Lesson Planning Components: Characteristics of Adult Learners
“Adult learners come with a variety of experiences, both in terms of working life and educational backgrounds. This impacts on how and why they participate in learning.” (Wynne, Rhonda, p.1).
Connecting with all adult students based on their individual diversities is challenging. However, applying Knowles’ Theory of Andragogy reminds me of the commonalities all adults share. Providing reason(s) why they need to learn something, applying as much task-oriented or experimental learning as possible, communicating clearly to avoid confusion and being there “to provide guidance and help when mistakes are made” (eLearning Industry, p.5), but allowing adult students to be part of the learning experience supports successful engagement and learning.
Wynne, Rhonda. Learner Centred Methodologies: Characteristics of Adult Learners. Asset Project Info, Socrates Education and Culture. http://www.assetproject.info/learner_methodologies/before/characteristics.htm.
eLearning Industry (May 09, 2013). The Adult Learning Theory – Andragogy – of Malcolm Knowles. http://www.slideshare.net/elearningindustry/the-adult-learning-theory-andragogy-of-malcolm-knowles
Lesson Planning Components: Creating a Positive Learning Environment
Creating a positive learning environment for all of your adult students is so important. When an adult student enters your classroom for the first time, a first impression of you develops. They study your personality and how you communicate and conduct yourself as their educator. The classroom rules you establish regarding acceptable behavior, expectations and consequences will be a measure of how fair, supportive, approachable and understanding you are. Establishing yourself as a potentially positive influence in your adult students’ eyes will provide a willingness on their part to participate in and support this positive learning environment you intend to establish.
Lesson Planning Components: Instructional Process/Strategies
The effectiveness of your teaching has a direct correlation with the instructional process/strategies you apply in creating your lesson plans for adult students. At the beginning of each lesson plan, you must remember to include the reason(s) as to why they must learn something. To support continuous active learning, lesson plans should vary in their structure to avoid dullness, boredom and limited attention-span. From the beginning to the end of the lesson plan, adult students should be engaged, able to understand and retain the information they have learned and provide themselves with a direct link from the knowledge learned to the relevancy and benefit it serves their individual needs.
Lesson Planning Components: Media (possible considerations)
The use of media within the classroom allows an adult educator the unlimited power and resources to be as creative as they want to be. Adult students welcome a classroom where the presentation and structure of lesson plans varies. Media allows an adult educator the ability to touch on all types of learning styles, therefore avoiding student boredom and effectively teaching and catching the attention of all students within the class. Whether it be with the use of video, PowerPoint, simulations, interesting handouts or online resources, the more creative and flexible you are in your teaching; the more enthusiastic and engaging your students will be to learn.
Lesson Planning Components: Motivational Techniques
Motivational techniques you apply in the classroom will be a true measure of how effective your teaching is and how engaged and successful your adult students will be. Keeping your adult students excited about learning, knowing that they enjoy and find value in attending your class every day, allowing them to be responsible and contribute to their learning, showing them the relevance of what they are learning and being supportive, honest and sincere in your teachings and how you conduct yourself as their educator will contribute not only to the success of your students, but you as an effective educator.
Trends and Roles Blog: The Web-Conference Experience
As a student, web-conferencing with fellow classmates has been supportive on so many levels.
Upon our first contact, we learned that along with the essays and assignments we have completed so far regarding the reasons why adults are returning to classroom; our own reasons were not different.
Both of us identified that we are at “turning point in our lives”, identifying that we have been in the workforce for many years and are now hoping to re-invent ourselves into a role of teacher, instructor or mentor; sharing our knowledge and experience and offering guidance and support to others.
We learned that as adults, it can be somewhat difficult to juggle our personal lives; our commitments and responsibilities while trying to successfully complete courses. A learning experience that has developed an increased awareness and compassion to what an adult learner faces as they might enter our classroom once we become teachers.
Our mutual support for each other has been a positive attribute that continues to assist us both in completing the assignments for this course. Sharing ideas and points of view regarding the course assignments and projects has been extremely helpful, but we also have developed a mutual cheering squad, bringing each other up when we find ourselves personally challenged with the workload.
Trends and Roles Blog:
Why Is There An Increasing Trend Of Adults Returning To The Classroom?
Whether you blame it on technological advances, the women’s liberation movement, market impacts, the increase in regulations, rules and certification or changing business operating philosophies, there is an increase in adults returning to the classroom.
Thirty years ago or more, most North Americans completed their schooling at a high school level and immediately entered the work force. Going back to school was never something they would consider after they received their high school diploma. Today, things have definitely changed and whether it’s a one day workshop, college, university or technical program or two day certification training; adults are returning to the classroom setting in one form or another.
“The number of adults (defined as aged 25 to 64) attending school full time more than tripled between October 1976 to October 1996.” (Statistics Canada, Autumn 1997 Perspectives, p. 32). Although these statistics only take us to 1996, we can see the trend starting to erupt with the numbers continuing to rise with every year that passes. Another study reported over the past “two decades, adult learners have comprised close to 40 percent of the college-going population, spanning a range of backgrounds and experiences.” (American Council of Education, http://www.acenet.edu/higher-education/topics/Pages/Adult-Learners.aspx)
Whether it be full-time or part-time, a short term or long term program, there are many reasons why adults learners (defined as between the ages of 25 to 64) are returning to a classroom setting in one form or another. This essay will provide the reasons why based on the adult learners’ personal perceptions.
My Employer Requires It and Other Work Related Reasons
The increase in provincial and federal rules and regulations governing safety and other required certification demands that employers have workers that are trained and knowledgeable in their workplace. Required technical aspects such as WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System), Transportation of Dangerous Goods, Power Engineering – Class One Steam “Ticket”, Journeyman Trade “Tickets (i.e.: Electrical or Pipefitting) and Forklift Operator Certification are just a few of the examples of the many training programs that are required at a federal or provincial level. An employer that cannot provide documented proof of its employees’ specific training and certification could result in huge monetary fines and penalties.
Employers also identify the need for other types of educational training for their employees based on a “human relations” and behavioral approach. The development of human rights legislation and labor laws have forced employers to take a look at the workplace they provide for their employees. Recognizing personal weaknesses, lack of understanding or neglect and ways to improve the working environment has developed into structured instruction and teaching environments specific to their employees’ needs. Whether in the form of a day, weekend or short-term workshops; employers are focusing on topics such as: stress reduction in the workplace, dealing with difficult co-workers, supervisory skills, human rights and labor law in the workplace or conflict resolution. All of these workshops are aimed to personally enrich and empower employees; improving and positively impacting the workplace environment on many different levels.
I Want More Money
“Improving one’s work prospects (and possible wage increase) is clearly the most pervasive and dominant reason for going back to school. At least 76 percent (of respondents) and specifically, 90 percent of men over 40” gave this type of response regarding their personal motivation to return to an educational environment. (Statistics Canada, Autumn 1997 Perspectives, p. 33).
It isn’t difficult to understand that post-secondary education in a specific field; whether academic, technical or vocational does increase an adult’s monetary wage potential.
Along with the strong portion of men over 40 returning to an education environment, so is the prospect of single parents that are faced with the challenge of raising children and supporting a household on one income. Another large group of adult learners that are returning to school are those between the ages of 25 to 32. Living under their parents’ roof and holding a minimum wage job while in high school afforded them all the comforts at home while having a small portion of disposable income at their fingertips. However, once on their own they consider their minimum wage job more of a hindrance; providing unforeseen roadblocks and preventing them from obtaining those “finer things in life” such as a home, vehicle, vacation travel or possibly starting a family. All three groups of adult learners will consider returning to school as an option to improve their job prospects and raise their employment worth. For most adult students returning to the classroom, “attending school played an important part in their vision for the future lives.” (Zachary, Elizabeth, p. 2)
Education Is So Easy To Access Now
Gone are the days where anyone craving a need to return to school had no other choice but to physically quit their jobs, relocate to another town or city and attend classes at specific times and specific locations. “Full-time studies require a commitment of both time and money, often in short supply, especially when family obligations vie for attention”. (Statistics Canada, Autumn 1997 Perspectives, p. 32).
Adult learners are more motivated to return to school now as access to higher education is abundant in so many forms. An adult learner can still physically attend day classes on a college or university campus, but they can also take advantage of a less stringent learning environment where they can complete courses in the evening or from the comfort of their own homes and on their own time through correspondence or “on-line”. This has opened the doors for the majority of adult learners who have personal commitments such as family, existing jobs or other demands that cannot afford them the time; or the money to relocate or attend classes in a much more formal structured setting.
Building Self Confidence and Improving Social Skills
Many adult students return to the classroom for personal reasons such as building self- confidence and improving their social skills. “For many adult students; not having completed or furthered their education made them feel less comfortable about their abilities. By returning to school, they felt more confident about their intelligence, developed a more positive self-image and felt more comfortable interacting in their social world. Just physically returning to school was having a tangible effect on their lives”. (Zachary, Elizabeth, p. 1).
For some adult students, learning disabilities or weaknesses in specific subjects left them with bitter memories and stories of disappointing struggles regarding their elementary or high school experiences. These weaknesses in subjects such as reading, spelling or math have continued to hamper them in their adult years. Many adult students have returned to the classroom setting to give “it another chance” – hoping to improve these academic skills and gain a comfort level within social settings, employment settings and within their own homes with their families. In paper written by Elizabeth Zachary, her interviews with three specific adult students said it best:
“As Donald put it, he came back to school to “not be a fool – or let anyone call him a fool.”
“Jill explained that her increased academic skills helped her feel more confident filling out job applications and more comfortable working with her son and his homework; who is in advanced classes at school.”
“Randy urges, “I can pick up a book and read. There were a lot of times when I couldn’t do that. Now I feel better about myself.” (Zachary, Elizabeth, p. 2).
Self-Enrichment & Life Changes
Under this category, there are three prevalent reasons why adults may return to the classroom:
1) To satisfy a need or desire to learn something new or develop skills and knowledge in a subject that they find interesting or fascinating. Art, history, financial investing or psychology are just many of the different subjects that adult learners will take on “simply by doing it for educational enrichment and self-improvement”. (Adult Education Blog, p. 1)
2) They become “concerned about community, climate change, or other social issues and want to learn how to become more positively active in the community.” (Adult Education Blog, p. 1). In today’s educational landscape, there are many subjects available to adult students that are interested in social, political or environmental issues.
3) Some adults (once they are in their 40’s) come to a mental “cross-roads” in their life where they begin to reflect on their career and find themselves feeling restless and unsatisfied with their current job or position. “A midlife career change is a very common thing. Most people this age look back and realize how hard they’ve worked and now their work is void of growth and development. Oh course, they are feeling the desire to take on a new career.” (Glover, Susan, p. 1). Adults over 40 recognize that they are reaching the last chapter in their employment career and crave for something new, more enriching and enjoyable and self-fulfilling. Other adults in this age group crave a career change in hopes to “slow down a little”. They feel they have proven themselves, climbed that corporate ladder or accomplished enough in their career that they wish to end it on a more relaxed note; literally coasting slowly into the employment sunset. They do not desire to “impress others” with continuing to work a 50+ hour work week or engaging in the office politics. They want less responsibilities, less decision making and more time to spend with family, friends and doing the things they enjoy most.
More Adults Returning To the Classroom –
Successfully Addressing and Accommodating This Trend in the Classroom
As an adult educator, one must consider the challenges of adult students and offer support to assist this group in successfully completing their educational needs.
The personal life of an adult student requires a fine balance between one’s studies, family life, present employment and other personal commitments. As adult educators we must be sympathetic to these challenges. One way in which I found to be an effective educator in this environment is to reduce the amount of “take home assignments, projects and homework” and schedule as many required student assignments to be completed during classroom hours. Adult students appreciate the fact that I recognize the external pressures and responsibilities they have outside the classroom and in turn; effectively utilize their classroom time to study and complete assignments. Another benefit is that since I have altered my curriculum to support their needs, they see appreciate this as a sign of support and are increasingly committed to the class.
The underlying need for soft skills in the work force is one that I’ve observed in my twenty-nine years of employment in the industrial field. In today’s employment environment, adult students returning to the classroom also require soft skills knowledge and education such as communication, effectively listening skills or dealing with difficult behaviors, to effectively perform and be successful in obtaining a solid job position. To assist adult students in becoming “a successful communicator” and being able to work well within a group, I’ve designed some student assignments to be completed as “group assignments” of varied sizes, some with two students working together, others with five students and one group large assignment completed by a group of eight to ten students. These experiences of having to complete projects with a varying number of classmates, helps to develop the soft skills of adult students and their ability to work with others.
There is no such thing as “being too old to learn” and an adult’s craving to continually educate his or her self does help one to feel more active, more engaged and more involved. When returning to the classroom, some adult learners already have a career chosen or goal in mind. Others, without realizing it, may become so engaged in the study of a specific subject that he or she might be paving the road for a career change.
“As far as health, it is known that the human brain benefits from environments rich in novel and complex stimuli, and by actively participating in society and taking on personally relevant roles, people find meaning and purpose, which gives them a reason to get up in the morning and pursue new challenges. So, go back to school and get some meaning in your life.” (Adult Education Blog, p. 1).
Adult Education Blog (2013). Adult Education Blog: Top 15 Reasons Why Adults Go Back To School. Adult Education Classes, http://adulteducationclasses.org/2012/top-15-reasons-adults-go-back-to-school/.
American Council of Education (2013). Adult Learners. http://www.acenet.edu/higher-education/topics/Pages/Adult-Learners.aspx).
Glover, Susan (2010-2012). Career Change after 40: Top Reasons Why People Change, Do You Fit? Effective Positive Thinking.Com, http://www.effective-positive-thinking.com/career-change-after-40.html.
Statistics Canada (1997). Autumn 1997 Perspectives. Catalogue no. 75-001-XPE.
Zachary, Elizabeth (Spring 2002). In Their Own Words: Why Adults Return To School. System for Adult Basic Education Support. http://www.sabes.org/publications/fieldnotes/vol11/f14zachry.htm.
New Insights – The Variety Of Roles An Adult Educator Plays
An adult educator has additional challenges when placed into the role of teaching adult students.
When teaching young students at the elementary or high school level, there is an assumption that each student has followed a set criteria that consistently and constantly takes them from one grade to another for a minimum of twelve to thirteen years. Within this twelve to thirteen year interval, they are constantly exposed to a “classroom” environment where not only have they developed a physical comfort level with familiar surroundings, but have already established study and homework habits early on. Last but not least; the majority of young students have a minimum level of external responsibilities that allows them to focus the majority of their attention to the educational demands within the elementary or high school institutions.
Unfortunately, these luxuries are not the same for adult learners and adult educators. The goal of this post is to address the variety of roles an adult educator must play to engage, guide and support adult learners through and to the end of their successful educational experience.
Role 1 – The Educator Multi-Tasker
The learning curve in your classroom is as individual as each adult student. The time in which adult students have physically been in a classroom setting ranges from last year to over twenty years ago. The different levels of past education is another concern an adult educator must take into account with adult learners. Some are high school graduates, other may have completed or had post educational experience or possibly, some of your adult learners may have only completed a level of high school education such as grade eight, ten or eleven. As an adult educator you must understand and successfully bring everyone to a comfort level as such that the educational experience doesn’t leave someone struggling and left behind the others students. Along with these concerns, you must also recognize the strengths and weaknesses of each adult student that may discourage him or her from completing assignments or course requirements. Some have english as a second language making it difficult to read through or complete written assignments and tests and others may have difficulty reading or understanding basic math applications.
The learning styles of each of your adult students is diverse as well. Some learn best through reading text books, some through the use of visual tools such as videos or power point presentations and others through interactive “hands on” practical methods. As an educator it’s best to take the time; making valuable observations and getting to know the effective teaching applications and methods that will work well for each of your adult students.
It’s up to you as an adult educator to be sympathetic to the individual learning needs of each of your adult students and work with them to provide a comfortable learning environment that provides continuous encouragement in the classroom. We want to encourage students to learn, improve their self-confidence so as to overcome their classroom fears and feel victory when they conquer past educational weaknesses or negative experiences. We want to prevent adult students from becoming discouraged, withdrawn, or frustrated as so much that they have no desire to complete the course requirements.
Role 2 – Goal Provider
Young students in the elementary or high school level usually do not question why they are learning and typically just follow instructions provided by a teacher. The same does not apply to adult learners. Adult learners need to know why they are learning about a specific topic and to what benefit does this learning provide them. Adult students are usually at a point in their lives where time is of the essence and everything they are required to learn must provide a goal, purpose or reason behind it. Does this learning provide possible improvement in one’s personal income? Does this education provide required government or provincial requirements or regulations for one to do their job? With every topic or course, adult students continue to ask, “what and why does this specific topic have to be learned?” and “how does it benefit me in the long run?”
These are just some of the questions your adult students will ask. It is up to you as an adult educator to provide the valid and valuable reasons behind the learning. Once an adult student understands the value and benefits of what they are learning, they will be encouraged to learn and become increasingly interested and engaged in the topic at hand.
Role 3 – Understanding and Inspirational Counsellor
Many adult learners have additional external demands and pressures that make it quite difficult for one juggle everything on their plate. Along with the demands in the classroom to attend, study or complete assignments, many adult students also have the additional responsibilities of jobs, paying bills, raising children or other personal commitments that can sometimes make them feel that they have taken too much on. As educators, we must be understanding and compassionate to each adult student’s personal dynamic. Of course, we must maintain a professional educator/learner relationship with our adult students and most definitely there are deadlines and expectations that we educators must establish pertaining to the course curriculum, expectations, assignment completion dates and test or exam dates. However, we need to maintain a level of understanding and compassion for the pressures adult students may have. Get to know your adult students, learn a little about their personal lives that will give you some perspective on the type of individuals they are and the external demands they juggle. Support them by verbally acknowledging how tough it can be to “do it all” and encourage them by helping to solidify effective studying habits; even offering additional educational support and resources if required. Implementing the use of group discussions and group assignments is another positive tool utilized in the adult classroom. This allows the students the opportunity to familiarize themselves with their classmates and establish a comfort level within the classroom. A healthy supportive comrade established within your classroom between you and your students early on will develop into a mutually supportive team where everyone is inspired to cheer and root each other on to succeed.
Being an adult educator does require one to wear many “different hats” during the teaching process. Depending on the individual needs of your students, sometimes you are a teacher, sometimes you are a sounding board or sometimes you are a facilitator or counsellor. Your role may call on you to become creative or more flexible in the way the you teach so as to support your students in understanding the topic at hand. However, when you see your adult students succeed, when you see their confidence level grow or you bear witness to see them become victorious; overcoming past fears or learning weaknesses. The work is all worth it; the rewards are priceless.