Adult Learners / Learning Styles

I am very interested in the part of the discussion related to the fact that “Age differences may also affect how people learn, how they manage technology and expectations about educator and learner’s roles”. Because I completed the Online Instruction program, but  also because the population of learners I teach to includes a wide variety of learners in terms of age, this topic is particularly important to me. I have started designing my own French online courses and I am not sure is the oldest part of the population will be interested in taking the course online or blended as I am planning to offer it. However, I also teach Digital Literacy and I see many people over 70, even 80 years old come to learn how to use their Digital Devices including computers. Does it mean that they would choose these tools in order to learn other topics? I doubt that it would be their first choice. It was mentionned in the discussion that “Fear, more than age, may impact how learners approach and use technology”. When I teach Digital Literacy, I  observe that fear is often related to age. Here is what the literature says about that:

  • People from the Veterans generation “do not like the change” and “they are not very risk tolerant” (United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund, n.d., p.5). This is probably why they are afraid of doing something wrong when they use technology.
  • People from the Boomer generation are “either afraid of new technology or just simply do not understand it” (United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund, n.d., p.9). However, since they are also “avid learners” (Coates, 2007) and “competitive” (Hart, 2008), they would probably take up the challenge of using technology to learn and do their best.
  • As for the Gen X who still belong to the Digital Immigrant group (Prensky, 2001) “learn – like all immigrants, some better than others – to adapt to their environment”. Therefore, we can expect that the majority should have a level of comfort facing the use of technology to learn higher than the two previous generations. They are motivated also by the possibility of the latest technological advances” (United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund, n.d., p.8).

This is about age differences affecting how people manage technology. Now about their expectations about educator and learners’ role, I found that the difference is higher among people with different cultures. In some cultures, the mark of respect towards different people, including the teacher, is very important. For the same reason, people raised with this culture, expect the teacher to tell them what they have to know. (But whatever the differences are between the different learners, I believe that a self-directed approach is new for any adult learner. It needs to be clearly explained in order to be understood and accepted.)

I totally agree that “Classroom Assessment Techniques (CAT’s) are great tools for educators to fully understand their learners’ needs, expectations, level of learning and motivation”. I have been using them a lot since I took PIDP 3230 but, maybe not so much to understand my learner’s expectations. I have been using a pre-course questionnaire for that but I guess I could us a CAT to also get better feedback about the course (to see if it meets learners’ expectation) during the course.

Why do we “teach everybody the same” despite the fact that we are aware of learners’ differences and how important they are? I am trying to see how I could take these differences into account during a group class. I believe that I do a little bit: when I ask questions individually, I choose the question according to what I know about the learner. However, this discussion makes me wonder if I could do more.

I am not finding any answer right now but this discussion forum has certainly been a good reminder for me that, even though I don’t like the learning style “classification”, differences among learners are very important to take into account all the time.

Coates, J. (2007). Generation Y – The Millennial Generation. In Generational Learning Styles. Retrieved from http://www.docstoc.com/docs/63832024/Generation-Y—The-Millennial-Generation +

United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund. (n.d.). Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y (and Generation Z) Working Together. WHAT MATTERS AND HOW THEY LEARN? How different are they? Fact and fiction. [PDF Document]. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/staffdevelopment/pdf/Designing%20Recruitment,%20Selection%20&%20Talent%20Management%20Model%20tailored%20to%20meet%20UNJSPF%27s%20Business%20Development%20Needs.pdf

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