This week is Adult Learners’ Week and we’re looking at the benefits and the obstacles of lifelong learning. Adult learning is a hugely beneficial and productive process‚ but it can be challenging. Part of the process is to be able to overcome these obstacles and realise that for every challenge we may face as adults‚ we have an advantage in some other respect.
Here are some of the challenges adult learners may face:
- Time management: adult learners tend to have more responsibilities and existing commitments such as family‚ friends‚ work and travel times to contend with‚ so the restriction of a class–room based‚ set lesson time structure is not ideal. It can be difficult to make room for learning and is absolutely crucial to prioritise. We need efficiency and flexibility. That’s why a college that offers flexible schedules is a great option for adult learners. Distance learning can give us a quick and efficient way to help develop the skills we need with support from tutors that understand the fact that personal obligations might obstruct the learning process.
- Motivation: adult learners often struggle where the motivation for learning is necessity rather than interest. It can also be hard when attention is divided between different responsibilities. It is important to find a course with content that inspires and can be immediately applicable to our professional needs. The advantage is that as adult learners we feel the need to take responsibility for our lives and decisions and so have more intrinsic motivation to learn. We have a rationale for why we need to know how to do certain things.
- Anxiety: many adults return to learning in order to stay ahead in the job market or boost their career‚ so adult learners are under a lot of pressure‚ from themselves and those dependent on their expertise. Returning to study can be a big investment in terms of time and money and because adults are more acutely tuned to learning outcomes and the results they want to achieve‚ there is more pressure on them to do so. On the other hand‚ adult learners come to the educational setting with more relevant experience and while the pressure can be greater as a result‚ having focused goals is often the key to success.
- Back to school: going back to learning when we’ve had a break can be hard. Adult learners often feel outside their comfort zones when a number of years have passed‚ or if they didn’t have the best experience before‚ but returning to study doesn’t have to mean returning to school. For those of us that struggle with classroom learning‚ there are alternatives. Although balancing study with other commitments can mean slower learning‚ the balance can lead to more integrative knowledge. Distance learning is a popular method for adult learners‚ with a vast range of online courses available for gaining additional qualifications.
- An old dog learning new tricks: adult learners tend to be more established in their ways and more resistant to change. Maturity and profound life experiences influence learning and can lead to reluctance to accept new ideas‚ which is the enemy of learning. The reality is that aging does affect learning – adults tend to learn less rapidly with age. However‚ depth of learning increases and the ability to navigate knowledge and skills to extraordinary personal levels. Adult learners recognise the direct relevance of learning to their life and are better at learning content that is oriented towards solving problems; practical knowledge that will improve skills‚ facilitate work and boost confidence. Moreover‚ learning itself improves the mind‚ so speed of learning does increase with practice.
We encourage you to take on the challenge of adult education‚ overcome the obstacles and learn something new.