Adult learners think that they should take the responsibility of their life and decision making process. Therefore, adult learners are self-directors and willing to control over their learning environment. As a result, self-assessment, having peer relationship with the instructor, and multiple options are very crucial for designing adult learning programs. In general, young children are dependent upon their parents or teachers in making decisions on their lives. As a result, young children are less independent compared to adults. Additionally, adult learners are practical and result oriented. Therefore, they intend to apply their knowledge immediately to solve real world problems. Adult learners are also less open minded and therefore, they tend to change slowly. There is an inverse relationship between age and ability to learn. As a result, adult learners learn slowly compared to the young children. However, their depth of knowledge increases over time.
Adults have accumulated life experiences and these life experiences make each individual adult unique case for the program delivery. However, young children have no such accumulated life experiences. Therefore, experience is something that happened to them. Additionally, adult learners have motivation for learning and therefore, adult learning is occurred voluntarily. For example, adults begin to learn in order to achieve professional growth and career advancement. Generally, young children have no this kind of motivation to engage in learning process. In many occasions, their parents or teachers pursue them to continue learning. Therefore, child learning is not a voluntary process.
The other important characteristic of adult learning is multi-level responsibility. This means that the adult learner has many responsibilities related to his/her family, friends, and community organizations. As a result, it is difficult for the adult learner to find time for learning. Under such circumstance, adult learner has to prioritize his/her responsibilities. Given that an instructional designer has to take into account such constraints of adult learning in adult educational program planning. However, children may not have multiple responsibilities and their main activity is learning. Furthermore, adult learner has high expectations and therefore, they expect career oriented and cost effective learning program. In general, adult learner has no ready to waste money or time. Children have no high expectations in learning and they just continue with their studies to gain knowledge or to find a job.
The above description on the characteristics of adult learner provides valuable insight for my future class room instruction on rural and regional development planning course at the University of Ruhuna, Sri Lanka. In this class, I will take necessary steps to maintain efficiency in conducting lessons and class room activities because adult learners have jobs and the tons of other family related responsibilities. Similarly, adult learners do not like to waste their time and money. Therefore, I will take necessary steps to arrange the class with useful information and activities without wasting their time and money. In addition, I will be more flexible in students’ expectations, their busy lives, illness, and late submissions of assignments and term projects. However, even under such circumstance, I will implement rules and regulations to maintain accountability and excellent work habits.
The other important aspect of consideration for class room instruction is the technological gap between adults and children. Adult learners are not technology dependent as children. To address this issue, I will assess the computer knowledge of each student in the class. Then, I will provide extra lecture hours to improve the basic computer skills among adult learners. This approach will allow me to lead adult learners in using complex study materials without withdrawing from technology. In short, to address the special characteristics of adult learners, I will act as a facilitator instead of being an authoritative lecturer in the class room. In addition, I will also use student centered learning approach instead of following teacher centered content dependent lecture style.