Research indicates some interesting principles on adult learning (Andragogy). The following is the second of a series on the topic and the way in which the Academy approaches this issue in practice with its adult students.
The Academy’s students are typically between 25 and 35 and are fully employed. They follow a part-time, open distance, undergraduate programme.
Life experience has enabled adults to experience life and they therefore have a well-developed cognitive map of the world.
This is unfortunately not necessarily good for education as new information conflicts with what we, especially as adults, already know and believe. In practical terms, experience may very well translate into resistance to change.
Adult learning will therefore mostly require a certain measure of unlearning and this is the reason why adult learning is more difficult and why it often takes longer.
It should also be remembered that experience becomes the source of a person’s self-identity and dignity. New information therefore challenges the self-identity and the adult student may feel that his/her self-identity is undermined and is therefore unable to assimilate the learning. This is especially important to remember when working with adults who have little formal education, because they have little to sustain their dignity over their experience. Many of our students fit exactly into this category and we are very careful not to offend.