The Differences Between Adult Learners and Children
©Copyright DRK 2012
When the word student is mentioned, most of us automatically think of a young person who falls into the age group of an elementary, middle school, high school, or college student. There are, however, others who qualify as students. We see them everyday. They are everywhere. These individuals are adult or older adolescent learners. They can be a relative, a neighbor, a co-worker, or a complete stranger. The age group for these learners can range from 25 to l00 years of age. Their reasons for returning to school can be as varied as the learners themselves. Some are returning to attain their GED, to seek a professional certification, to secure an advanced degree for job advancement, to acquire a new hobby, or simply to satisfy their desire for continued knowledge. The adult or older adolescent learner differs from children in many different ways.
The first difference is that children are not concerned with the time spent in class. They know they must be there for a certain amount of time, and they accept that fact. When it comes to the adult learner, their responsibilities often compete with their desire to learn. The adult learner's responsibilities far exceed those of children. These learners must manage their time very well to accommodate their classroom and study time. The second difference is that older adolescents and adults are impatient learners. They have specific goals they are trying to achieve, and these goals are what drive their acquisition of classroom knowledge. Children, however, are not in a hurry to acquire knowledge in a particular amount of time. The next difference is children need a great deal of direction when it comes to the learning process. If their activities are not teacher directed, chaos and confusion are the result. Adult learners enjoy self direction. The teacher becomes a facilitator more than instructor. An additional difference between children and the adult learner is children are prone to learning information by rote or memory. The adult learner’s approach is acquisition of knowledge from practical everyday experiences and knowledge. They prefer to learn by doing rather than listening to lectures in a classroom environment. Finally, the adult learner may have auditory or vision discrimination problems. They might not be able to see images and words on computer screens as clearly as children. Unlike children, these learners may not have had a vision or hearing test for years. The glasses they wear may be an outdated prescription or belong to a friend.
In conclusion, there are numerous other differences between adult learners and children. I have merely touched the surface with my comparisons. So, the next time you encounter an adult learner, remember they are no longer children sitting in the classrooms but older, wiser more experienced learners who are eager to make their contributions to our world.