Adult Learners

Develop knowledge about the changing nature of adult learners (e.g., backgrounds, characteristics, needs, capacities, worldview), relating that knowledge to their educational and developmental

In October 2008, I reflected on a broad context of learner backgrounds, characteristics, needs, capacities, and worldviews in CCE 542 (Classroom Management), and my conclusions included that “[a] lack of college experience in a large segment of the student population suggests that there is a need to not only teach the subject matter of the course but to also educate students about the college experience, including the expectations of the school and strategies for success.” (Wilder, 2008).

In my practice as an educator, I have applied this conclusion in a way that reflects guidance from Weimer (2002) to “spend time selling the approach” and that “nothing about the approach should be assumed to be obvious.” (p. 157).  I have also applied a version of guidance from Smith (2008), who states that “[o]ne of the most important things you can do is verbalize your thinking process to your students.” (p. 77). This approach seems to reflect the brain-based guidance from McGinty et al., (2013), about how “nothing should be taken for granted” about learner backgrounds and prior experience (p. 56, citing Mezirow, 1991).

In November 2008, I published a blog post titled “A Vision of Students Today,” which served as a component of a group CCE presentation that included a focus on the needs of adult learners in the increasingly computer-based instructional environment (Wilder, 2008).  The literature reviewed for this presentation included an emphasis on learner needs for computer and internet skills, and the concept of “technagogy” (defined by Barse (2008) as “the method and practice of teaching through modern technology”) was raised in this presentation to emphasize the emergent needs of learners.

In my work as an instructor, I developed curriculum to support critical evaluation of information found online, and incorporated the requirement of credible and reliable sources into research and writing assignments. After basic needs for computer access and skills are met, the development of effective research skills in the online environment seems to be a crucial support for the development of self-directed and lifelong learning skills, so I made effective online research a required component in all research and writing assignments.  According to Hung (2013), “the ability to self-direct reasoning and research” is a key element in the transfer of learning from the classroom into new contexts (p. 33), and I have focused on the critical evaluation of information sources as a key scaffold (p. 28) for self-directed learning projects and the development of critical thinking skills.

The array of learner backgrounds, characteristics, needs, capacities, and worldviews has influenced the problem-based assignments that I have developed as an instructor, with an emphasis on students selecting their own topics that are relevant to their own goals. This approach allows students to “individually and collaboratively assume responsibility for generating learning objectives” (Hung, 2013, p. 31) in ways that are most relevant for students, and as an instructor, I provided feedback and support for these assignments by engaging in “dialogue with learners about how they expect to use the knowledge gained” (Closson, 2013, pp. 64, 67).

One of the ways I have felt most effective in responding to the diverse needs of learners is by implementing the suggestion by Weimer (2002) to have ‘open and regular’ discussion of the rationale for the learner-centered approach to assignments, including future applications in the professional context (pp. 157-158). During CCE 586 (Teaching in E-Learning and Hybrid Environments) this quarter, I quipped on a discussion board that “sometimes I feel like I learned everything I know about teaching from my students, but it’s the concepts from the CCE program that allow me to articulate what that means.” (Wilder, 2014).



Barse, A.J. (2008, Feb 17). Technagogy View.  Tales From The Grad Student. Retrieved from:

Closson, R. (Spring 2013). Racial and Cultural Factors and Learning Transfer. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 137. Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Hung, W. (Spring 2013). Problem-Based Learning: A Learning Environment for Enhancing Learning Transfer. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 137. Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

McGinty, J., Radin, J., & Kaminski, K. (Spring 2013). Brain-Friendly Teaching Supports Learning Transfer. New Directions For Adult and Continuing Education, 137. Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Smith, R.M. (2008). Conquering the Content: A Step-by-Step Guide to Online Course Design. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Weimer, M. (2002). Responding to Resistance. Learner-Centered Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Wilder, R. (October 2008). Student Characteristics. Learning Document. Retrieved from: See also Wilder, R. (October 2008) Internet Learning Communities. Learning Document. Retrieved from

Wilder, R. (November 2008). A Vision of Students Today. Learning Document. Retrieved from:

Wilder, R. (2014, May 7). CCE586 Activity Group 3, Journal Week 5 discussion board. Retrieved from:


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: