The Adult Learner
Who is the Adult Learner?
Adult learners come from all walks of life. They are men and women who range in age from 16 to 70+ and differ in ethnic and cultural backgrounds, abilities, beliefs, income levels, and education. Every learner is unique – a combination of their upbringing, education, beliefs, physical characteristics, etc. Each learner has different needs, issues, and concerns. Sometimes you can identify different “groups” in the classroom that have similarities in their instructional needs; other times, a class may have few characteristics in common. A challenge to adult educators is to be able to communicate and support such diversity effectively. Teachers may have more in common with certain learners and thus find it easier to relate to some learners than to others. Diversity among adult learners can be as strong as diversity among the population at large.
“I want to get my GED, so in the future I can show my kids that, when they’re older, that I am old, and I went back to school and that you’re never too old to learn.”
|“Students are young, old, different genders, beliefs - you need to be able to communicate with everyone…”|
Take a moment to consider what effect a diverse group of adult learners would have on instruction.
On your worksheet, record your initial thoughts about the diversity of adult learners.
Note any insights or ideas you may have at this point.
Below is a real-life adult education scenario. While you are reading, put yourself in the place of a student from each group. Given what you know about each group, how might you be feeling? What kind of concerns might you have? Then consider the challenges the instructor is facing as a result of the diversity in her class.
Real-Life Scenario—Mary's Students:
Mary’s class is made up of older women, most of whom are married with children. Recently, several young male teenagers have joined the class. In addition, a local garment plant has laid off a number of workers, many of whom are single parents. Three of these workers will be joining Mary’s class next week.
On your worksheet, record your thoughts on the feelings and concerns of each group of students: the older women, the younger teens, and the laid-off workers.
In reviewing these ideas, did you find any similar to your own? Did any of them strike you as particularly interesting? Did they provide any new insights for your instruction of adult literacy learners?
On your worksheet, make note of any tips, insights, or new ideas gained from the instructors’ suggestions.
- Adult literacy instructors must be prepared to work with students who differ in age, gender, race, income level, educational background, religion, ability level, and cultural background.
- This diversity brings to adult educators students with very different needs, concerns, values and learning practices.
- To support student learning, adult educators need to be informed about their learners, to listen carefully, and to be prepared to problem-solve issues surrounding differences.
On your worksheet, record any final notes or thoughts, specific ideas you want to remember, plans for further study, etc.
Click “Next” below or a specific topic on the outline to the left to continue.