Adulthood and aging is mid-life transition that happens to individuals typically ranging from thirties to late fifties. It is a natural process and is normal part of maturing. These experiences at mid-life can occur naturally or result from some significant changes that can inevitably occur at some point in time. Coming to terms with such changes can be difficult enough, but when it is complicated by mid-life transition, the process can bewildering and overwhelming (Huyck, 1993).
There are many learning theories, each of them emphasizing various aspects of the teaching and learning process. However, adult learning should be looked at as a distinct style of learning and is unique to that of child and adolescence learning. Adults bring their life experiences into the classroom. They bring past knowledge as well as past biases and beliefs. Adult students want to be acknowledged as adults. They need to be actively involved in determining how and what they will learn, and they need active rather than passive learning experiences.
Many adults are stressed from their daily lives responsibilities when they arrive for class and need a style of teaching that is creative, alive and humorous to hold their attention.
Knowles' theory (1984) of andragogy makes the following assumptions about the design of learning: (1) Adults need to know why they need to learn something (2) Adults need to learn experientially, (3) Adults approach learning as problem-solving, and (4) Adults learn best when the topic is of immediate value. Knowles endeavored to develop a theory that was specific to adult learning. Knowles emphasizes that adults are self-directed and expect to take responsibility for decisions. Staff development programs must embrace this essential viewpoint (Knowles, 1984).
Erickson's (1963) eight stages of development suggest that human connected-ness is part of the first stage, trust vs. mistrust, which covers the first year of life. This aspect does not appear again till age six, intimacy vs. isolation. All of Erickson's other stages leading to adulthood involve individual rather than relational issues" autonomy vs. shame and doubt initiative vs. guilt and identity vs. role confusion. Identity is defined as having a sense of self apart from one's own family. In addition, from age twenty those characteristics that refers to interpersonal issues: doubt, shame, inferiority and role confusion (all of which are associated with female's characteristics) signify failure.
In concluding, it is imperative that adult learning should be looked at as a distinct style of learning. It is unique and should be studied separate to that of child and adolescence learning. Children learners are as a blank slate. Adult learners are entering the classroom with a mountain of issues surrounding their need or desire to learn. These situations must be addressed if we are to achieve success in holding the interest of the adult learner. Adult learners need to be involved in active learning. The reason the adult learner has entered the classroom also needs to be addressed. The typical adult learner seeks out an education for a reason. The reason can be self-improvement, job enhancement, or quest for more income. It may be self-fulfillment, maintaining culture status, society status or a whole slew of other reasons. Adults who pursue further education have a mission to fulfill. The need may be personal or secular.
References:Erickson, F (1968). Identity: Youth and Crisis. New York: Norton.
Huyck, M.H. (1993). Middle Age. Academic America Encyclopedia. (13) 390-391Knowles, M. (1984). The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species (3rd Ed.). Houston, TX:Gulf Publishing