Renner allowed to write fluff (i.e. his discussion of Kolb’s learning style inventory), include “classic concepts” where they made no sense (i.e. an overview of underlying assumptions of adult education at the end of a chapter focused on overhead projector how-tos), and focus on silly content (i.e. when to throw out markers) while glossing over key content (i.e. how to plan an effective lesson)? Aren’t editors there to help authors avoid these kinds of things?
Despite some frustrating moments, this book was valuable to me for its introduction to the field, its bibliography, and its concrete ideas for running an adult class.