Common barriers experienced by adult learners when they choose to return to school or participate in workplace training.

Group Work Assignment Group #5

An interview was conducted with an adult college student.

The interview was with a 49 year old gentleman named Larry. Larry is married and it is his first time in college. Larry was unfortunately injured on the job and WSIB is paying for his education.

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The following are some main points of the interview:

“ I find students now a days are a little more obnoxious- they don't listen, they just freely say what they want- when I went to school you listened to the teacher and that's it... I was never in college before neither...”

"like I find it difficult bringing homework home and putting time aside to do the homework, like I have to make sure the house is running- fix this-fix that- the wife gets on you for things and you have to do it, so I think it's a little more difficult for me"

"I still have to worry about my bills, I mean I know students do too, but I mean once you have everything and you still get, you still want to keep it type thing, it just puts a little more pressure on you“ "I'm still scared, there are just 4 weeks left in the semester and I'm so nervous about it because I want to go on to the next step"

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I'm having a tough time with computers. I never used a computer until three months ago I never touched one and now all of a sudden I'm supposed to do all of this graphic designing.."

"I find the homework difficult at times, sitting for a couple of hours trying to do work you know after you get home- you usually like to have a beer and watch TV or the hockey game and all of a sudden you're stuck doing homework"

"years ago I would always say, what do I need a computer for/ now that's going to be one of my main things, using a computer, my brothers and sisters they all use them and I used to laugh at them and now look at me" "I think it will be very rewarding if I get through this. I have to take it one step at a time, one semester at a time."

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"you're still nervous about everything, everything is new- like I look at kids around me, they're doing so good and I think god why am I even doing this?" Larry: "yeah it's tough" Elizabeth "is it worth it though?" Larry: yes I think so, I'm hoping to get right through the whole course and everything, get my diploma... mom would be happy"

Adult learners face many challenges and anxieties when they go back to school. They worry about homework, finances, as well as trying to juggle many other responsibilities etc. They wonder if they are too old to go back to school. Larry is no different; his interview revealed that he faces challenges and worries about many things.

Based on the interview, Group #5 identified the following challenges:  1. Self-confidence  2. Computers  3. Generation gap

Self-confidence People show their level of self-confidence in many ways, body language, how they speak, what they say etc. Group #5 noticed common behavior associated with low self-confidence from Larry’s interview. Here are two exact quotes from Larry illustrating this behavior: “Everybody has self doubt I guess but you know when you're used to doing labor jobs all our life like driving truck, mining, everything else, this is totally off the wall type thing."
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"Like I find it difficult bringing homework home and putting time aside to do the homework, like I have to make sure the house is running- fix this-fix that- the wife gets on you for things and you have to do it, so I think it's a little more difficult for me." The mentioned quotes are signs that show Larry might lack self confidence. One quote illustrates Larry’s doubt of his own abilities. The other quote shows Larry making excuses for his inability to schedule time for his homework due to work he has to do at home.

Self-confident people are generally more positive and believe in themselves as well as their abilities. Larry has shown both doubt as well as excuses when describing his experiences within college. Larry needs to address his self confidence to optimize his learning.

The main theories & concepts chosen to solve the issues or challenges: We chose Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Bandura’s Social Learning theory to solve Larry’s self-confidence challenges. As Maslow stated: physiological, safety, and social needs must first be satisfied before self- esteem needs become satisfied.

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We concluded that Larry’s basic needs (physiological and safety) are satisfied; however a portion of his social needs is not. His needs for belongingness is not satisfied. Family, classmates, the community and instructors can help him fulfill these needs. When Larry’s social needs are satisfied his esteem needs will be met and selfconfidence is probable.

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During the interview he said: "You’re still nervous about everything. Everything is new - like I look at kids around me… they're doing so good and I think God why am I even doing this?" This quote shows Larry’s lack of selfconfidence and his lack of belongingness. The whole college environment is completely foreign to Larry and he refers to his classmates as “kids”. This is a perfect example to show that Larry does not feel he belongs in college as 49-yearold man. These feelings can affect the way he learns.

Bandura states that besides the 4 underlining conditions (attention, retention, reproduction and motivation) which promote learning, the concept of self efficacy is also important for learners. Self efficacy is defined as a belief of one’s ability to overcome difficult task /situation and succeed. Larry also stated: "I'm still scared, there are just 4 weeks left in the semester and I’m so nervous about it because I want to go on to the next step"
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This quote shows that Larry again has doubts of his own abilities. He is not entirely sure if he will do well in his courses. Individuals learn better when they are confident. Instructors can help the level of their learners’ confidence by incorporating plans that would focus on their strengths and make learning enjoyable.

Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence theory was considered, however we concluded it was not the best solution. It states teachers and trainers who are heavily influenced by the linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences ignore the gift of many learners. Gardner suggested that we should place equal attention on other types of intelligences people posses. Individuals who posses other types of intelligences besides linguistic and logicalmathematical intelligences contribute to society in different fields.

Group #5 did not have enough information on the curriculum, classroom design and no assessment was conducted to learn Larry’s preferred ways to learning based on Multiple Intelligence theory.

Did the instructor need to overcome any of their own issues or challenges? Based on the interview, the instructor gave positive feedback about adult learners. "They (adult learners) are generally in school to learn skills, they are here for the right reasons.“
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From the interview, the instructor stated that “all adult learners are a bonus” an “absolute God send” and are “suitably motivated” because they understand “work ethic” and they “understand the marketplace and the realities of earning a living.” But adult motivation is based on more factors than what are stated by the instructor.

The instructor realizes that adult learners have many challenges to overcome and in order for them to succeed they may need some additional help. This approach may not sit well with all adult learners. They may feel patronized by the instructor and thus their level of motivation may be impacted negatively and the lenient deadlines may lead to assignments piling up. These factors may de-motivate the adult learners.


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The instructor has to overcome his generalization and focus on adult learners individually as each adult learner is unique with different strength, weaknesses and challenges.

The Solution(s).

The instructor has to address Larry’s lack of belongingness as explained earlier. Larry refers to the students as “kids”. The instructor has to address the purpose or goal of enrolling in the course they are teaching.

Larry needs to be taught not to judge the other students based on their age but he should realize that they both have common ground in the classroom. With the help of his instructor his sense of belongingness will be fulfilled when he accepts the students as his colleagues, and that he is no different than the other students
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Some learning strategies that are consistent with the Social Learning theory are: on the job training, job shadowing, internship and mentoring. Learners learn new skills by observing and modeling people with experience. .
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Inviting past adult students who succeeded in their program would be a good way to motivate adult learners like Larry. They could share their experiences with the adult learners, mentor current adult learners, and even arrange a job shadowing possibility

The Conclusion(s).
We believe there will not be resistance to the suggested solutions as they will enhance the college’s programs. Larry will benefit from the suggested solutions and he will possibly develop a strong self-esteem.

In the interview Larry stated: "I think it will be very rewarding if I get through this.” With a little help, the statement may eventually look like this: "I believe it will be very rewarding. I know I will get through this.”


Group #5

Azieb Musa-Habtu Jonathan Braganza Elizabeth Harris Donna Duncan

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