Traditionally adult learners are students who are pursuing education in either, college (undergraduate or graduate degrees), vocational or occupational programs, continuing education or noncredit courses, correspondence courses and tutoring, as well as courses and other educational activities provided by employers, community groups, and other providers (“Adult Learner,” 2012). The average age of an adult learner is 25 years or older, it usually is a diverse group of people (“Adult Learner,” 2012). These adult learners can be an independent student, employed full time, a person with dependents, a person who as a result of a death or divorce, is now single and wishes to complete a degree program and a veteran of the United States military (“Adult Learner,” 2012). There also the lifelong learners who generally have additional responsibilities such as family, career, military, or community, and are seeking a degree or other educational offering to enhance their professional and or personal lives (“Adult Learner,” 2012).
Education is any formally structured learning activity in which there are an instructor and curriculum. According to Bringhamton University (2012), the largest and fastest expanding market segment for higher education is the adult learner. Universities and colleges need to adjust their infrastructure to attract better and serve adult learners. There is less high school graduates entering colleges versus the adult learner (“Demographics,” 2012). With less traditional aged students and more non-traditional or adult learners there will be less public support, political leverage, and legislative support to finance an educational system that is designed primarily to serve the needs of traditional aged students without considering the special needs of a more age diverse student body (“Demographics,” 2012). There is a push in Washington for more federal dollars in adult training. They believe the return on investment (ROI) from adult education and training is positive as billions of dollars could be earned, saved, and pumped back into the struggling economy (Gonzalez, 2011).
The argument at capital is that adult education actually saves governments money by reducing societal healthcare, public assistance, and incarceration costs. It also improves and expands the nation’s available pool of workers by helping motivated, but undereducated people get jobs (Gonzalez, 2011). The theory of adult learning is the assumptions about how adults learn. Emphasizes the value of the process of learning in adults (“Adult Learning Theory,” 2007). Malcom Knowles and American practitioner and theorist of adult education defined is as an art and science of helping adults learn (“Adult Learning Theory,” 2007). Knowles also defined six adult learning principles as adults are internally motivated and self-directed, adults bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences and are goal orientated. They also relevancy oriented and are practical learners who like to be respected when in the classroom (“Adult Learning Theory,” 2007).
As educators, we need to foster the adult learner’s internal motivation to learn. Develop a rapport with the adult learner, encourage them to ask questions and explore concepts. Some adult learners come with years of experience and knowledge, with this as an instructor or teacher we need to harvest this information and have them apply it to their new learning experiences. The need to for effective adult education over the past few years have increased. It is important we support adult learners. As with the increasing adult learning population, we are also increasing our nation’s available pool of workers. It is important that we invest in adult education as it nurture’s creativity, imagination and fulfilling lives.
Investing in adult education is also important for families, communities and our country as a whole. Education is an important first step for some adult learners as it is a second chance in learning. Adult education is a great way for students that didn’t finish high school to get their high school diploma and continue on with their lives. Adult education is usually at night, so that the adults who attend it may still continue to go to work. This allows theses adults to continue to progress in their lives while adding more education to their resume and mind.
Becoming familiar with adult learning theory and the six principles of adult learning. (2007). Retrieved from http://www.qotfc.edu.au/resource/?page=65375 Gonzalez, J. (2011). Adult-education leaders visit capitol hill to push for more federal dollars. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/article/Adult-Education-Leaders-Visit/127448/ The effects of changing demographics on higher education. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.binghamton.edu/cice/documents/NYSTAKeynotePPT.pdf Who is an adult learner? (2012). Retrieved from http://universitycollege.illinoisstate.edu/adult/who.shtml
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