Adult learners set themselves apart from other so called “traditional” learners in many unique and interesting ways. They arrive in our SWLSB Centers with a wide and varied range of life experiences, educational backgrounds and expectations, working life experiences, prior skills and knowledge’s, as well as diverse cultural histories.

The reasons adult learners come to our Competency Development Centers varies widely as well. Some come for a high school leaving diploma, while others come to get the necessary prerequisites for a much desired CEGEP program. Still others come for English or French language courses, computer courses to up-date needed skills in the workplace, or for community interest courses such as digital photography.

Whatever the reasons, it may surprise you to know that adult learners are very different from our youth sector students in a myriad of ways. And, these diverse characteristics impact not only on how, but also on why, they participate in learning.

Adult learners favor practical learning experiences where they can relate new knowledge to past experiences. They are goal and relevancies oriented and prefer to see theory applied to practical applications. They are motivated by the relevance of the material that they are learning- needing to know “Why am I learning this?” is a critical question that needs to be answered for the adult learner. Like all learners however, adults learn at different rates and in various ways according to their learning styles, educational levels, cognitive abilities and personalities. The challenge for our educators is to develop teaching strategies that accommodate all of this diversity.

Adult learners enjoy having their talents and knowledge explored and challenged in different ways. They have established opinions, values and beliefs that have been built up overtime and arrived at by the experience of families, relationships, work, community and culture. These views are best respected and valued in Centers where there is a strong sense of collaboration and democracy.

Adult learners are independent, self-reliant learners who juggle studying, family commitments, work, schedules, finances and transportation issues on a daily basis. These multi-taskers need to be welcomed into a learning environment that takes all of these challenges into account and allows them to have active rather than passive learning experiences.

It is important to remember that adult learners arrive at our Centers with varying levels of confidence and self-esteem- some having had poor prior experiences in their educational careers. These negative experiences can lead to feelings of inadequacy, failure, fear of taking risks, and “rusty” study skills. Our classrooms must endeavor to re-build confidence through success and to re-establish the taste for learning in a positive and challenging environment.

As we move into the month of April and celebrate Adult Learners Week in our Centers we are mindful of the great responsibility we have to our adult learners as well as the great contributions they make to our school board. Please join us in celebrating their accomplishments and support them on their journey.