Senior Adult’s Learning and teaching
Senior adult also known as older adult learning and teaching is defined as a form of formal, informal and non-formal learning process that is undertaken by older adults after having a break from their initial continuous learning process. The process is usually referred to as adragology and is usually conducted to achieve a precise piece of knowledge. The term adragology is of Greek origin meaning older adult education. Unlike for children this form of education is usually self-directed and it is solution centered. This form of education has special aspects and challenges that makes it unique and distinct from teaching other groups of learners. To fully understand the aspect of senior adult learning it is important to make comparison between child education and adult education so as to determine the uniqueness and nature of this education process.
This pare investigates the aspects of older adults learning and teaching, further, the paper tries to investigate unique features that form this kind of learning. the paper also investigates the teaching methods that are effective and efficient to the education, the challenges and working methodologies of solving the challenges.
Features distinguish older adults learning and teaching from other type of learning
Pedagology is a term that refers to science and art of child education or learning process (Carol, 2009). The term has a Greek origin which is a combination of two words; child and learning, therefore, it is the process of teaching a child. This leaning process is very distinct from adralogy (older adult education process). The purpose, objective and style of learning are very distinct. Understanding the unique distinction between these two learning processes is of paramount importance. It helps the trainer to develop leaning approaches that are able to cover for the needs of the group.
Older adults enrolling in learning institutions normally have a fixed mind of the knowledge they want to gain, hence when they complete their studies they want to see the knowledge they gained being applied immediately in their activities. They do not believe that there is anything they learned from schools which would help them later in their lives. Children on the other hand enrolled in schools expecting to learn anything presented to them with no fixed mind of what they want. They make decision of what they want to do later from the wide range of knowledge they get from school activities. They believe everything they learn would one day have an impact to their lives.
Most senior adults have particular knowledge and experience on certain fields and this forms the bench mark for comparing the knowledge. The makes senior adult learning challenging since they are likely to be having a predetermined opinion about issues and therefore making it difficult to change their mind set on issues (Foley, 2004). Unlike children who have no objection to the information that they receive. They accept the information given to them without weighing on its relevance. This is very distinct when it comes to senior adult education. Senior adult have to validate the information that is dispensed to them before accepting is. They have to compare the knowledge to their beliefs and experience.
Most senior adult have experience in the various fields and some are experts in those fields. They have very strong believes and experience in life which makes them to disagree with everything which goes against what they believe is true to them. On the other hand children have little or no experience about most issues. They are new to the field of study presented to them and have very little knowledge about the filed. This is different for older adults. Older adults have experience in the various fields and some are experts in those fields.
Older adults have the ability to be very important resource person for both the trainer and fellow leaners. This is different from children who cannot be resource person to fellow students. Most older adults are experts in particular field of study and they possess wide range of experience in their field of expertise. When this strength is discovered and well tapped, they become a source of knowledge to the trainer and fellow learners.
Senior adult education can be interesting when the trainer develops schedules that is at the interest if the leaners. Unlike children who are view as empty vessels in which knowledge can be pumped in, senior adults have knowledge and only require more skills or need new skills. This class of scholars has unique characteristics in which they are self-directed and they are solution centered. Understanding the needs of this group of leaners is a key to success of the learning process. The thump rule when dealing with this group of individuals is never to ignore the needs of leaners, their skills and learning insights (Foley, 2004). Understanding the different learning styles that should be employed are also very important. Different leaners possess different learning skills and they understand best when they are taught with the models and style that best suits them. The different classes of leaners based on the point in which they understand best gives rise to classes of leaners.
Reasons for senior adult leaning
Senior adults attend training due to different reasons that are specific and unique to them. The trainer must understand the motive of the learning process before developing schedules and teaching programs and procedures. Senior adults may attend training due to the following reason;
The desire to acquire new knowledge
This is brought about by the advancement of technology and discovery of new ways of doing things. This may be different from the way they have been handling the same process therefore requiring them to acquit themselves with new skills on how to handle the new technology (John, 2005). Learners with this desire require precise knowledge that is narrowed down to what they require (Brookfield, 1986). They are not interested with broad and general knowledge about the whole learning process.
So as to fulfill their inner desire
This group of leaners is interested in acquiring knowledge so as to fulfill their ego for particular knowledge. This group of leaners requires broad knowledge about a particular field of knowledge. Most of them need to be scholars or have interest in particular area of study. This is group is simple to handle since they require as much knowledge as is available about the subject.
For personal advancement
This is the main reason why older adults go back to school. Most of them require an improvement in their present workplace. This forces the older adults to go back to school so as to get promotions and therefore an increase in income. It also enables them to be competitive in their fields of expertise. Some require education so as to have a career change.
Older adult learning and teaching requires that the facilitator understands the different categories of the students. It is also important to understand the environment at which they understand the content easily. In all cases, the facilitator must incorporate all the categories of leaners and address their individual needs;
Classes of Leaners
Leaners can be classified based on their ability to understand the concept of learning and how best they understand the information. To achieve great results the leaners should be taught when information is given to them in a style that is best to them. They can be classified into three categories:
These are leaners who best learn and understand by listening. This group of learners requires attending lectures to easily understand the concept. This class of leaners is easy to teach because the trainers’ presence leads to their full understanding. Learning by auditory can be reinforced by introducing different learning practices that eliminate boredom and monotony in the learning process brought about by the continued use of one learning system. They remember best when they hear the information and say it loud. When handling this group of leaners it is of importance to enhance learning skills that employ tactics that involve more oral participation. This may include group discussions, reading of texts together, reading in turns and reading out loud (MacKeracher, 2004). .
This is a unique class of leaners who prefer learning by physically seeing what is being discussed. These groups of learners prefer things written down so that they can be seen and discussed. They think in pictures and use of sketches is the best approach in handling them. When dealing with this group of leaners, using of handout is very helpful. When the handout contains sketches and diagrams it even become more relevant and simple to the leaners (John, 2005). To promote this class of leaners the trainer is advised to use visual skills in presenting their ideas. This may include using of power point to discuss information. It may also include using of charts and graphs to bring out differences in contrasting information. When visual styles of learning are used, the leaners easily and effectively understand the knowledge being dispensed.
They are also referred to as tactile leaners. This is a group of leaners who best understand by having physical contact with the information being learned, they require touching or feeling what is being discussed. The leaners are practical oriented and they require experiments to remember what they have learned. This group effectively learns by taking notes and manipulating the information given to them. When this group of leaner as exposed to practical’s, experiments and field work they effectively learn and remember the knowledge that is being given to them.
A trainer is supposed to develop schedules that are able to satisfy the distinct needs of these groups independently and collectively. Understanding of the senior adults’ composition is very important in determining the kind of technique to employ. Since the adult know the reason why they are training, it is important to motivate them, to their course. The purpose of their leaning should be well understood so as to develop learning programs that are satisfactory to them.
Challenges in Senior Adult Learning and teaching
Senior adult learning is much complicated, it involves unique challenges that the facilitator is required to address while providing working solutions (Helen, 2004). When the challenges are addressed successfully, the entire learning process becomes a wonderful experience for both the learners and the teacher. These challenges include the following;
Senior Adults choose what they want to study
When teaching senior adults they tend to decide among themselves what is to be taught unlike children who rely on the teacher on what he thinks is important for them to learn. Senior adults have narrowed to a particular field of study; therefore believe that whatever they learn should be directly relevant to their field of expertise. Most of the older adults enroll in schools only to advance their knowledge in certain fields, so they have no business being taught general activities
Older adults compare the knowledge learnt to what they believe
Oder adults check the information presented to them to determine whether it is valuable according to their belief and experience. They usually require working short term knowledge to be applied in their particular fields. When information given is not directly related to their interest they are destructed and they concentration is compromised. When information provided contradicts their belief and practices, they start doubting the credibility of the information.
They have a fixed opinion about issues
Older adults based on their experience always have fixed viewpoints towards every activity they are taught. Most of them have wide knowledge on their fields of practice and therefore they have general opinion and perception.
The main duty of the trainer is to motivate the learner. This is the biggest gap that should be filled if the process of learning is to be achieved. Motivation of the senior adult learner is an attribute that must be natured lest they lose concentration in the entire learning process. Another important strategy when teaching older adults is to ensure that all the special needs of each individual student are addressed. The facilitator need to ensure that all his students are motivated and remain focus to their course. The following strategies are adapted to facilitate adult learning;
Creating a Suitable Learning Environment
The first step to help in the process of learning of the older adults is to create an enabling learning environment that is anchored on respect and cooperation. The trainer has the obligation to encourage and emphasize the applicability of the training to the learners and bring into focus the need for related training. This boosts the confidence of the leaners. The trainer should also make sure that the learners are actively involved in the learning processes and ensure that their concerns are addressed in a satisfactory manner with diligence and integrity.
Enhance Practical Approach
Senior adult’s learning requires practical approach to tackle the issues that are to be addressed. The senior adults do not appreciate much theory but are interested with the application of the skills gained. More practical work enhances their understanding and boosts confidence in the learning process. This group of leaners requires hands on experience on the issues they are learning. They need to practically perform the tasks since they require the skills in the immediate or near future.
Derive examples and demonstrations from their workplace
The senior adults need to be shown the connection between the learning process or training and the goals they desire to achieve. This connection is what the leaners are interested in. The information is required to keep them motivated to their course. When there is no direct connection between the training and their goals they lose focus because they are not seeing the value for their money.
When teaching senior adults it is interesting to create mature jokes during the learning process. This ensures that will make the learning process enjoyable and worth looking forward to. Humor helps to release the pressure and the work load that is pressing to the leaners. The class should not be boring.
Incorporate emotionally connected content
When learning is enhanced with information that generates emotional feeling and connection, the content is well understood. Using examples that generate the feeling of sympathy, empathy, guilt, betrayal and happiness enables the content will be well understood. This is a strategy is very important since it makes the content of learning memorable.
Accommodate the different interest and objectives of leaners
The leaners are usually of different objective and career background. This therefore means that they have different needs and goal in the course of the learning process. As a facilitator, it is important to understand the various needs of each learner and develop learning models that meets the individual need of each learner. This will ensure that no learner feels left out in the learning process.
Use diverse learning materials and skills
This group of learners has very wide difference in composition and needs. The instructor should incorporate different leaning skills and materials. This helps to cover all the different classes of learners. Sticking to one teaching method will leave out some of the learners whose understanding is not favored by the chosen method.
Break up content into smaller bits
When dealing with broad and wide content that covers different aspects of a topic, it is important to subdivide the content into smaller parts. Having sub topics within a wide topic helps to make the content look simpler and easily understandable. Large and wide topics are exhausting and difficult to understand.
The instructor must create platform for collection of feedback. The responses received from the leaners are important in improving the learning process. It will help to readjust the teaching program to fit the need of the learners. The leaners response will also help to determine the materials that are preferred by the learners. This information is important in developing future leaning models.
Aspects that Enhance Effective Learning
Specific aspects are unique to senior adult’s learning; the aspects shape the effectiveness and efficiency of the purpose of the learning process. The facilitator needs to understand these aspects so as to create an effective learning environment. The aspects help to develop respect and understanding among the learners and the facilitator. The aspects may be discussed under the following classification;
Age and maturity
Older adults are of advanced age and never appreciate when they are treated like children in whatever circumstances. In the process of training the trainer must recognize the fact that they are mature people who might be older that the trainers or facilitator. They require mutual respect and mature handing from all parties. Collaboration and cooperation is compromised when they discover that they are being treated like minors, this is likely to destroy the entire learning process (Wang, 2014). Trust has to be developed between all the parties involve an unlike children where sometime use of force and dictation of instructions may give desired results, this group of leaners are very distinct. Use of force and dictation of instructions may never yield any outcome. The trainer has the obligation to explain the desired outcome of the instruction so that they can understand the logic behind all the actions that is being undertaken. A trainer should never underrate the learner and impose rules and information that they think is oppressive to them.
The senior adults have limited time to achieve a particular objective. Within this time limit they need to find value for their money and fully understand the concepts they require. Satisfying their need within this short duration may pose a challenge to both the trainer and other related parties. Most of the senior adults have great expectations that they believe will be met. A time lapses towards the closing of the training period, constant evaluation need to be carried out to determine how the needs have been addressed. If these expectations seem to drag behind, they get discouraged and vie the process as a waste of time and resources. This should never be the case if the process of learning is intended to be progressive. By the end of their training period they should appreciate that the training process was worth investing.
Normal day-to-day pressure
It is important to understand that older adults have other responsibilities to handle and have people who are dependent and fully looking up to them for their upkeep and guidance. It is worth understanding that these people are parents and are face with day to day parenting roles and responsibilities (Wang, 2014). They are faced with the normal daily pressure that is part of life. Some of them face constant bigger challenge that they may sometime require time out of the training facility to handle the situation. These pressures affect their concentration and having a full understanding of it is an issue that the trainer has to address to ensure effective and successful training and learning.
Putting theory into practice
The main issue that needs to be addressed by the trainer is the reduction of theory work and introducing more practical and hands on practice. This is the motive behind older adults learning. They tend to appreciate more practical application of the skills that they have learnt. Trainers must emphasize on the applicability of the skills learned and keeping the actively involved in the learning process. To ensure that the learning process is effective some learning tips should be adopted that encourage the outcome of the general learning process.
In conclusion, to achieve effective learning process for the senior adults, they trainer has to understand basic principles that govern the learning of this group. They should understand why they are undertaking the learning process. The trainer must appreciate that there exist different learning styles and the leaners have different learning preferences. The trainer should take the duty of encouraging the learners and allow them to actively get involved in the learning process.
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