The “New” Adult Learner

23 Feb

Recently John K. Waters wrote an interesting article on how current students are “different because of technology.” Check out the article here:

In the article, Waters identified certain characteristics that make these students different, such as:

1. More self-directed
2. Better equipped to capture information
3. More reliant on feedback from peers
4. More inclined to collaborate
5. More oriented towards their own nodes of production.

Certainly these characteristics make current students “different” from prior generations. But what will happen when these current students become adult learners?

Well, as studies have shown (see Malcolm Knowles) adult learners have certain standard, yet personal characteristics. Typically, adults have a rich background of knowledge and experience that they can draw upon. Adults are also pragmatic learners, applying their learning to current situations. And of course, what, where, and how adults learn is shaped by their own personal context (Caffarella, Planning Programs, p39).

So when current students become adult learners, will the typical characteristics of adult learners change?

The answer, I believe, is somewhat but not entirely. Why? Because current students share certain characteristics as adult learners. Both are knowledge based learners. And both favour personalized learning.

However, the characteristics of adult learners will change because of technology. Instead of relying on personal experience, the “new” adult learner will draw from their social network.

What other characteristics do you think the “new” adult learner will have?


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