I, Danelle am an adult lifelong learner. I am like a tree whose roots are grounded deep in the earth as the sun light gives me the nutrients of knowledge and the rain provides my growth. My branches are extensions of myself as each limb symbolizes my past experiences.
As an adult learner I am a statistic. I am considered a nontraditional student due to my age of forty-eight. I am part of many adult educational participation groups within the formal learning environment such as, online students in distance education programs that totaled nearly 1.5 million as of 2006 (Kasworm, C., Rose, A. & Ross-Gordon, J.M., 2010, para. 25) and within the college institution of Empire State College in 2013, I am included in more than sixty percent of students who study part time and sixty-one percent who are white.” (para. Empire State College, 2013).
As I reflect on being an adult learner there are certain characteristics of the learning community which I possess. I utilize my past experiences as resources to build upon my new learning endeavors. Throughout my life I have acquired skills and knowledge outside of the formal education setting which has led to personal reflections and critical thinking. Coombs, Prosser, & Ahmed (1973) notes:
In addition, Adult and Continuing Education occurs in a variety of settings, including formal (educational settings), nonformal (organized activities outside educational organizations, such as in businesses and industry, churches and professional associations), and informal (learning in everyday settings contexts (Kasworm, Rose & Ross-Gordon, 2010, p. 5).
It is within these various realms that mistakes were made which resulted in my successful learning progress.
Furthermore, as an aging adult learner and a baby boomer I am associated with the changing demographics within our society since this generation has now become the largest in our country. I believe that due to today’s technology and medical research one theory comes to mind by Swain (1995), , “…our life expectances have increased throughout the last half of the 20th century and is believed to be higher than any increases from recorded history until 1900” (Crawford, 2004).
Changing demographics have a connection with continuous lifelong learning by adults, such as me. According to Merriam, Caffarella, & Baumgartner (2007), “For the first time in our society, adults outnumber youth, there are more older adults, the population is better educated than ever before, and there is more cultural and ethnic diversity” (p.7). It is this group of learners that will find their educational needs increasing. It is reported that aging adults pace of learning may decrease with age, but the concentration of learning tends to increase as research by Knowles (1980) revealed that, “…the decline was that of speed of learning, not intellectual power and that even this was minimized by continual use of the intellect (Crawford, D.L., 2004). I have a desire to take control of my learning and to expand my knowledge in social change while participating in a formal learning setting. According to Newman (2005), “social action “occurs when people act collectively to bring about change” (Kasworm, Rose and Ross-Gordon, 2010, P. 7).
I have been a formal learning adult student for the past twenty years at Empire State College and have confronted many barriers for instance, being a primary caretaker for my mother, which in turn, changed my family responsibilities and educational goals. I have encountered many of life’s transitions and have traveled down the old-fashioned path only to stop unexpectedly due to family medical issues. Johnston and Rivera (1965) acknowledged external barriers as, “…influences more or less external to the individual or at least beyond the individual’s control (Merriam, Caffarella, & Baumgartner, 2007, p.66). Yet, I always return even as my goals were in a constant state of evolving and changing. My motivation has always been to better myself, my career and to be educationally well rounded while sharing my knowledge with others.
I have a combination of preferred learning methods that are uniquely my own. First, I am strongly a kinesthetic learner by touching, feelings, moving my hands and using all my senses. For example, if I have to spell a word, I need to write it out on paper. Second, I am a visual learner as I learn through visual illustrations for instance, in seeing images, pictures and also I happen to be an avid note taker. Third, I am an auditory learner as I self-talk and acquire new information by reading it out loud. Lastly, I am a verbal learner. I enjoy writing and expressing myself, but I have always been challenged by the action of reading. In knowing my styles I will be able to study more efficiently hence, learn more effectively. In doing so, I will begin to understand other adult learner’s styles to help teach them on their own levels while examining their strengths and weaknesses.
Presently, my goals are to teach, inspire, and guide other adult learners towards their own meaning of success. I want my knowledge to increase daily leading me to the comprehension of what it means to be an educator of adults in today’s contemporary world. I want to teach adult learners about the controversy regarding gender and the binary system within our society. I want to be the teacher who educates, learns from students, and is able to create change. My current educational priorities are based on learning and understanding how to create change in social welfare in order to serve the community. I want to learn how to build a learning environment that incorporates the different learning styles such as, providing sensory (hard evidences), visual (PowerPoint presentations), kinesthetic (field trips), auditory (lectures/discussions), and verbal (expressing through writing and learning through the written word)
My strengths as an adult learner begins with being a diverse individual based on my past and present experiences whether it is formal, informal, nonformal, community based, spiritual, indigenous and online learning. I am self-directed in my approach to how I learn and have acquired strong literacy/critical thinking skills throughout my life. I am an analyzer with a curious nature and have a passion for knowledge. I am confident in my time management skills and know that learning increases my confidence as an adult learner whereas; my weaknesses revolve around the act of reading information.
There is one major factor that has had the most significant impact on my learning goals and experiences; it has been my marriage/divorce with Charles, a Female to Male transgender. Through this experience I found a need and passion to explore what is the meaning of gender.
I believe that the different theories provided by the theorists are sufficient information on adult learning and found nothing that was not applicable. The textbook descriptions fit me as well as others whom I interact with as adult learners by reporting diversity being the key, participation within the learning and intellectual commons and finally, we are all lifelong learners. We commit to continue learning because “the trouble with the future is that it usually arrives before we’re ready for it” (Arnold H. Glasow).
Arnold H. Glasow Quote: Retrieved September 10, 2013 from http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/a/arnold_h_glasow.html.
Crawford, D. L. (2004). The Role of Aging in Adult Learning: Implications for Instructors in Higher Education. Retrieved September 13, 2013, from http://education.jhu.edu/PD/newhorizons/lifelonglearning/higher-education/implications/.
Image. (2013): Retrieved September 19, 2013, from http://www.letstalkaboutwork.tv/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/350x350xMFW-05-01-12.png.pagespeed.ic.I2B69ghEHI.png
Empire State College. (2013). Students. Retrieved September 7, 2013, from http://www.esc.edu/about-esc/students/.
Kasworm, C., Rose, A. and Ross-Gordon, J.M. (2010). Handbook of Adult and Continuing Education. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, Inc.
Merriam, S.B., Caffarella, R.S. & Baumgartner, L.M. (2007). Learning in Adulthood: A Comprehensive Guide (3rd Ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.