Adult Learning Across Contexts
Adult learning takes place in a wide variety of settings and contexts such as higher education, adult literacy programs, professional education, and workplace education. In adult education, educators are not the source of knowledge or information. They are the facilitators of learning as they guide the adult learners in acquiring knowledge. Adult learners have a wealth of knowledge gained from their experiences with work and life. They desire to apply what they know and wish to be acknowledged for having that knowledge. Experience for the adults is the principal source of self-identity and failure to maximize or explore their skills and experience may cause them to feel rejected. To make each lesson meaningful and permanent, the instructor must help adult learners relate the information or subject matter to their life experiences.
Adults Seek Applicable Learning Opportunities
Adults have a strong tendency to learn what will be of instant use to their personal and professional lives. They must see a need for learning (what’s in it for me?) before learning will take place. Incentives such as increased job satisfaction, self-esteem and enhanced quality of life are the internal factors that drive adults to seek learning opportunities. The adult learners will respond more positively if these incentives can be related to the class projects and activities that are fulfilling and relevant to their personal and professional needs.
Adult learners seek learning opportunities with defined goals and expectations. Adults are usually motivated to learn due to their interest and the benefits that they will obtain after the completion of the course. To make learning interesting, relevant, meaningful and lasting, it is important for instructors or facilitators to help the adult learners explore and apply their skills, knowledge and experience in their chosen learning venture.
In today’s fast changing environment, a vital factor of survival for any organization is its ability to maintain a competitive advantage. In order to accomplish this, organizations must develop its employees so that they are able to take responsibility for their production, to solve dilemmas, to work in groups, and to obtain skills that transfer across professions. Maintaining a competitive advantage begins with an extremely motivated and knowledgeable workforce to produce higher quality products at lower costs.
HRD Enhances Performance
To obtain the best result of improving skills and knowledge from training, both trainers and trainees need help from human resource development (HRD) professionals. HRD is a practice that combines training, organizational development, and career development efforts to encourage improvement of individual, group, and organizational performance. Its purpose is to enhance employee performance and productivity, which leads to employee and customer satisfaction and an increase in the profitability of the organization.
The success of organizations depends not only on the effectiveness of utilizing financial and physical resources but also on human resources. The effectiveness of developing human resources is among the most vital issues to organizations. In any organization, management of employees is a principal. The mission of an organization can be successfully accomplished through developing its employees to their fullest potential. Organizations that are unaware of the importance of developing their human resources frequently result in low productivity and high dissatisfaction and turnover among employees.
Adult Learning Theories and Practice
There are many theories that attempt to describe how adults learn. This site provides information on adult learning theories and research in relation to practice in the field of human resource development. Included is information on the implication of adult learning theories for those involved with adult education across contexts and how adults acquire and use knowledge, skills, and attitudes.
Shirley J. Caruso, M.A., Human Resource Development
Shirley J. Caruso is chief editor of www.EAdultEducation.org. Shirley earned a B.A. (Human Resource Development) at Northeastern Illinois University (2008); and a M.A. (Human Resource Development) at Northeastern Illinois University (2010). She is founder and president of WISE Training and Development Consultants (Chicago, Illinois), an adjunct professor in Northeastern Illinois University’s Human Resource Development department, and a Spanish instructor for St. Peter Lutheran School (Schaumburg, Illinois).
Shirley’s professional background includes over 15 years of experience in project management and human resource development. She currently puts the human resource development theories she writes about into practice by developing talented employees to help clients achieve real competitive advantages, designing and delivering highly effective training and development programs that enable participants to enhance their individual performance, supporting the learning goals of students by focusing on student learning outcomes, considering the needs and abilities of the students, becoming familiar with academic and social support, making reasonable provision to accommodate individual differences, and maintaining the academic integrity of Northeastern Illinois University, and working in collaboration with faculty of all ranks and disciplines to promote educational innovation and the improvement of student learning.
Shirley also holds a variety of training and development affiliations and awards. She is a
member of the Chicagoland Chapter of the American Society for Training & Development
(CCASTD) and the Northeastern Illinois University Human Resource Development Student
Association. She chaired the local site committee for the Midwest Research-to-Practice 2009 Conference in Adult, Continuing, Extension & Community Education and authored a paper entitled “Integrating Informal Workplace Learning Into The Workflow Through The Development Of Performance Support Tools” published in the Midwest Research-to-Practice 2009 Conference Proceedings. In 2010, she received an Award of Merit in Recognition of Outstanding Research from Northeastern Illinois University’s 18th Annual Research & Creative Activities Symposium. In 2009, she was a Deb Colky Workplace Learning and Performance Award finalist and received Outstanding Service to the Community, Outstanding Piece of Academic Work, and Overall Integration of Conceptual and Experiential Competencies Awards from Northeastern Illinois University. Shirley
has also been recognized by Northeastern Illinois University for her valuable contributions to the Graduate College Seminar Series (2008-2010).