“Adults are problem-centred, not subject-centred, and desire immediate, not postponed application of knowledge learned.” (p. 53)
This quote got me thinking about the basics of andragogy (the art & science of helping adults learn) and what mature students need to make learning experiences both positive, productive and memorable.
I have learned that adults learning needs are different from the pedagogical needs of youth and children. “Creating good learning experiences for adults is what andragogy is all about” (2014, Merriam & Bierma, p. 44).
Adults need learning experiences that are relevant and applicable. They need a comfortable and appropriate learning environment – and opportunities for highly-engaged, active learning where they can interact and share thoughts and ideas.
They need to feel comfortable enough to ask questions and to know that their learning needs are understood by the instructor and will be met. They also want their contributions to be valued.
At first when I read the quote, I thought it was insulting to adult learners in that it generalized the fact that adult learners are not big-picture thinkers. Upon further reflection, I realized that the quote isn’t meant to be offensive, just realistic.
As a result of this quote, I once again realized how important it is to make the content relevant and immediately applicable for my students. Again, providing opportunities to apply the skills through engaging activities will be the cornerstone of my teaching practice going forward.
I am an instructor at British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) where students have an expectation that they will walk away with the technical skills needed to perform at work.
My “aha moment” when reading this quote was that I’ve had to face the fact that, even though students have given me many great reviews, I probably haven’t always provided truly student-centered engaging learning environments because I lacked the proper training and resources.
A key insight I will apply is that I will now limit the length of my lectures and focus on incorporating new student engagement techniques whereby the students have the chance to actively engage, debate and reflect.
Reflecting on this quote has influenced how I will teach in the future by solidifying the need to make learning student centered.
Activities that develop learner attitudes, values and self awareness, and engage students in learning course-related knowledge and skills, will now always be included in the face-to-face and online courses I teach.
By studying the field of andragogy, I now realize that adults need to be taught in away that emphasizes process – as opposed to content.
Using Knowles formula, I will “set a climate for learning that physically and psychologically respects adult learners and then involves the learners in the planning, delivery and evaluation of their own learning (Knowles, 1984).
Merriam, S. & Bierema, L. (2014). Adult Learning – Linking Theory and Practice. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Barkley, E. (2010). Student engagement techniques: A handbook for college faculty. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.