Essential Skills in Adult Education

PIDP 3210 – Curriculum Development
Vancouver Community College
Kathryn Truant
October 24, 2016

Statement for Reflection

Adult learners already come to class equipped with Essential Skills. It is not the role of the instructor to teach anything outside of the subject matter.


What caught my attention about this statement?

The Essential Skills (or employability skills) are basic abilities that are acquired through pedagogical education, and life experiences; they are needed to live, work and learn. Essential Skills include: thinking, reading, computers, numeracy, oral communication, document use, continuous learning, and writing. It is key to remember that the nine Essential Skills must be transferable and used in combination to be applied to an adult’s education, employment and day-to-day life.

Regarding the above statement for reflection in adult vocational education, adult learners should come to class equipped and competent with the Essential Skills. I find this very interesting because the Essential Skills seem so basic and elementary, and entrance into vocational programs typically require a level of competency to complete the application process, and to be accepted into the program.


Why did I choose this statement? How do I identify with the statement?

What happens when the adult learner’s previous life experiences and education are not equal in culture and context to their peers? For example, In Adult Learning – Linking Theory and Practice, the authors state, “Teaching methods such as andragogy may be comfortable for learners who grew up in Western cultures. In another example, access to education is influenced by availability of funding and technology, that are dependent on power and privilege” (Merriam & Bierema, 2014, p. 242). How does an instructor link the contents of a required curriculum to the needs of the learners, and furthermore, do they have to consider the Essential Skills of their students? I think that it is more important for the curriculum to focus on the specific area of study, but an instructor also has the responsibility of preparing the student for employment in their chosen field.


What does this mean to me? What insights have I received from the statement? How has my thinking changed by reflecting on the statement?

Essential Skills are required to successfully complete an area of study. Students need to come to school with Essential Skills; they’re hoping through course work to master their essential and employability skills by studying their chosen vocation – the two things need to go together. Further, for learning to be authentic, an adult must possess Essential Skills. I do not think that it is the facilitator’s role to improve the Essential Skills of the students directly, however, this should occur indirectly; a consequence of mastering course-work. In my own experience, the Essential Skills that I possess improve every time I learn something new, whether it’s in the PID program, or at work when new policies, procedures or software are introduced. My knowledge, skills and attitude improve when I am required to apply new information; this is what motivates me to learn, and in turn, to improve my own Essential Skills.

To be successful, the adult learner must be motivated, and to be motivated, they need to base their success in a chosen area of study by assessing their own readiness to learn. Psychologist and educator Carl Rogers wrote Freedom to Learn in 1969. I believe that his philosophies on education are still relevant today. He states that, “significant learning takes place when the subject matter is perceived by the student as having relevance for his own purposes,” and “when an individual has a goal, he wishes to achieve and he sees the material available to him as relevant to achieving the goal, learning takes place with great rapidity” (1969, p. 158).


How can this new or enhanced interpretation be applied to my professional practice?

Saying that adult learners already come to class equipped with Essential Skills, and that it is not the role of the instructor to teach anything outside of the subject matter is an extreme statement, although as an adult learner, I take responsibility in being prepared and ready to learn. As an adult educator, specifically when I’m teaching a new procedure, it is frustrating when my students are not prepared to learn. I am accountable to provide information and instruction. If an Essential Skill is lacking in a student, clear objectives and goals that the students will need to gain the knowledge, skills, and attitude necessary to be successful in an area of study will be provided by me, and the rest is their own responsibility. Besides, the best way to address or eliminate a discrepancy in Essential Skills is to instruct using a realistic curriculum: start with simple objectives and increase the difficulty of those goals incrementally. Some students will learn faster than others, and that’s okay. Prepare students for the technical skills that they will need by outlining mastery goals. “Adopting mastery goals predicts positive outcomes that include persisting at tasks, choosing to engage in similar activities in the future, and using effective cognitive and self-regulatory strategies” (National Research Council, 2012, p.16). Instructing core program subject matter following the Bloom’s Taxonomy method will subsequently build the adult learner’s Essential Skills while providing them the technical knowledge, skills, and attitude that they will need for further educational purposes, and for employment.

@Please refer to my Resources page for works cited