Characteristics of Adult Learners

Knowles’ characteristics of adult learners have been widely discussed by many educators and address a process model of learning for adults, rather than a pedagogical content-driven model.

 

infogrpahic adult-learning
Legault (2011)

 

Many articles penned to discuss characteristics of adult learners stem from the assumptions initiated by Knowles:

  • Self- direction and the need to know. Why are they learning something?  What are the benefits learning and/or risks of not learning it?  Adults respond more positively when they can answer how, what, and why.  Adults need to be involved in decisions about these questions.
  • Self-concept. Adults feel they are responsible for their own decisions and are self-directed in learning.  This includes making decisions, being motivated and monitoring learning.  Self-concept is often context-dependent.
  • Life experience. Adults have had more experiences and typically more diverse experience.  They can draw on their own experiences as a resource to enhance learning.  However, prior experience can also lead to bias, single-mindedness, and resistance to change.  Learning should be connected to past experiences, and it should also be active, constructive and collaborative.
  • Readiness to learn and orientation to learning. Learning needs to be timely, relevant, practical and results-orientated. Learning should focus on tasks and problems rather that on subjects.  Contextualized and experiential learning works best with adults.
  • Motivation to learn. Rewards are more likely to be intrinsic, rather than coming from external sources.   Self-satisfaction, choice and seeing the value in what is learned is very relevant as learning is usually voluntary.

Adult learners are busy in so many various facets of their lives.  These multitasking realities of life, where learning plays a secondary or minor role, should be respected and accommodated.  They may lack the confidence to jump into a ‘student’ role.

A group of adults is likely to be more diverse than the same number of children.  Age, life experiences, age-related physical limitations (e.g., vision, hearing, memory) can vary greatly, affecting the learning process.  It is important that they are physically comfortable in their environment.

I appreciated this article  from RIT On-line Learning where the characteristics of adult learners were paired with teaching strategies, acknowledging and addressing those characteristics.

I feel my classroom presents as a very special environment.  Adults register for my course because they have a hearing loss and are experiencing communication difficulties. They share frustrations, successes, and after the sessions, some lasting friendships have been made.  I encourage a friend or family member to register as well, emphasizing that communication is a two-way street.  Speechreading takes place at Vancouver Community College (VCC), and my students range from 20 to 80+ years old.  We have afternoon and evening course options, and we meet once per week for 12 weeks.

What am I doing right?

My classroom instruction addresses many of these issues already:

  • Since we are dealing with hearing loss and communication, the classroom set-up is vital. Our class sizes are small (6-10 students), and the tables are arranged in a horseshoe so they can see one another.  I wear a lapel microphone connected to a sound field speaker, and each student has a tabletop microphone.  This increases the chance that the students are able to hear me and one another.  I place name tents on each table so they are able to see and remember names.  I have made large font handouts for those with visual impairments.  Break times are important to get a break from the classroom.  Students also use the time to get to grab a snack, get know one another, and check in with work or families.
  • My ‘class rules’ are that everyone deserves to hear and understand what is going on. We will work as a team to make sure this happens.  One person speaks at a time.  The class is a place where everyone understands the difficulties associated with hearing loss.  It is a place where everyone can practice strategies and share experiences among supportive partners, that they might not feel comfortable doing yet in the ‘real world’.
  • I include opportunities in every class for students to share communication experiences. Someone might be frustrated with their hearing loss and communication efforts.  We brainstorm problems, with ideas coming from students and myself.  Students also share their communication successes.
  • We talk about strategies that impact situations they experience on a regular basis: in restaurants, on the phone, in the doctor’s office, with co-workers and family.
  • Practice activities are practical and varied- sometimes they communicate with me, sometimes in groups of 2 or 3. I occasionally introduce background noise to simulate real life environments, or we’ll go to the cafeteria to analyze environmental factors.
  • We talk about what assertiveness means, why they need to be assertive (or what happens when they are not), and how to be assertive. Situations are explored through group discussions.

How can I make it better?

  • Explicitly ask about expectations of the learning experience before it begins. Ask about any concerns they have coming to class.
  • Ensure that I make more time to practice strategies that we discuss in class, rather than moving on to a new topic after I discuss the why? and how? Practice and give feedback.  An experimentation with a flipped classroom may provide the time for this!
  • Have all students submit problem situations at the beginning of the course that we can target their actual situations with brainstorming sessions throughout the semester.
  • Make an effort to find online examples and demonstrations of strategies to show, as an alternative (or in addition to) written handouts.

It is good to be pushed to critically evaluate what you are doing in your classroom. Sometimes we do what we do because that’s what we have always done and it works. Efforts, large and small, may make a meaningful difference to an adult learner who has made a leap of faith to participate.

References:

Kuhne, G. (n.d.) 10 Characteristics of Adults as Learners. Retrieved from http://ctle.hccs.edu/facultyportal/tlp/seminars/tl1071SupportiveResources/Ten_Characteristics_Adults-Learners.pdf

Legault (2011) [INFOGRAPHIC] An Overview of the Principles of Adult Learning. Retrieved from https://nlegault.ca/2011/09/25/infographic-an-overview-of-the-principles-of-adult-learning/

Malamed, C. (n.d.) Characteristics of Adults Learners. Retrieved from http://theelearningcoach.com/learning/characteristics-of-adult-learners/

Pappas, C. (2013, May 8) Adult Learners’ Traits. Retrieved from https://elearningindustry.com/8-important-characteristics-of-adult-learners

RIT Online Learning. (n.d.)  Characteristics of Adult Learners. Retrieved from http://www.ode.state.or.us/wma/teachlearn/testing/resources/essentialskillreading_hs_level3_characteristicsadultlearners.pdf

All retrieved June 24, 2016.

Trends in Adult Education

I looked at a variety of sites to get a feel for the trends happening in adult education.  I liked this article by Jeff Cobb.

His list of learning trends includes:

  • MOOCs
  • Virtual Conferences
  • Flipped Classroom
  • Neuroscience
  • Social Learning
  • Microlearning
  • Open Education
  • Content Marketing
  • Alternative Credentialing
  • DIY/Self-Directed Learning
  • Self-Publishing
  • Big Data

His final mega-trend: Life Long, Life Wide

At the outset, I began to investigate MOOCs.  I had never heard of these Massive Open Online Courses, and I spent several hours on the MOOC List website, watching 2-minute videos for multiple courses, and bookmarking the ones I hope to find the time to register for some day.

Despite my interest in MOOCs, I settled on investigating the concept of the flipped classroom.  In contrast with the traditional teaching approach, teachers record lectures that students can access outside the classroom.  You could also use blogs, books, podcasts, or websites.  During class time, the focus is placed on applied learning activities and group discussions.

Hmmm…  Interesting concept, but I couldn’t use this teaching method in my course.  Could I?  I dismissed the idea of incorporating it into the Speechreading course I teach for adults with hearing loss.  My off-the-cuff excuses: I should just keep things the way they are, people are happy with the course, the seniors who register for my course would balk at the idea of using the computer, I don’t typically give ‘homework’, and it’s better to give the information in person, isn’t it?

This past week, I completed a session of my course.  I always give evaluation forms to elicit feedback.  Two comments jumped off the page for me:

“May I suggest that the classroom material is not changed just supplemented and that you give each participant a loaner DVD, assigning each as their homework, to complete the lessons given on the DVD, rather than in lab time. Thus you count on the maturity of the class participant to choose how much they need of the DVD and to structure their time at home to do lessons as homework while attending the course at VCC…. Each class you can ask for questions arising from homework or ask specific test questions to gain acknowledgement each participant is getting a benefit from the DVD assignment at home.”

“I’m really happy about all the new information I learned about hearing loss and how to deal with it. I just wish there was more time for practice.”

I’ve seen the comment about wanting more practice multiple times in the past.  I created a Level 2 course to address the issue.  To be honest, I wasn’t willing to sacrifice any of the information and discussions that were part of the Level 1 course, and I thought that sacrifice was necessary to include more face-to-face activities.

And then I read about the flipped classroom.

graphitecomic_flippedclassroom_600x600

 

Maybe there is a way to cover the topics, have the class discussions and practice the skills in the introductory course.  I’m excited about the possibilities. This was definitely a well-timed A-HA moment for me.  Stay tuned.

 

flipped classroom

 

Additional resources:

  • find resources for flipping your classroom here
  • read about the pros and cons here
  • great info and resources here
  • introduction, resources, and research here

References and resources:

Cobb, J. (n.d.) 12 Trends (Still) Disrupting the Market for Lifelong Learning and Continuing Education. Retrieved from http://www.tagoras.com/lifelong-learning-market-trends/

Gorman, M. (2012, July 18) Flipping the classroom…A goldmine of research and resources to keep you on your feet.  Retrieved from https://21centuryedtech.wordpress.com/2012/07/18/flipping-the-classroom-a-goldmine-of-research-and-resources-to-keep-you-on-your-feet/

Knewton Infographics (n.d.) Flipped classroom.  Retrieved from https://www.knewton.com/infographics/flipped-classroom/

MOOC List (n.d.)  Retrieved from https://www.mooc-list.com/?static=true

Patriquin, A.  (2015, June 10)  Pros and cons of teaching a flipped classroom.  Retrieved from   https://blog.versal.com/2015/06/10/pros-and-cons-of-teaching-a-flipped-classroom/

Ronan, A. (2105, March 2)  10 free resources for flipping your classroom. Retrieved from http://www.edudemic.com/10-resources-for-flipped-classroom/

Ward, J.(n.d.)  Flipped Learning. Retrieved from http://wardtech.weebly.com/flipped-classroom.html#sthash.Jx4qhulU.udBYfs0M.dpbs

All sites retrieved June 22, 2016

Trends in Audiology

Articles:

Job growth in the field of audiology is expected to increase by 29% from 2014 to 2024 . Those increases are on both sides of the age spectrum.  Hearing loss impacts at least a third of those over 65 years, a cohort which is increasing in size.  A new and dangerous trend is that now, half of our youth between 12-35 are in danger of developing hearing loss as a result of exposure to levels of sound that are unsafe.

New research also tells us that hearing loss is linked to mental health, with correlations between hearing health and cognitive decline; with hearing loss comes a higher risk of dementia, depression, and anxiety.

The numbers who need hearing health care is growing, yet the number of those who require intervention and treatment who are actually seeking help through audiology services remains shockingly low, at less than 20%.

Changes need to happen.

“As ambassadors of communication, hearing care professionals shift focus away from the “problem” of hearing loss to a more holistic look at hearing health and overall well-being.” The Hearing Review

We need to address the whole person, not just the hearing loss.  This approach appeals to me.  My practice in the field has always been just that, as a rehabilitative audiologist.  I do not test hearing or fit hearing aids.  I teach classes for adults with hearing loss and if I’m lucky, they have a friend or family member join them.  We talk about hearing loss, its impact on relationships, and how to address the miscommunications that inevitably occur.  We communicate about communication.  I would love for all audiologists to be identified as the people who help the whole person, rather than the ones who sell hearing aids.  We will all benefit.  Clients will recognize that seeking help for hearing loss can make a difference.  More audiologists will know the joy and satisfaction of helping people to communicate and connect with others.  After all, that’s why we choose this profession.

This approach appeals to me.  My practice in the field has always been just that, as a rehabilitative audiologist addressing the person and how hearing loss is impacting him or her.  I do not test hearing or fit hearing aids.  I teach classes for adults with hearing loss and if I’m lucky, they have a friend or family member join them.  We talk about hearing loss, its impact on relationships, and how to address the miscommunications that inevitably occur.  We communicate about communication.

I would love for all audiologists to be identified as the professionals who help the whole person, rather than the ones who sell hearing aids.  We will all benefit when we take this holistic approach and build stronger relationships.  Clients will recognize that seeking help for hearing loss can make a difference.  More audiologists will know the joy and satisfaction of helping people to communicate and connect with others.  After all, that’s why we choose this profession.

References:

Reflection Wordle

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 7.08.56 PM

 

Here is the wordle I created, based on my reflection of the quote from Dumonte and Istance (2010, pg. 20): “21st century competencies include deep understanding, flexibility and the capacity to make creative connections and a range of so-called “soft-skills” including good team-working.”