The Nature of the Adult Learner

Adults are not simply tall, grown-up kids. You are not the same person you were yesterday let alone 25 years ago. You have changed physiologically, psychologically, and socially. You view time differently than you did as a child. Your understanding of world events is probably different today than they were just a few years ago. You have acquired life experiences that impact how you process new learning. Sometimes life experiences can actually stand in the way of acquiring new ideas. Donít believe me? Just try to explain the virtues of the Democratic Party to a life-long Republican. How often have you heard, "But, we always do it that way?"

As adults, we have changed. Our views toward learning and teaching have changed. We want and deserve respect from our instructors. Learning, so central to human behavior yet so elusive to understanding, defies easy definition and simple theorizing. There is no "one size fits all" theory of adult learning. But few would disagree with the notion that adults are different than children. Just as you donít wanted to be treated as a child neither do adult learners.

Just how do adults change? What are the implications of these changes for teachers of adults? In this unit, we will look at the changes that take place over a lifetime and will frame them in the context of teaching and learning at Capella University


THE ROSSMAN ADULT LEARNING INVENTORY (RALI)

ORIENTATION TO LEARNING

Directions: The following contains a series of general statements about adult learners (over 25 years of age) and their orientation to learning.

If you think the statement is TRUE, put a "T" in the blank. If you think the statement is FALSE, put an "F" in the blank. Please respond to each statement.

1. Adult learners should be encouraged to relate new or difficult concepts to their existing experience.

2. Adult learners are often issue (or problem) centered rather than subject-centered.

3. It is difficult for an adult to do a familiar task in an unfamiliar way.

4. Adult learners usually want educational experiences that relate to job/life experiences.

5. Most adult learning occurs outside formal learning institutions.

6. An adultís experience may interfere with the learning experience.

7. Adult learners should not be involved in formulating their learning objectives.

8. Adult learners desire minimum time expenditures to complete their educational objectives.

9. Adults and children have the same orientation to learning.

10. There is very little diversity in groups of adult learners.

11. Adult learners should not be allowed to set their own learning pace.

MENTAL ABILITIES QUESTIONS

Directions: The following contains a series of general statements about adult learners (over 25 years of age) and their mental abilities.

If you think the statement is TRUE, put a "T" in the blank. If you think the statement is FALSE, put an "F" in the blank. Please respond to each statement.

12. The pattern of mental abilities does not change with age.

13. Performance of adults on tests measuring vocabulary and general information improves with age.

14. Compared with youth, adults usually require a longer time to perform learning tasks.

15. Age influences the speed of learning.

16. Age in itself does little to affect an individualís power to learn.

17. Adult learning is influenced by the amount of previous formal education.

18. Scores on tests measuring dexterity show no decline with age.

19. Motivation of the adult taking a test is not a major factor in performance.

20. Recency of participation in an educational activity improves an adultís educational performance.

21. Al adult students have the same learning style.

22. Adults often lack necessary study skills.

PHYSIOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS QUESTIONS

Directions: The following contains a series of general statements about adult learners (over 25 years of age) and their physiological characteristics.

If you think the statement is TRUE, put a "T" in the blank. If you think the statement is FALSE, put an "F" in the blank. Please respond to each statement

23. Maximum auditory acuity is attained by about 15 years of age.

24. The inability to hear can produce emotional disturbances such as depression, anxiety, and frustration.

25. Visual acuity attains its maximum at about 18 years of age.

26. For normal learning tasks an adult of age 30 requires 120 watts of illumination, whereas by age 50, 180 watts are required.

27. With advancing age, the lens loses its elasticity and can not focus readily.

28. In the aging process, there is a loss of auditory acuity on the high tones.

29. Speed of reaction time tends to decline with age.

30. As we age, we slow in our reaction to auditory stimuli.

31. A major change in distance acuity occurs between 50 and 60 years of age.

32. Physical strength peaks between 25 and 30.

33. Learning performance declines with age.

PSYCHOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS QUESTIONS

Directions: The following contains a series of general statements about adult learners (over 25 years of age) and their psychological characteristics.

If you think the statement is TRUE, put a "T" in the blank. If you think the statement is FALSE, put an "F" in the blank. Please respond to each statement

34. Frequently the fear of aging is more harmful than the aging process itself.

35. Adults, even more than children, are sensitive to failure in their learning situation.

36. Most adults enter a learning situation with a high readiness to learn.

37. Adults rarely hold the opinion that they are unable to learn.

38. Once the adult has formed a perception of a stimulus, it is difficult to change that perception.

39. The concept of developmental tasks provides a way of identifying the educational needs of adults.

40. Emotional association with words or events does not affect the adult in gaining new knowledge.

41. The phenomenon of the adult years is the universal experience that time seems to pass more quickly as one ages.

42. Adulthood is not a developmental period in itself.

43. The adult has a less realistic attitude toward time than youth.

44. In the learning process, external motivation is usually more effective than internal motivation.