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Teaching Adult Learners Overview Essay

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Updated: Jan 29th, 2022

An array of definitions has been given to describe what learning is and a lot of metaphors have been created. Dorothy MacKeracher, in her book “Making Sense of Adult Learning” compares learning to breathing (MacKeracher, 2004, p. 6). Breathing is a natural process but it may be impaired by unacceptable environment or high level of carbon dioxide, similarly, learning process may also be hindered by placing the learner in an inappropriate environment.

Adults learn differently from children who may be compared to sponges quickly absorbing the information presented to them. Children’s minds are Tabula Rasa willing to be taught and accept the knowledge conveyed to them. For adults, however, the learning process is different firstly because their minds already possess several layers of prior knowledge and perceiving new information may be challenging. Although adults normally make an informed choice regarding what is to be learned unlike children who sometimes have to learn what is imposed on them in a school syllabus or by their parents, learning is still harder for the adults and they face far more challenges than children.

Firstly adult learners have to juggle between various responsibilities and commitments such as family issues, jobs, aging parents etc. that may hinder the learning process. With so many distractions, it is harder for adults not to lose focus and pursue the learning goals.

Secondly, when adults start learning, they already possess superficial knowledge in many areas and many of them may choose to retreat to prior knowledge or skills thus stalling on learning (MacKeracher, 2004, p. 12). This way, many adults make do with the rudimentary knowledge they have and do not continue to enhance their expertise

Thirdly, the change of focus may present challenges for adults. With the abundance of information, sources and materials, adults tend to quickly change the learning focus and engage in other areas changing learning subjects several times thus simply wasting time and obtaining only superficial to no knowledge in many areas, rather than pursing one and obtaining a deep insight in it.

Most importantly, adult learning may be compromised by biological changes and memory decrease with age (Cercone, 2008, p. 130). With this in mind, adults may require more time to learn and master the new information.

Adults also need to keep up with time trends and follow the latest learning techniques. Adults who used to study in a completely different environment may be biased to present-day learning techniques and it may be hard for them to embrace a concept of online learning which is becoming increasingly popular.

All of the above mentioned challenges need to be considered in order to initiate an effective learning process for adults. As adults are normally independent and tend to rely on themselves, it is more efficient for teachers to act as guides and facilitators helping adults to learn on their own (Cercone, 2008, p. 145).

It is also crucial that adults depart from conservative views and attempt to embrace present-day learning techniques which may include online lectures and webinars, specialized applications and software etc.

The assumption that adults are self-directed is also generalized as not all adults alike and some may require strict guidance and control for the learning to occur, others may exhibit self-direction and learn on their own therefore it is impossible to develop a uniform learning concept that would fit all adults.

A lot of variables need to be taken into account when arranging a learning process for adults and the approaches and techniques used need to be versatile. Adult learning needs to incorporate various learning styles so that a perfect learning environment is created.

Reference List

Cercone, K. (2008). Characteristics of Adult Learners With Implications for Online Learning Design. AACE Journal, 16.2. Web.

MacKeracher, D. (2004). Making Sense of Adult Learning. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division.

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