Ronald Gross will be honored for lifetime achievement in the field of self-directed learning as the 2013 recipient of the Malcolm S. Knowles Memorial Award of the International Society for Self-Directed Learning. He will receive the award at the society’s 27th annual symposium in Cocoa Beach, Florida, February 6-8, 2013.
The award citation states that "Gross has devoted his life and career to advancing lifelong, self-directed learning -- through his teaching, publishing, consulting, grant-funded programs and projects, entrepreneurship, professional speaking, activism, innovation, and research."
Currently, Gross co-chairs the University Seminar on Innovation in Education at Columbia University, where he also holds regular Socratic Conversations with students and faculty. (www.columbiaseminar.org)
Gross' contributions to the field began in 1977 with the publication of The Lifelong Learner (Simon and Schuster), which was acclaimed by educational and social thinkers including Alvin Toffler, Isaac Asimov, Clark Kerr, John Gardner, Herbert Kohl, John Holt, and Eda LeShan. Feminist author Caroline Bell wrote that the book "tells you where and how the important things are really learned…it is guaranteed to make the world teach you what you really want to know." Nat Hentoff said, "This is a guide that can change lives. Ronald Gross' own zest for learning has led him to give the rest of us a marvelous handbook for self-education." Ivan Illich called the book "not only radical but eminently practical: a rare combination."
Gross has brought this vision of lifelong learning to major associations, corporations, and government agencies through more than 200 keynote speeches and featured workshops for organizations ranging from the American Academy of Family Physicians to Xerox. He has applied the principles and methodologies of self-directed learning to achieving peak performance and maximizing human potential in diverse fields and throughout the lifespan, from childhood to old age, and in the major professions, through more than 30 major publications. Among them are:
- Future Directions for Open Learning (National Institute of Education)
- A Review of Innovative Approaches to College Teaching (American Accounting Association)
- The Arts and the Poor: New Challenge for Educators (U.S. Office of Education)
- The New Professionals (Simon and Schuster)
- Radical School Reform (Simon and Schuster)
- The New Old: Struggling for Decent Aging (Doubleday)
- The Children’s Rights Movement (Doubleday)
- Individualism (Delacorte)
Gross' most widely used book in lifelong learning and adult education is Peak Learning: How to Create Your Own Lifelong Education Program for Personal Enlightenment and Professional Success (1990), which was so successful that it was re-issued in 1999 "revised and updated for the new century."
Socrates' Way: Seven Master Keys to Using Your Mind to the Utmost (Penguin/Tarcher, 2005) used the archetypal educator as a model of self-directed learning, with his principles of Ask Questions, Think for Yourself, Challenge Convention, Know Thyself, Seek the Truth, and Learn with Friends (www.SocratesWay.com). The book has been published in many countries, including Poland, Spain, China, Greece, Mexico, Canada, and Portugal. Based on it, Gross has appeared as Socrates, with major feature coverage wherever he appears, including the San Francisco Chronicle, New York Times, Boston Globe, and others.
As a regular columnist for several publications, Gross has popularized and applied self-directed learning for practitioners in several fields: in the field of adult education over five years for Adult and Continuing Education Today; in the field of meeting and convention management over five years for Convene, the official publication of the Professionals Convention Management Association; and currently for a wider general readership as senior contributor to About.com, the web portal owned by The New York Times, which has 69 million monthly visitors in the U.S. [About.com was sold to Ask.com in 2012]
Gross has also championed self-directed learning at the most advanced levels -- intellectual, scholarly, and scientific -- in his encouragement of independent scholarship. Starting as senior consultant in 1981-83 for The College Board's then-new Office of Adult Learning Services, he published two books impelling that movement: Independent Scholarship: Promise, Problems, and Prospects, and The Independent Scholar’s Handbook, and he organized the first national conference in the field, which led to the formation of the National Association of Independent Scholars. Buckminster Fuller wrote about this work:
"If humanity is to pass safely through its present crisis on earth, it will be because a majority of individuals are now doing their own thinking. Ronald Gross' Independent Scholarship Project has pioneered in improving the climate for such thinking in the United States."
At the community level, Gross has worked with the public libraries to create and offer Lively Minds, an innovative and award-winning program which he developed for the Nassau (NY) Library System under grants from the Library Services and Construction Act.
Gross has espoused and taught self-directed learning throughout the world, under diverse auspices including in Europe for the European Foundation for Management Development, in the Far East for UNESCO, and in Israel for the Rothschild Foundation.
He has had widespread experience as a consultant, grant awardee, and foundation official, serving at The Ford Foundation, the Fund for the Advancement of Education, and the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies, and has received grants and awards from the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education, the New York State Education Department, the Philip M. Stern Fund, the Northwest Area Foundation, and the American Hellenic Education Association. He was the associate director of the presidentially-appointed National Commission on Instructional Technology.
Most recently, in 2012 Gross co-founded two new organizations: Conversations New York, a non-profit to encourage and facilitate self-directed learning via community-based discussions throughout Greater New York, as a model for replication in other U.S. cities (www.conversationsnewyork.com); and a consultancy, Life Review and Creative Aging, to foster and support self-directed learning among older adults, under a grant from the Greentree Fund (www.olderbetterwiser.com).
The highly-esteemed award is presented annually by the International Society for Self-Directed Learning to honor Malcolm Knowles for his pioneering contributions to the study and practice of self-direction in learning and to recognize others who have made significant lifelong contributions to the field of self-directed learning.