Never Too Old to Learn - the Assimilation of Older Adults Into Higher Education

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Never Too Old to Learn - The Assimilation of Older Adults into Higher Education

Summary
Due to varying circumstances, older adults are returning to college. With this, there is a mix of student populations – young and old, now in the same learning environment. There is question as to whether these older adults can succeed in their endeavors to higher education using the same methods as those used by their younger peers. Professionals in the field of adult education have studied the variances of presented cognitive skills and developed theories to help educators address this population of students. Older adult students present with pre-existing methods of assimilating new information which they acquired from their life experiences with work, society, family, and school. While these methods allowed success in personal or professional lives, they may be inept for success with higher education. (Kenner & Weinerman, 2011) When presenting new concepts or skill sets, it is important for educators to associate what is being taught with their student’s prior knowledge and goals, while challenging old mind sets. (Kenner & Weinerman, 2011) Recently, the emerging theory in the study of andragogy is that learning is not only how the mind itself processes new information, but that it is a culmination of experiential knowledge. It is suggested that it is through the whole person (body, mind, spirit and emotions) that learning occurs. (Merriam, 2008) Incorporating methods that cause a student to become physically and intellectually involved, such as discussion and relevant associations, as well as creative expressions, (Merriam, 2008), allow new information to become an experience.

Educators in collegiate settings are being challenged to not only teach their subjects, but to know their audience, and engage them. Professional educators aware of the fact that the older students may lack skills needed to complete college level work, can use...
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