Adult Learners and PLN

I’ve taught adults in person and online for more than 10 years and I always thought I had a pretty good handle on their expectations and needs. When I took ED 601 over the summer, research confirms my teaching practice is following the needs of adult learners (Boudeaux & Schoenack, 2016).  Many of the students I teach are older, working,and have families or other obligations that make school their secondary focus.  In general, adult learners want clearly stated expectations and instructions. They need assignments that are connected and relevant to their real world experiences.  But this semester, I was more than the teacher to adult learner—I was an adult learner myself. 

As an older student (if not the oldest in this class), I was challenged by balancing my job (teaching 3 online courses,advising students and administering the paralegal program), my kids and family,and my personal obligations with the work required from the two courses I took this semester.  I had to weigh how much time I could devote to an assignment and what parts of my job could be put aside for later.  Near the end of the semester, I could feel my stamina waning as I was grading final papers,advising and planning next semester’s courses. I gave assignments like the tools review and media creation priority because they were relevant to my job and connected to my prior experience. Some other assignments, while important in the big picture, didn’t seem as relevant to me after I finished grading over 50 assignments from 3classes.  I had to decide if earning an A by searching out grammar errors in a blog post was worth giving up some much needed down time. 

 How does this reflection tie into my PLN?  I can add a new connection and a new way to relate to my own students.  I’ve been in their position in deciding what work must be done and what can slide while still maintaining a decent grade.  I can really understand now how a student will look at an assignment and make a conscious decision on what level of effort and participation they can put into the assignment.

Bourdeaux, R., & Schoenack, L. (2016). Adult Student Expectations and    Experiences in an Online LearningEnvironment. Journal of Continuing Higher Education, 64(3),152-161. doi: 10.1080/07377363.2016.1229072

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