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Adult learners bring a special set of circumstances to the table when they decided to continue their education. Their goals tend to be very different from those of younger learners. They tend to bring a lot of life experiences with them that affect the way they view learning. The benchmarks that they set should be very attainable and measurable so that the learner can feel as if they are making the progress that they want to. Adult learners are very goal-oriented. They want to see that they are making progress and have a great desire to achieve success. Many adult learners feel at risk in an educational so in order to achieve a successful and interactive session, facilitators must show their respect and support for adult learners.
Setting individual goals and measuring achievement is an essential skill for many learners today. Depending on the individual, goals may be set intentionally or subconsciously. If this process is applied to the learning environment students should be provided with the tools of goal- setting and accomplishment monitoring. A number of researchers have suggested that goal-setting practices can be useful, can affect academic achievement and can prevent student attrition. In addition, it was suggested that providing not only goal-setting practices but also combining these practices with progress feedback can have an even greater effect on academic achievement than conducting goal-setting activities alone without benefit of instructor feedback. It has been shown that the following three main factors, setting-goals, self-assessment of performance against the goals, and receiving instructor feedback have been most helpful for learners in achieving success (Kato, 2009).
Andragogy is possibly the first learning theory specifically for adults. It follows the assumption that adults learn differently than children because they have had more life experiences and are self-directed. It also holds that information must be used soon after its presentation for adults to accept and absorb the learning. Additionally, Knowles identifies several areas that define the way adults learn. Adult learners have great deal of experience to add to the learning environment. Educators can often use this as a resource. Adults expect to have a high degree of influence on educational topics and how they are to be educated. Adults need active participation in designing and implementing their educational programs. Adults must realize the relevancy of any new learning. Adult learners look forward to to having a high degree of influence on how their learning will be evaluated. Adults expect their feedback on the program's progress to be acted upon in a timely fashion (Kelly, 2006).
Adult learners are very goal-oriented. They want to see that they are making progress and have a great desire to achieve. Many adult learners feel at risk in an educational setting. Self-esteem and ego can be compromised in an environment that is not perceived as safe and supportive. In order to achieve a successful and interactive session, facilitators must show their respect and support for adult learners (Kelly, 2006).
Self-directed learning (SDL) skills are the often the foundation of lifelong learning. Teaching intends to achieve at least two essential goals for all students: to increase knowledge with respect to particular content and to develop skills that will serve students well, even beyond the environment of a specific course. It has been found that from a classroom experiment that was designed to assess student performance with respect to the second goal of skill acquisition, specifically the skill of self-directed learning (SDL) was most important (Dynan, Cate and Rhee, 2008).
A successful goal-setting process that focuses on instruction and learning is central to good educational practice. Setting goals allows adult education students to specify what they want to accomplish and provides a benchmark for both individual and program performance.
Goal setting is an interactive process that involves learners in, identifying and recording their goals, determining whether the goals are attainable and measurable, creating a timeline for achieving them based on an appropriate instructional plan and relevant learning activities and establishing a means for periodic review and revision of their goals (NRS Tips: Learner Goals and NRS Goalsââ‚¬"Making the Connection, n.d.).
The best goals that can be set usually have five basic characteristics:
Precise goals let students know what they are striving for and give them a clear target at which to aim.
Measurable goals allow students to know when they have achieved their goals.
Achievable goals are those within a studentââ‚¬â„¢s reach.
Reasonable goals achieve a balance between pushing students to their limits and not frustrating them.
Time-limited goals create due dates that push students to complete a goal. A timeline should include periodic checks on progress (NRS Tips: Learner Goals and NRS Goalsââ‚¬"Making the Connection, n.d.).
Establishing adult learner goals defines the areas in which instruction and learning will be focused in addition to providing a benchmark by which programs and students report progress. To serve this dual purpose, it is essential to differentiate between short and long-term milestones.
It is necessary to update the studentââ‚¬â„¢s goal selection if their situation changes.
It may be suitable to restrict the choice of certain goals when their selection is inappropriate.
Programs must provide guidance so that adult learners select reporting goals that are reasonable. Programs are encouraged to use common sense when helping students choose goals (Requirements for Student Intake and Description of OAE Adult Learner Assessment Policies and Procedures, 2008).
Physical and cognitive changes that take place as people age are important to note because they can have an affect on adult learning and on the goals that they set:
Older students have slower reaction times than younger learners. They need more time to learn new things as they age, however, when adults can control the pace of learning, they can often effectively compensate for their lack of speed and learn new things successfully.
Vision usually declines from the age of 18 to 40. After 40 there is a sharp decline for the next 15 years, but after age 55 the decline in vision occurs at a slower rate.
Roughly at age 70 a persons hearing begins to decline sharply and a person begins experiencing problems with pitch, volume, and rate of response. Loss of hearing can be compensated for through the use of hearing aids, but often older students may be embarrassed by their hearing loss and feel less confident. This decline in confidence can become a greater hindrance to learning than the physical disability.
Few alterations have been found in both sensory and short-term memory as a person ages, but long term memory declines. Older adults have a harder time acquiring and retrieving information and they experience difficulties in organizing new material and in processing it. Older adults are not as able as younger learners in tests of recall, but the differences between older and younger learners in tests of recognition are small or absent.
When contextual learning methods are used, fewer declines have been found in the memory process as a person ages.
The most problems with memory for older learners occur with meaningless learning, complex learning, and the learning of new things that require reassessment of old learning (Adult Learning, n.d.).
Adult learners bring a special set of circumstances to the table when they decided to continue their education. Their goals are very different from those of younger learners because of the fact that they have so much life experience to rely upon. The benchmarks that they set need to be not only attainable but also need to be very measurable so that the learner can feel as if they are making the progress that they want to.