Adult Vs. Student Learners: Is There a Difference?

Have you ever considered if there is a difference in how first graders, or fifth graders, or eleventh graders learn?Is there a difference in their learning vs. how you and your colleagues learn? It turns out, the answer is definitely YES.So, let’s take a look at how ADULTS best learn. Adults:• are autonomous and self-directed.• use their foundation of life experiences and knowledge.• are goal-oriented.• are relevancy-oriented.• want practical, useful information.• need to be shown respect.Adult learners prefer single concept, single-theory learning experiences that focus heavily on the application of the concept to relevant problems.Adults need to be able to integrate new ideas with what they already know if they are going to keep – and use – the new information.Information that conflicts sharply with what is already held to be true, and thus forces a re-evaluation of the old material, is integrated more slowly.Adults tend to compensate for being slower in some psychomotor learning tasks by being more accurate and making fewer trial-and-error ventures.Adults tend to take errors personally and are more likely to let them affect self-esteem. Therefore, they tend to apply tried-and-true solutions and take fewer risks.Adults have something real to lose in a classroom situation. Self-esteem and ego are on the line when they are asked to risk trying a new behavior in front of peers and cohorts.Adults prefer self-directed and self-designed learning projects over group-learning experiences led by a professional, they select more than one medium for learning, and they desire to control pace and start/stop time.The learning environment must be physically and psychologically comfortable; long lectures, periods of interminable sitting and the absence of practice opportunities rate high on the irritation scale.Adults bring a great deal of life experience into the classroom, an invaluable asset to be acknowledged, tapped and used. Adults can learn well-and much-from dialogue with respected peers.New knowledge has to be integrated with previous knowledge; students must actively participate in the learning experience. The learner is dependent on the instructor for confirming feedback on skill practice.Adults have expectations, and it is critical to take time early on to clarify and articulate all expectations before getting into content.So, let’s now take a look at some ways that children most successfully learn:• Children depend upon adults for instruction in their physical, psychological and life skills support. When learning, they expect to be directed by adults.• Children believe that one of their major roles in life is to learn from adults.• Children learn quickly.• Children are open to new information and will readily adjust their views.• For the most part, children learn what they are told to learn.• Children filter very little of what they are taught. If an adult tells them, they will most likely accept it as fact.• Children believe learning is important if adults tell them it is important.• Children usually learn in groups of others that are much like them – same age, same educational level, similar socio-economic groups, similar belief systems.• Children’s readiness to learn is linked to both academic development and biological development.• Children can be externally motivated by the promise of good grades, praise from parents and/or teachers.• Children have less well-formed sets of expectations in terms of formal learning experiences. Their “filter” of past experience is smaller than that of adults.Many veteran teachers know that children can remember things they were told for decades. In fact, a few positive, or negative, words can set the path for a child’s future.Telling children that they CAN do something is often a prescription for success. In turn, telling them they cannot do something often convinces them that they can’t.