The adult learner is different from their younger counterparts. They prefer to be self directed, they have accumulated a broader spectrum of life and work experience, they are goal and relevancy oriented, and they have a greater sense of immediacy than the typical high school graduate.
Often times, however, the adult learner can feel uncertainty and apprehension about continuing their learning. Beyond attending night classes or degree-focused education, adults can be reluctant to teach themselves something new. Perhaps they are so ingrained in the ways they’ve always done things, or lack the confidence to challenge themselves, and by that challenge, allow the possibility of failure.
But it’s never too late. Whether your ambitions are grand or modest, here are a few adult learner tips to help you be successful at learning during a later stage in life.
Develop a Time Management Strategy – A time management strategy is important for every student, but doubly so for adult learners. Don’t make your education a pin in a juggling act. Make personal study time as important as official class time (because it is). If a distraction or unexpected event arises and you feel tempted to put studying on the back burner, just ask yourself, “Would I skip my actual class for this?” If the answer is no, get back to work.
Know Your Method – We’ve heard this before: everyone learns differently. Some are visual learners; others need hands-on, experiential methods. Understand what works for you, not just in the classroom or in a workshop, but at home, with its myriad of distractions. Get your significant other and kids in on your goals, and elicit their support in the form of quite zones, study times, and extra help around the house.
Learn in Multiple Ways – Find which learning style fits you best, but don’t let that style be a crutch. Challenge yourself by seeing things in different lights. Harness an array of lectures, books, activities, and online information to solidify your learning.
Focus (Stop Multitasking) – One of the most accepted myths of the modern age is that many people, and the “Millennial Generation” in particular, are adept at the art of multitasking. Multitaskers are revered for their impressive ability to text one person while talking to another, and check email before a quick tweet. But in fact, research proves just the opposite. Multitaskers are terrible at every aspect of multitasking (i.e. ignoring irrelevant information, keeping information organized neatly in their minds, switching from one task to another).
Teach what you’ve learned to another person – Remember your sixth grade presentation on the Alaskan tundra? Your teacher wasn’t just trying to acquaint you with the horrors of public speaking. Educators have known for years that one of the most effective learning methods is the act of teaching others. By translating information into your own words and gauging another’s interpretation of what you have presented, you in turn solidify your grasp of the material.
Keep learning and practicing new things – Think of your brain as a muscle. The more you flex and test it, the better it handles new challenges. Whether you are taking multiple classes, one course at a time, or just embarking on a self directed learning expedition, don’t stop there. Once you have reached your destination, set your eyes on the next horizon and get moving.