Friday, May 1, 2015

Adult Learners Self-Concept and Self-Direction: Helping Adults Become Independent Learners

 Fiddishun, deals specifically with the attributes of adult learners and technology.  She points out, "It is also important that self-directedness not be confused with self-motivation[Italics mine]. Although a student may be motivated to take a course, they may not be self-directed enough to feel comfortable choosing instructional modules in an online course or creating their own structured environment to learn in a web-based course." (Fiddishun, pp. 4-5)
Some adults, for various reasons, may need a little help in their self-concept.
Fiddishun goes on to suggest how instructors can help the adults who may need encouragement learning to learn:  "Encouraging self-directedness may also take the form of additional instructor contact in the beginning stages of the class or could be facilitated by having students do technology-based modules within a traditional class before they move to a complete course based in technology."  I think we've all seen this in either our teaching or classes where some adults may not be comfortable with technology or research and may need encouragement to catch up on certain skills, or to be more intrepid learners.

Above is the powerpoint slide of Giuliana L. and Monica V., some classmates who expand upon the ideas surrounding self-concept as it pertains to adult learners.  As we get more and more into Knowles's attributes, I can't help thinking that in some ways he is talking about an ideal.  Toward the end of his career Knowles acknowledged that the differences between child and adult learners are not as hard and fast as he had originally thought, and I think self-concept is a good illustration of this.

  For example, if we think of confidence, there are always a few children in any group who have precocious amounts of confidence and independence; and it is not unusual to find adults who lack confidence, cannot accept criticism or feel hurt by it, or who are not self-starters.  While some of this may be personality traits, I think experiences in school and in the family of origin have a lot to do with the range of self-concepts we see in both children and adults.

I have to admit I am a little preoccupied with psychological barriers to learning, including the effects of chronic stress, after my experience teaching youth and young adults ages 14-23 in North Camden in 2013-2014.  Conditions there - both the life circumstances and the educational experiences of the youth and young adults -  were so extreme that I sometimes find myself wondering if I really saw some of the things I did.  In any case, the self-concept of these young people played a very important role in how easily they were able to complete their training, and even whether they could complete it at all.

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