1 Volume XXIX, Number 4 opular issues series showcasing p Curriculum Design 30 THINGS WE KNOW FOR SURE 1. Adult learners tend to be less interested in, and ABOUT ADULT LEARNING enthralled by, survey courses. They tend to prefer single concept, single-theory courses that focus A variety of sources provides us with a body of fairly heavily on the application of the concept to rel - reliable knowledge about adult learning. This knowl - evant problems. This tendency increases with age. edge might be divided into three basic divisions: things Adults need to be able to integrate new ideas 2. we know about adult learners and their motivation, with what they already know if they are going to things we know about designing curriculum for adults, keep—and use—the new information. and things we know about working with adults in the 3. Information that conflicts sharply with what is classroom. already held to be true, and thus forces a reevalua - tion of the old material, is integrated more slowly. Information that has little “conceptual overlap” 4. Motivation to Learn with what is already known is acquired slowly. 1. Adults seek out learning experiences in order to 5. Fast-paced, complex, or unusual learning tasks cope with specific life-changing events—e.g., mar - interfere with the learning of the concepts or data riage, divorce, a new job, a promotion, being fired, they are intended to teach or illustrate. retiring, losing a loved one, moving to a new city. Adults tend to compensate for being slower in 6. 2. The more life change events an adult encounters, some psychomotor learning tasks by being more the more likely he or she is to seek out learning - accurate and making fewer trial-and-error ven opportunities. Just as stress increases as life- tures. change events accumulate, the motivation to cope Adults tend to take errors personally and are 7. with change through engagement in a learning more likely to let them affect self-esteem. There - experience increases. fore, they tend to apply tried-and-true solutions The learning experiences adults seek out on their 3. and take fewer risks. - own are directly related—at least in their percep The curriculum designer must know whether the 8. tion—to the life-change events that triggered the concepts or ideas will be in concert or in con - seeking. flict with the learner. Some instruction must be 4. Adults are generally willing to engage in learning designed to effect a change in belief and value experience before, after, or even during the actual systems. life-change event. Once convinced that the change 9. Programs need to be designed to accept view - is a certainty, adults will engage in any learning points from people in different life stages and - that promises to help them cope with the transi with different value “sets.” tion. 10. A concept needs to be “anchored” or explained Adults who are motivated to seek out a learning 5. from more than one value set and appeal to more experience do so primarily because they have than one developmental life stage. a use for the knowledge or skill being sought. Adults prefer self-directed and self-designed 11. Learning is a means to an end, not an end in itself. learning projects over group-learning experiences 6. Increasing or maintaining one’s sense of self- led by a professional, they select more than one - esteem and pleasure are strong secondary motiva medium for learning, and they desire to control tors for engaging in learning experiences. pace and start/stop time. The Na al iNsTiTuTe for sT aff aNd orgaNiza TioN al developmeNT (Nisod ) • Community College leadership program TioN university administration • College of education, The university of Texas at austin, 1 department of station, d5600, austin, TX 78712-0378 educational
2 new material, debate and discussion, sharing 12. Nonhuman media such as books, programmed of relevant student experiences, and the clock. instruction, and television have become popular Ironically, it seems that instructors are best able with adults in recent years. 13. Regardless of media, straightforward how-to is to establish control when they risk giving it up. the preferred content orientation. Adults cite a When they shelve egos and stifle the tendency to need for application and how-to information as be threatened by challenge to plans and methods, they gain the kind of facilitative control needed to the primary motivation for beginning a learning project. effect adult learning. The instructor has to protect minority opinion, Self-direction does not mean isolation. Studies of 8. 14. keep disagreements civil and unheated, make self-directed learning indicate that self-directed projects involve an average of ten other people as connections between various opinions and ideas, resources, guides, encouragers, and the like. But and keep reminding the group of the variety of even for the self-professed, self-directed learner, potential solutions to the problem. The instructor lectures and short seminars get positive ratings, is less advocate than orchestrator. 9. especially when these events give the learner face- Integration of new knowledge and skill requires to-face, one-to-one access to an expert. transition time and focused effort on application. 10. Learning and teaching theories function better as resources than as a Rosetta stone. A skill-train - In the Classroom ing task can draw much from the behavioral 1. The learning environment must be physically approach, for example, while personal growth- and psychologically comfortable; long lectures, - centered subjects seem to draw gainfully from hu periods of interminable sitting, and the absence of manistic concepts. An eclectic, rather than a single practice opportunities rate high on the irritation theory-based approach to developing strategies scale. and procedures, is recommended for matching 2. Adults have something real to lose in a classroom instruction to learning tasks. situation. Self-esteem and ego are on the line The next five years will eclipse the last fifty in terms when they are asked to risk trying a new behavior - of hard data production on adult learning. For the pres in front of peers and cohorts. Bad experiences in ent, we must recognize that adults want their learning traditional education, feelings about authority and to be problem-oriented, personalized, and accepting of - the preoccupation with events outside the class their need for self-direction and personal responsibility. room affect in-class experience. Adults have expectations, and it is critical to take 3. By Ron and Susan Zemke - time early on to clarify and articulate all expecta tions before getting into content. The instructor can assume responsibility only for his or her own expectations, not for those of the students. Showcasing Popular Issues Series Adults bring a great deal of life experience into 4. NISOD regularly receives requests to - the classroom, an invaluable asset to be acknowl edged, tapped, and used. Adults can learn well— reprint previously published issues of and much—from dialogue with respected peers. Innovation Abstracts . Taken together over the 5. Instructors who have a tendency to hold forth last 25+ years, these requests identify some rather than facilitate can hold that tendency in of our most popular articles. check—or compensate for it—by concentrating On occasion, NISOD will reprint some on the use of open-ended questions to draw out of these articles, showcasing some popular relevant student knowledge and experience. - contributions to professional develop - New knowledge has to be integrated with previ 6. ment and the improvement of teaching and ous knowledge; students must actively participate learning. We trust that they will become - in the learning experience. The learner is depen special additions to current readers’ dent on the instructor for confirming feedback on collections. Innovation Abstracts skill practice; the instructor is dependent on the This issue is the first in this Popular learner for feedback about curriculum and in-class performance. Issues Series. It was originally published in 7. The key to the instructor role is control. The March 1984 as Volume VI, No. 8. instructor must balance the presentation of Suanne D. Roueche, Editor Innovation Abstracts (ISSN 0199-106X) is published weekly following the fall and spring terms of the aca - - demic calendar, except Thanksgiving week, by the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Develop February 9, 2007, Vol. XXIX, No. 4 ment (NISOD), Department of Educational Administration, College of Education, ©The University of Texas at Austin, 2007 1 University Station, D5600, Austin, Texas 78712-0378, (512) 471-7545, Email: [email protected] Further duplication is permitted by MEMBER institutions for their own personal use.