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Challenges Facing Adult Learners

Challenges Facing Adult Learners

Adult education is a practice in which adults usually engage in systematic and sustained learning programs so as to gain new skills, knowledge, values or even attitude. Access to high quality education by adults plays critical roles in sharpening their skills and competences (Merriam, S.B and Brocket, R.G. 2007). Adult education enables them to be able to solve problems facing them as well as increasing their productivity in workplace. Adults choosing to go back to school is a very challenging decision whether it is been after a short or a long time since they sat in a classroom.

There are significant challenges facing adult learners who decide to go back to school to pursue Basic Adult Learning. The challenges facing adult learners are unique and different from those facing normal students. Three of the major challenges facing adult learners are balancing school and life, accessibility and cost.

1. The Balancing Act ( School and Life Responsibilities)

As a post-secondary student would testify that school is requires a huge time commitment. There time required to spend to prepare for the class, stay in the class, to assignments and examinations. Above and beyond school commitment, adult learners usually face additional demand on their time. Many adult learners are pursuing adult basic education while still working full thus a lot is expected in their workplace (Merriam, S.B and Brocket, R.G. 2007). Adults are also expected to give their family time and be responsible for the family and at the same time have enough time to take their studies. This means that adults will have less time available for school related activities. Time constraints and the additional responsibilities may lead to stress and frustrations for adult learners.

2. Accessibility

The second major challenge facing adult learners is the accessibility to classes. Many adults are very committed thus getting to classes is the biggest challenge. Whether they are in a full-time job, taking care of their family or other type of responsibilities make it difficult for them to attend their classes during regular hours. Failure to go to classes to gain new skills, and knowledge can lead to difficulty succeeding at school work and in sometimes leading to reluctance to return to school at all.

3. Cost

To have a quality education, lot of cost is required. The cost of education can be very challenging for any student. The student is expected to pay tuition fees, buy books, pay for examinations, and other necessities thus it all add up to be a huge amount of money. Many adults have a lot of expenses to take care of, such as daycare costs, mortgage payments etc. thus making the cost of pursing adult basic education to become prohibitive. Adult learners in most cases do not qualify for student loan, this make it difficult for them to be able to pay for their adult basic education. On top of the educational costs and other expenses, there is a potential to loose some of their income from employment as many as many adults return to school following a job loss.

Strategies to Solve the Challenges Facing Adult Learners

Many educational institutions and non-traditional educational opportunities are becoming widely available and have recognized the need of adult basic education programs. In order to solve educational balance act and accessibility challenges, many schools and institutions are realizing the increasing importance of making adult learning accessible to everyone and are, consequently, offering more flexible options for the students. Many institutions started to offer evening and weekend classes, as well as online or distance education options. These schedules enable adult learners be able to plan for their time properly without neglecting their workplace and family responsibilities.

Education costs and expenses are a major challenge to many adult learners which sometimes make students to quit their education. Adult education institutions and workshops are being established to provide bursaries and grants to students to assist with the costs of books and tuition. As more adults go back to school, more funding options and new resources are becoming available to assist them in their education.

Strategies to motivate the adult learners

Motivation is another aspect of adult learning. At least six factors serve as sources of motivation for adult learning. As the director of adult learning program I would motivate my students using several means to make sure they achieve their objectives in learning career. There are various strategies that can be used to motivate adult learner. Motivation is another aspect of adult learning (Okediran, A. & Sarumi, A. 2001). There are various strategies that can be used to motivate the adult learners to do better in their adult basic education programs. These strategies include;

Creating useful and relevant learning experiences based on the interests of the students

As adult educator, I would emphasize more on the practical knowledge I believe it will be important course design that will provide immediate relevancy. Adult appreciate more is they are taught what will be relevant to them and easier to apply in real life situations. I would focus more on providing practical knowledge since they adult learners appreciate more practical knowledge, rather than extraneous facts and theories.

Set Clear Expectations for the Course

Setting clear course expectation is a critical way of motivating adult students. Adult learners are goal oriented and need know what they are expecting and how it will help them. Adult learners tend to be leery of things they don’t understand, or if they’re not quite sure where they’re going. However, once they get a sense of what’s going on and what they are expecting to achieve, they will opt to be responsive and be motivated to work harder to achieve course objectives and expectations. (Okediran, A. & Sarumi, A. 2001).

Along with setting clear course expectations to motivate students, it also helps them to make sure that the learners will be able to navigate the course. I am not saying that being an educator that I will have to create an addendum course on how to click the "next" button but rather to create course awareness and to make it interesting so as not to create a frustrating learning experiences. The educator should set clear course outline so as not to make the course navigation so confusing that the students will just leave and to never come back to the program.

Rewarding Your Learners.

People are motivated by rewards. Though it is very difficult to motivate adult learners as an educator one should figure out ways and type of rewards that can make the students t feel motivated to focus more o their adult basic education. Rewards do not have to be tangible items they can as well be simple things such as encouragement and affirmation (Okediran, A. & Sarumi, A. 2001). The main point of giving adult learners rewards is to help connect with them and find ways to have them feel good about some sort of achievement in your course.


Merriam, S.B and Brocket, R.G. (2007). The profession and practice of adult education and

Introduction. San Francisco: Jossey –Bass.

(Okediran, A. & Sarumi, A. 2001). Lifelong education and development. In J.T. Okedara, C.N.

Anyanwu and M.A. Omole (Eds), Rethinking, Adult and Non-formal Education (pp.47-

60). Ibadan: Stirling-Horden.

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