In the 2010 movie The King’s Speech, Prince Albert, the second son of King George V, struggles with a speech impediment, particularly when speaking publicly. His wife secures the help of a speech therapist, Lionel Logue, who first shows the prince that the problem can be overcome. Over the course of time, the Lionel and Prince Albert get to the root causes of the prince’s stammering and find strategies that help him cope with it (Brett & Hooper, 2010).
As second son of the king, Prince Albert is not expected to take the throne, but his older brother abdicates to marry a twice-divorced woman, something the Church refused to accept. Prince Albert ascends the throne and becomes King George VI. Although the speech problem is not entirely cured, Logue helps the new king deliver his wartime speeches using the strategies the two of them devised (Brett & Hooper, 2010).
An Education Model
The King’s Speech was intended as a biographical piece about the relationship between King George VI and his speech therapist, Australian Lionel Logue. The movie does, however, serve as an example of an unusual adult learning situation by showing the interplay of self-directed learning, transformational learning, and experiential learning.
With self-directed learning, the student takes charge of the learning process and demonstrates a certain level of autonomy (Merriam, Cafferella, & Baumgartner, 2007).
At the start of the movie, Prince Albert, the future King George VI, has already been to many different physicians in an effort to clear up a difficult stammer. He would like very much to sound as fluent as his father expects of him (Brett & Hooper, 2010).
Merriam, Cafferella, and Baumgartner (2007) cite Boucouvalas’ perspective that not all people seek autonomy in all situations. Some want homonomy, the opportunity to become part of a greater whole. Prince Albert demonstrates this desire for homonomy. He wants to fit in and be known for more than the stammer that has plagued him since childhood (Brett & Hooper, 2010).
His wife, Elizabeth, gets a recommendation for a somewhat unorthodox therapist. Although Prince Albert agrees to go, and after a few setbacks, actively seeks out Logue’s help, the prince used his own autonomy to set the limits for what he was and was not willing to try. Once Logue gains Prince Albert’s trust, Logue is able to convince the future king to go beyond those limitations (Brett & Hooper, 2010). Prince Albert had to demonstrate a commitment to the learning before Logue could work with him. (Merriam, Cafferella, & Baumgartner, 2007).
Transformational learning involves challenging false assumptions and coming to a better understanding that changes how we perceive ourselves and our situation (Merriam, Cafferella, and Baumgartner, 2007).
Prince Albert suffered from a stammer that he believed could not be treated until Logue used a recorder and headphones playing loud music to prove that the problem could actually be solved (Brett & Hooper, 2010). Finding the actual solutions took considerable work, but along the way, Logue served several capacities as an educator. He kept pointing out false assumptions, encouraging his client to persist, suggesting new strategies, and providing support in the difficult situations.
Merriam, Cafferella, and Baumgartner (2007) give an overview of a detailed process proposed by Mezirow for transformational learning. Prince Albert went through this process with the exception of one step.
First, the prince encountered a problem, his persistent stammer. This brought him to the second step: a fear of public speaking and shame for an inability to speak clearly. With Logue’s help, he confronted the assumption that he could not overcome the speech impediment when Logue had him read Shakespeare with loud headphones on. This is the third step. For the fourth step, Prince Albert found out he was not alone when Logue told him about helping shell-shocked World War I soldiers. Next, through trials and challenges, the two became good friends and found ways they could get around the prince’s problem. Finally, with Logue’s help, Prince Albert was able to deliver an important speech with minimal errors. The missing step was that, according to the movie, Prince Albert did not become an advocate for people with his condition.
The experiential models uses prior experience to help interpret new experiences (Merriam, Cafferella, and Baumgartner, 2007).
In the early phases of the movie, Prince Albert recognized his need for help, but he was not willing to work with Logue and his weird ideas. Kolb, as cited in Merriam, Cafferella, and Baumgartner (2007), says that the first thing needed for experiential learning is a willingness on the part of the student.
In keeping with Kolb and Kolb’s propositions, as cited in Merriam, Cafferella, and Baumgartner (2007), learning was simply a means, not a solution. Prince Albert, who later became King George VI, never overcame the stammer. He and Logue kept revisiting the techniques they found that would work as a means to deal with the fear of public speaking.
Logue was a coach for a specific skill and he used practice situations to get the king ready for his public speaking occasions.
Interactions Among the Models
The three models did not operate in isolation. Prince Albert and his speech therapist used elements of all three in finding ways to deal with the prince’s speech difficulties. Logue’s use of various strategies helped the reluctant king find the means to deal with his difficulties in a useful way.
Brett, P. (Executive Producer) & Hooper, T. (Director). (2010). The king’s speech. [Motion Picture] United Kingdom: The Weinstein Company.
Merriam, S. B., Caffarella, R. S., & Baumgartner, L. M. (2007). Learning in adulthood: A comprehensive guide (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.