Some students have never learned how to learn. Adult learners often have difficulty with longterm memory. Helping students to organize information and connect to previous experiences can aid in retention. Alan Knox suggests the following to aid adults in retrieving and storing information in long-term memory (P.92-94, Apps):
Give examples of how others organize material. For example, use outlines or image mapping to show the relatin between major and minor points.
Pace learning situations so that learners have time to master the material. Review previous material which may connect to this new experience. Do not assume the connections are obvious to the learner.
Provide opportunties for practice, application, and discussion of experiences. Use multiple formats (visual, verbal, tactile, etc.) and help the learners identify the format which is most useful to them.
Provide some feedback so that learners can check to see whether their understanding is essentially correct. Encourage them to question any existing ambiguities in their understanding.
Through metacognition, the student's understanding of the way s/he learns, students can begin to ask for the type of information each one needs in order to succeed.
Self-management is defined as the willingness and capacity to conduct one's own education. Those engaged in self-managed learning will diagnose needs (with or without outside assistance), select sources for help from others, determine what is personally meaningful (distinct from the reward system of the institution), honestly acknowledge weaknesses and shortcomings, and change tactics when the current strategy is not working. We often assume all adult students have these skills. However, self-management is often a function of life experiences, environmental factors, and social forces (P.61-65, Cranton). Clearly, some students need help in building their self-management skills. This page provides some suggestions for building those skills.
According to Apps, the transformational process includes five phases (P.34-35):
Learners must recognize their lack of knowledge or incorrect knowledge before they can begin to learn.
once they are aware of their deficits, students are ready to hear laternatives
Making a transition
Students begin leaving the old approaches behind and adopting new ones.
Students are ready to reassemble their knowledge.
The ideas are put into practice with the posssibility of movement back through the previous steps.
Students are often unaware of the need to move through these steps. When they enter phase 1, they become concerned that they are more confused and less able to handle problems than they had been. It is important to assure them that this is a normal and important part of learning as an adult.
The implication of these steps is equally important for the instructor. If learners are not presented with proof of the present inadequacy of their knowledge, they will not be motivated to learn. We should not assume (as we often do) that students will believe something is worth learning solely because we say it is.
Most significant adult learning involves both joyful and painful elements. Learners fluctuate betwen episodes of anxiety-producing self-scrutiny and energy-inducing leaps of ability and understanding (P. 12, Brookfield). Hence, it is important to warn students about this time of anxiety and to provide resources for them to draw on. These resources might include flexible office hours and information about Student Support services available through the institution.
For those adults who are ready to be self-directed, the ability to access resources is a key to success. These resources fit into three main categories (P.51, Merriam et al.):
It is important to make these resources available and easy to access. An orientation to the location of these resources can be very helpful.
The following is a list of characteristics or behaviors exhibited by intelligent human beings: (P.1-6, Costa)
Persistence - persevering when the solution to a problem is not readily apparent.
Decreasing Impulsivity - quit shouting out answers and begin to gather information.
Listening to Others - understanding another point of view.
Flexibility in Thinking - developing a tolerance for multiple views.
Metacognition - awareness of our own thinking and the way we come to know.
Checking for Accuracy and Precision
Questioning and Problem Posing
Drawing on Past Knowledge and Applying it to New Situations.
Precision of Language and Thought - using the right words and lack of reliance on 'stuff', 'thing', and 'uh'.
Using all the Senses - active learning.
Ingenuity, Originality, Insightfulness - being creative even when we don't see ourselves as creativity.
Keeping a sense of Wonderment, Inquisitiveness, Curiousity, and Enjoyment of Problem Solving.
Research shows that the simple step of having a student create a study schedule and then making a formal, public commitment to adhering to it will actually show improved academic performance. This is especially useful in procrastinating underacheivers ((P.506, Leeming)
One of the best indicators of student gains is level of engagement in active learning (Kuh et al.). We often assume students know that they should do these things. For students who have no cultural experience with higher learning and who were not college prep in high school, the chances are small that are assumptions will be met. The following is a list of items classified as active learning (P.451-452, Kuh et al.) Consider sharing these with your students and heltping them to build these skills.
Underline major points in readings.
Write a rough draft of papers or essays and revise it before handing it in.
Use a dictionary or thesaurus to look up proper meaning of words. Refer to a book or manual about writing style, grammar, etc.
Try to see how different facts and ideas fit together.
Think about practical applications of the materials.
Summarize major points and information in your readings or notes. Made outlines from notes or readings.
Participate in class discussions.
Work on a paper or project where ideas from various sources are integrated.
Idetify with a character in a book or movie and visualize yourself in similar circumstances.
Developed a bibliography or set of references. Used a cared catalogue or computer to find materials. Used indexes to journal articles. Asked the librarian for help in finding materials on a topic.
Elected a course which dealst with understanding personal and social behavior. Read articles or books about personal adjustment and personality develpments.
Took a test to measure your abilities, interests, or attitudes.
Read something in the reserve book room or reference section. Did additional readings on topics that were introduced and discussed in clss. Found some interesting material to read just by browing in the stacks. Check out books (not textbooks) to read.
Students often do not understand that college is about learning, not about being taught.
Cooperation Among Students One of the best predictors of student gains is the amount of cooperation among students that a learner experiences. (P.450-451, Kuh) Examples of cooperation among students are:
Discuss your educational experiences with a friend or a group.
Try to explain the course or subject to another person or group of people.
Ask other people to read and discuss your work.
Get involved in a discussion about personal problems with another person or group of people.
Work with a student organization or group on a special project or a committee.
The research shows that opportunites which allow a student to socialize also allow students to grow intellectually.
Apps, Jerold W.,The Adult Learner on Campus. Follet Publishing Co., Chicago, 1981.
Though some of the material may be dated, this book contains many useful examples of exemplary practices.
Brookfield, Stephen,Why Can't I Get this Right? Myths and Realities in Facilitating Adult Learning.Adult Learning: April 1992, P12-15.
Costa, Arthur, What Human Beings Do When They Behave Intelligently and How They Can Become More So. Paper presented by Arthur Costa, California State University, Sacramento.
The author lists characteristics and behaviors exhibited by intelligent people.
Cranton, Patricia,Professional Development as Transformative Learning, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 1996.
Leeming, Frank C.,Commitment to Study as a Technique to improve Exam Performance.Journal of College Student Development: Vol. 38, No. 5, Setp/Oct 1997.
The author presents his research on asking students to commit to studying.