As educators, it is important that
we have a firm understanding of who the learner in our classroom will be. Why are they there? What do they expect in their education? What
experience will they bring with them?
What anxieties do they have coming in?
As we sum up this 5-part series on understanding the adult learners, I
want us to look at a few remaining characteristics.
Ingrained Habits. Adult learners may come to your classrooms
with behavior patterns that may be contrary to what you will be presenting. Adult learners may be less flexible or more
difficult to persuade than other learners.
They may feel threatened when told that former behaviors must change.
The master educator will take
advantage of the learners’ past experiences and behaviors and whenever
possible, use them to improve procedures or techniques.
Established Opinions. Adult
learners often arrive with established opinions about what is being
taught. Those opinions may not always be
productive or appropriate but should be recognized as important.
Adults need to be told their ideas
and opinions have value and weight; that they are significant if they are to be
actively involved in the learning process.
Relationship with Prior
Knowledge. Adult learners have a
relationship with prior knowledge. We
live in a world today where people have access to information at their
fingertips and it is quite likely that your students have spent time “learning”
various techniques through YouTube or from friends. They are going to make connections with what
information you are teaching them with the knowledge they already have.
I recognize that not all of what
they have learned is going to be accurate and that sometimes it feels as if we
spend more time getting them to forget about what they think they know. But it is also important that we do not completely
discredit everything they know. Look for
ways to relate what you are teaching them to things that might already be
familiar to them. This gives the adult
learners familiar ground on which to stand while you are also asking them to
stretch or expand into unfamiliar territory.
This makes the training process less threatening, more accessible and
more comfortable. In addition, the
practicality and usefulness of the new information becomes more relevant.
Involvement Is Needed. Adult
learners are not willing to simply sit in a classroom and receive information
passively. They need to participate in
the learning process and know that their participation is having a positive
effect on the learning process.
We must limit lecture to only essential
information and then involve the learners by having them use it. Encourage questions, ask for learners’
opinions, challenge learners to think and incite reaction on the part of the
learners to what is taking place in the classroom. If they have an active role in the learning
process, learners will have a personal stake in making that process successful.
Lisha Barnes is a Cosmetology/Barber Instructor with over 25 years of experience. She started out in a small private school working in Admissions, Financial Aid, Education, and School Director. She was a Director of Education for a chain of Private Cosmetology schools. Currently she serves as the Academic Development Manager for Milady where she supports schools and educators around the nation with continuing education, curriculum development and product knowledge. Lisha has served as an Educator for Milady’s Career Institute; NACCAS Commission; Career Educators of America Committee Member; and has authored numerous writing projects for Milady. This industry experience allows her to see the industry from a variety of viewpoints, which helps in sharing information and ideas with educators all around the world.