By Tyrone, KEYSPOT Lab Manager at Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” – Henry Ford
LOVE that quote about learning. I believe it could apply to adult learners I work with in the KEYSPOT here at the Beachell Family Learning Center/Dornsife Center. Some have taken an off ramp from the education highway and now wish to return.
Adult learners enter a forever moving highway of education at different levels, different speeds, and for different reasons. Whatever the reason, the primary goal for most is to “get-it-done” and complete an important chapter in their life. This is not always easy. I’ve listed a few encouraging steps that I share with adult learners as we map out their journey to academic success. Here are just a few suggestions I share with them. You might want to as well.
Take the first step by talking it through
Literally, encourage them to think and talk about the support they’ll need from friends and family once they embark on this journey to recommit and complete their education. A road is better traveled when you have a few people to hike and talk with you along the way. The pathway to completing one’s education is not any different.
Develop a healthy routine for learning
I stretch before each exercise. I make sure I have silverware (or plastic-ware) before I eat. I wash, dry, FOLD, and PUT AWAY. Do any of those routines sound familiar? We live out our routines daily. They help set the time and place to accomplish tasks we don’t give a second thought about. It simply becomes a natural part of what we do. During the journey to reclaiming one’s education I strongly encourage adult learners to seek out a tutor routinely, ask questions of their instructor, and talk/work with other students. Most are surprised to find that other adult learners are hoping to develop a consistent routine as well.
Strengthen your digital skills
This is EASIER said than done. Digital learning centers, such as the KEYSPOT network, could fill in this digital learning gap. Most Adult learners express feeling “intimidated enough” finding someone to talk through the first steps towards reclaiming their education. I periodically share that basic technology expectations will also be a regular encounter at business and education centers. Another reason to seek out a tutor.
One attempt that I’ve made to ease the reentry pressure in this area for adult learners is to find a hybrid solution to learning basic digital skills. A model and example of this is the Digital Skills and Bicycle Thrills online bicycle safety course. It incorporates riding safety with learning technology at a pace that is low-stress for the adult learner and first time computer user. It introduces basic computer skills and makes learning fun and interactive for the learner.
Seek out a learning mentor
During this phase of the “talking it through process” I describe a learning mentor as someone who could be a teacher, a friend, or a relative. This is someone who they might look to (and up to) for inspiration and as a role model. I remind adult learners that they don’t have to “want to be” this person, but observe the healthy steps the mentor has taken through education to be who they are and note the mentor’s positive achievements. My mentor was my grandmother who had to drop out of school when she was in the 6th grade to take care of her older sister and younger brother. She then went back to school at age 47 and completed her GED and college credits. She told me later in life that her inspiration and mentors were her grandchildren. Sometimes, the mentoring process works both ways.
Let them know they are not alone
I agree with the adult learner that it might feel as if they are the only one going through this experience, but emphasize they are not alone. We start from the beginning by “talking through the first steps” towards advancing the academic experience to finding a mentor as an engaging process. This allows the learner to chart his or her steps to success. It further allows the adult learner to share the process with others in several workable steps and possibly become someone’s mentor. What a success and personal inspirational experience that would be!
Share some of these suggestions with others who work with adult learners or with the adult learners you come in contact with. The list of suggestions continues to growing as well as the learning process and the adult learners we serve.