Teaching and Supporting Adult Learners

Subject: Education
Pages: 3
Words: 588
Reading time:
3 min
Study level: College

How has adult learning changed over time?

The constitution of what is adult learning has changed over time. Initially, the term related to literacy for immigrants’ and workers’ education. Today, the concept captures the entire process of educating adults, irrespective of the context and the aim of educating them. This implies that adult learning now incorporates all kinds of mainstream education options for furthering skills and knowledge. However, jobs, self-perception, and age still dominate the definition of an adult learner. Adult education has become responsive to the job market. It has also become very professional as adult learners continue to pursue mainstream educational qualifications to meet the job requirements (Obama, 2009). Although there are some vocational learning programs, the main demand for adult education is on formal educational qualifications. Many educators and education institutions are also embracing prior learning assessment to save time, resources, and the overall cost of adult education.

The theories of adult learning have been changing since the past century, which has had an effect on the overall practice. Practitioners rely on theoretical guidelines to inform their approach and policies for executing adult learning programs. The focus continues to shift from teaching and teachers to the learners and the best way to make them appreciate and gain most from the education. Individual adult learners now have an opportunity to choose from different forms of learning delivery, including private classes, traditional classes, and virtual classes. A ready-made pedagogical and anagogical method that would apply to all cases of adult learning is rapidly disappearing. Programs of adult learning are increasingly becoming a career or professional based, regional and time based, depending on the objectives and capabilities affecting the learners’ andragogy (OECD, 2003).

Why is understanding the contexts of adult learning important to you as a future or current educator?

Educators are often facing the demand for the inclusion of technology in adult learning. At the same time, the overall demand for adult learning is increasing, and educators face a challenge of delivering just-in-time learning outcomes (Merriam, Caffarella & Baumgartner, 2007). Adult learners require immediate assistance and skills to enable them to respond well to changes in society and the economy. Understanding contexts such as these enables an educator to estimate the learning demand for the future, understand the current trends, and be able to obtain the right assistance and tools to facilitate effective adult education. This becomes important because the education has to concentrate on the learner and be transformative, with sufficient cover of motivation and technology needs. The massive open online courses continue to dominate prospects of adult learners and may become the mainstream replacement of college and university education. An educator needs to understand the leaner’s position when dealing with remote delivery of education.

Adult learning and practitioners in the field must move away from a factory mode of learning. They must avoid overreliance on quantifiable methods, punish-and-reward systems, or behaviorism as the only and preferred designs for delivering teaching to adult learners. Instead, the field of adult learning is moving towards an approach where learning is outside the mind and not separated from the experience and the context of the learning situation.

This is a major reason for bringing in the context as an important criterion for becoming a competent adult educator (Hansman, 2001). Adult education can create or enhance contexts for adult learning by viewing knowledge in the context of ordinary people. That is why it is important once again for a current or future educator to be aware of the learning context.


Hansman, C. A. (2001). Context-based adult learning. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 2001(89), 43-52. Web.

Merriam, S., Caffarella, R., & Baumgartner, L. (2007). Learning in adulthood: A comprehensive guide (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

OECD. (2003). Beyond rhetoric adult learning policies and practices: Adult learning. Paris: OECD Publications Service.

Obama, B. (2009, July 14, 2009). Remarks by the president on the American graduation initiative, Warren, MI. Web.