Learner Success Depends on Three Traits
By Nancy Thompson, Executive Director, AWENS – Association of Workplace Educators of Nova Scotia @nthompsonED
Academic Matters, an Ontario publication which explores issues of relevance to higher education globally, reports the population of students pursuing higher education in Canada is changing. It states that, undergraduates in Canada and the U.S. are studying less, working more, and taking longer to complete their degrees… just one quarter of university students today follow the path of the traditional, full-time, residential undergraduate (Steele, 2010).
Non-traditional students are described as students working days and attending classes at night, or they may be trying to take a new career path. Characteristics of a non-traditional student are that of an adult learner: they need to have an interest or a purpose to take a course; they are self-directed as they establish their own goals and evaluation process; they may suffer from early negative learning experiences; they expect equality; and they want immediate transfer and application of the knowledge and skills gained through a learning experience.
Non-traditional students / adult learners, according to Ausburn (2004), learn best when: there is a great deal of relevance in what they learn, resulting with meeting their real-world needs; it offers self-direction of their learning resources and pathways; and there is an established learning community for them.
With knowing what non-traditional students / adult learners want from their learning experience, what then are the traits of an effective adult teacher? A study with adult learners by Hill (2014), states there are three traits an effective teacher should have when working with non-traditional students / adult learners: they must have relevant practical knowledge with real world experience (“theory meets real world”); teaching takes place using a variety of teaching methods and engages students in discussion allowing for peer learning, knowledge and experiences, to take place; teachers must respect and value students time and understand the external challenges and demands on adult learners.
As Lee Bash, author of Best Practices in Adult Learning States, when it comes to adult educators teaching students with limited formal education, or who are returning to school following a significant absence, it is important to create a “link between the world the adult knows and the world of education they are about to enter.”
Real-world experience coupled with an Adult Education background, means, when corporations are engaging instructors they should be looking for instructors with the necessary traits to ensure the success for non-traditional students / adult learners.
Nancy holds an MBA in Global Leadership and a Diploma in Adult Education. Working in the field of Adult Education for over 25 years, she is dedicated to helping organizations build capacity from within, and insure adult educators receive the professional development they need to be innovative and build success in others. Nancy believes, by investing in workplace education, everyone wins – the company, the people and the communities in which we live.