Successful learning hinges extensively on the extent to which the interests and needs of the learner are being taken care of. An Adult Educator, therefore, should be conversant with the psychological and sociological needs of the adult learner.
We shall attempt the peculiar characteristics and needs of the adult learner and some of the motivational strategies for promoting effective teaching and learning.
The approaches are necessary because of the several myths about adult learning which incidentally have been retarding the development of meaningful adult education programs in some parts of Nigeria.
Adult learners and their qualities
For quite a long time, there had been the myth that older persons would always have serious difficulty in learning.
Recent research findings have found that older persons are capable of learning if a conducive learning atmosphere is established. They could even learn much better than the youths, especially in discerning the resultant implications of certain information.
Motivation is a major factor in learning. An adult who develops an intrinsic interest in learning or in learning a particular skill would demonstrate a sense of purpose and commitment; hence, learning could be faster.
For example, an adult who voluntarily registers for an adult literary class is probably able to write and read letters from his children. He is likely to attend lessons punctually and could also learn faster than those who were persuaded to register for the class.
Experience constitutes another factor in some learning. The wealth of experience acquired by an adult learner could be an advantage to him for building a clearer mental image of various subject matters than a younger learner.
The learners’ needs of every adult vary according to his social role. For example, a newly married couple will be much concerned with how to keep a happy home while a young nursing mother will be obsessed with nursing education.
An adult who is just learning how to play the piano will be much interested in the skill of playing piano while an adult learner who is learning to weave would be prepared to spend hours learning the trade. Learning interests vary according to the social role of the individual.
Desire for self-actualization
The desire for self-actualization is the ultimate goal of some adult learners. Some adults embark on learning to enable them to rise to the optimum level of their chosen career to enjoy satisfaction and acceptability in their field.
For example, some clerks, typists, electricians, cabinet makers, etc. prefer to be rated the best in their fields. Some adult learners also attend refresher courses, continuing education programs, and staff development courses to enable them to enjoy development and importance in their jobs.
Adults who have achieved a certain level of life attainment may take up learning for recreational purposes. An adult could learn to play the violin, lawn tennis, and piano probably to gainfully engage his leisure.
Strategies for promoting (adult learning)
The following salient conditions were suggested by Miller (1966).
Change in behavior
The learner must be adequately motivated to change his behavior. There is a need for the learner to develop genuine interest and enjoyment in the learning.
He should be adequately convinced that the learning is useful and relevant to him to allow learning to take place. This will make him cultivate a certain desirable culture.
The Adult educators must establish an atmosphere that will enhance the learners’ self-concept, ego, and cordial relationship between them and the adult learners.
Awareness of inadequacy
The learner must be aware of inadequacy in his present knowledge, skill, or behavior. It is common wisdom that an awareness of a problem is a prerequisite for the solution.
The adult learner should recognize his inadequacies to find solutions to them. There is always the tendency for an adult learner to be resistant to changes and innovations.
A long-time cultivated habit, attitude, belief or opinion may be difficult to give up. An adult educator needs the divine wisdom of God to counsel the adult learner to form a new opinion about situations and things. Establish enough rapport with him before making any effort to change his present stance.
The gain in knowledge and skills
The learner must have a clear picture of what gains in knowledge or skill or what changes in behavior he will achieve.
An adult educator should plan his programs such that the adult learners will be able to perceive very clearly the benefits that will accrue from his effort or a new skill. In clear terms, both the quantifiable and unquantifiable benefits have to be identified.
These could provide a veritable source of inspiration for adult learners.
The learner must have opportunities to put his new knowledge, skill, or, behavior into practice. Learning becomes more rewarding when there are opportunities for making use of the new knowledge.
An adult educator should provide opportunities for adult learners to gainfully use the newly acquired skill.
The learner must have reinforcement of newly learned behavior. An adult educator should provide feedback for the learners to know how far they are progressing in the course of instruction.
The teacher should carefully monitor the extent to which the objectives set for the program have been achieved.
Support of sequence
The learner needs the support of a sequence of relevant and appropriate study materials. Materials used for the adult learners should be appropriate and relevant to the background and experience of the adult learners.
Cognizance of the variations
An adult educator should take cognizance of the variations in the adult learners; therefore, combinations of methods should be employed in teaching.
The adult learners’ experience should be built into the instructional content to enable the other members of the group to benefit from others. For example, a successful maize farmer could share his successful experience with the other members of the group.
Active participation in teaching
Adult learners should be allowed active participation in the teaching-learning process. The lesson becomes more stimulating when learners have the opportunity to freely participate in the lesson.
The lesson should be full of practical activities that would allow adult learners to engage in various rewarding programs.
An adult educator should relate to adult learners with respect, dignity, and a high level of decorum. It should be realized that most of them occupy dignifying and responsible social, political, and religious positions in their respective communities.
Responsibilities and commitments
Given the multi-dimensional responsibilities and commitments of adult learners, an adult educator should be realistic in the level of his expectations from adult learners.
Therefore, assignments, projects, and research should be moderate as they may not have enough time and zeal to embark on lengthy and complex projects.
An adult educator has the responsibility for instilling in adult learners the confidence that they are capable of attaining excellence in their chosen programs of learning.
Recognition of his vital positions
An adult educator should recognize his vital position as an organizer, planner, co-coordinator, arbitrator, facilitator, team leader, partner in progress, professional peer, and counselor. He plans the program of activities, implements, evaluates, and provides leadership for all programs.
Recognition of changes
The teacher should recognize the psychological, physiological and sociological changes in the adult.
Recognition of the principles
Learning becomes better when it recognizes the principle of known to unknown, simple to complex, and concrete to abstract.