Perseverance in Formal Education of Non-Traditional Adult Learners and the Roles of Educators

PIDP 3100 – Foundations of Adult Education
Vancouver Community College
Kathryn Truant
November 7, 2015


a) What new insights have I gained in terms of the variety of roles that adult educators play?

By the time an adult learner invests the time and the financial expense that it takes to enrol in a program, and unless they soon realize that they’ve chosen the wrong discipline, why withdraw?  As a result of the increasing population of non-traditional students undertaking adult education, there are also greater numbers of this demographic withdrawing from school. So, in terms of the roles that adult educators play in helping their students persevere, it’s important to first look at what motivates the non-traditional adult learner: intrinsic motivators like self-improvement and autonomy, and extrinsic motivators like an increase in earnings and career advancement just to name a few (Merriam & Bierema, 2014).

However, It is well known that older adult learners have more obstacles, if you want to call family obligations, finances, health issues, self-confidence, and a “rusty” brain obstacles; it is due to these reasons alone that institutions have more issues retaining older adult learners than the current traditional ones (Adult Education Quarterly, 2015).

In my own personal experience, and because I have withdrawn from classes in the past (but not in this program), my main motivator to learn was self-improvement, but my main obstacle was fear; I let the perception of my own self-efficacy affect my self-esteem. I can say with certainty that my success in formal learning hinges mainly on the my educational experience; if the climate, in my perception, isn’t what I need to feel comfortable and successful, then it is easy to allow my obstacles to interfere. Further, “it is imperative for instructors to carefully craft the learning environment to avoid creating additional load for learners” (Merriam & Bierema, 2014, p. 155). My partner thought I was holding her up; I wish I could have lightened her load, and reassured her that she wasn’t. Was she concerned about her own self-efficacy? 

This particular course is a lot of work, I have numerous family obligations, and I have a demanding full-time job. While I am disappointed that I no longer have a partner for this assignment, the key to my current motivation and perseverance in the PID program is that I feel support from my instructor because of his prompt and helpful feedback and communication, and from my learning community because I can join the community of learners online if I have any questions. Moreover, at this stage of my life (well into my non-traditional years), I have amassed an army of colleagues and experiences that help to boost my self-confidence. But mostly, this is the first course that I have taken where I can editorialize my research; dentistry is an exact science with specific outcomes. I’ve never been asked to share insights or reflect on my profession before, that is, until now. This is scary for me. I’m afraid to be judged, but at the same time it is empowering. To paraphrase myself from my Learning Theory Essay, and to reinforce what Daniel Pink argues in his book, Drive – The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (2009), pride in the achievement of doing something outside of my typical comfort zone (i.e. having a voice) coupled with the autonomy of being asked to reflect, creates enjoyment based motivation.

b) What are some trends in my field, and how am I preparing to address these trends?

Withdrawing from a program prior to completion is a trend, and one that my profession is addressing. Adult education is expensive and usually non-refundable, which may prevent re-enrolment. Educational institutions can prepare for this trend by offering entry level and introductory courses. For example, Okanagan College (OC) offers an affordable introductory course on Dental Assisting to students considering applying to the certificate program; in fact, enrolment in the introductory class assists in the selection process. In another program, OC is now offering a 2 year entry level component in nursing, with subsequent entry into the 3rd year of a BSc university nursing program to accommodate for student attrition in the first 2 years of a 4 year program. I cannot say whether or not the attrition involves traditional or non-traditional students, but it demonstrates that institutions are addressing the issue of student withdrawal.

At this stage in my career, I have no experience as a formal educator. I have to address the issue of perseverance with myself first, before I can address it in terms as my role as an educator. I will need to acknowledge the individual learning styles and circumstances of my students in order to support them as much as I can, but ultimately, motivation and perseverance is a combination of an individual’s specific intrinsic and extrinsic forces.

@ Please refer to my Links and Resources pages for web articles and works cited

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