Adult Learning – what does it take?

What does it mean to be an Adult Learner or engage in Life Long Learning? Or perhaps that should be restated as: What does it take to be an Adult Learner or engage in Life Long Learning?

What characteristics separate those of us who seek out new experiences from those of us who prefer to keep things as they are?

Brainstorming with myself and rattling off in stream-of-consciousness style, here are some approaches in which an Adult Learner must be willing to engage:

• risk-taking
• mistake-making
• looking silly
• asking questions
• being a beginner
• venturing into unfamiliar territory
• decision-making

in the moment is a site dedicated to using improvisation to teach adult learners, and to helping caregivers understand, communicate with, and care for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Karen Stobbe has combined her passions to provide a very helpful, soothing release to a difficult practice. Many of the activities can be used as ice breakers or to limber the body and mind before engaging in something new. To that end, Karen mentions the following about Adult Learners…

• want to know why
• vary greatly in learning and education and experience
• want feedback on how they are doing
• may have to unlearn first
• on their terms and in their language
• would rather problem solve than gather information
• need to be involved in their learning experience
• need to be ready to learn
• learn by doing and practicing new skills

Okay, if you managed to read to this point, please click on the “Leave A Comment” button below and add your thoughts on what Adult Learners should be willing to do or what they want. Consider this an informal polling of Adult Learners. Thanks!


3 thoughts on “Adult Learning – what does it take?

  1. Steve Rosenbaum

    One of the questions you can ask at the start of a session is,
    “what do you think or believe is absolutely true about….?”

    The I like to create some type of experience where they have a chance to see things in a little different way.

    Kids tend not to be as much intrenched in their opions so it is a little different. Also an adult may know a lot about a subject.

    If you want to see something interesting, go to a session where doctors are in attendence. When they ask questions, they almost always know the answer. They are just checking to see if the speaker knows what he or she is talking about.

    Finally, I was told an analogy years back that was helpful. Think of teaching being like farming. You have to clear the field of all the weeds more you can plant anything. Weeds take the form of unhelpful beliefs and opinions.

    my blog is

  2. synapsesensations Post author

    Thanks for your comment.

    In other words, it is a matter of getting adult learners to think about how they do something, perhaps get them to self-critique that system, and as part of that process become open to hearing/learning about other possibilities.

    This is making me think about how I present professional development at school, in particular how to reach those faculty who are not as interested/willing to try something new.

    I try to be sensitive to teachers who have been doing what they are doing for a long enough time to feel they are doing it well. My task is to expose them to new ideas and approaches, and if I’m successful in how this is done then they will be willing to engage with the ideas or try out the approach.

    Your comment is a useful reminder for me when I’m feeling stymied by those who are reluctant to change.

  3. Steve Rosenbaum

    What makes adult learning a challenge is that all adults have an opinion or a believe system about everything. That usually blocks learning something new. Those who build good training for adults address these beliefs first before they try to do anything new.

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