Adult education broadly refers to continuing education later in life. This can include learning in direct relation to a new or ongoing career of an individual, or studies that are completely unrelated such as languages. With the development of online learning, adult education is becoming increasingly accessible, and although the general process of teaching and learning is similar between children and adults, there are additional factors that can be seen to affect those who continue their studies into adulthood.
One of the most general and logical factors that affects adults more than children during education is the notion of the knowledge which they have already accumulated. This can be seen to aid the speed of learning, as they are often likely to have a prior knowledge of the subject they are studying. Alternatively, habits of bad practice can also be learned in adulthood, and methods and processes that have been learned in a now-dated curriculum can also be difficult to shake off for some adult learners.
A paper written in 1993 by CHIU Mo Chi, entitled A Study of the factors affecting Attendance at Adult Education Short Courses, offers further insights into the differences between adult and child education. CHIU found there are a number of self esteem issues with adult learners. Those that have had a school background that lacks in academic achievement are more suited to frequent confidence boosts “because the outcome of effort is more likely to be the pain of failure than the reward of a new job, a promotion, the admiration of others, or the selfsatisfaction of succeeding at the learning task.”
Acknowledging this however, others have expressed that motivation can be an important aspect in regards to the achievement of adult learners. Where students have entered into adult education of their own accord, they have typically realised exactly what they want to learn, and why it is important for them to continue at it – despite their difficulties. Additionally, adult learners are often more aware, and accepting, of the financial and time implications of enrolling on a course later in life.
A student perspective forum on the Adult Literacy Education Wiki (wiki.literacytent.org) offers some other information from adult learners themselves. In regards to learning literacy skills during adulthood, many students seem to find the most difficult problem to overcome is fear. “I was a low level reader and I would like you all to know how afraid we are to come in and get help,” one student writes in 2007. “I think fear is what holds a lot of us back. We put on this front that all is okay and life is good but we know in our heart we are not okay at all.” Problems with embarrassment among peers, and not being able to admit difficulties to other students are continuing factors that can seem to affect learning into adulthood, and this may well be something that remains to be addressed by adult education centres today.