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Adult Learning Theory: How Effectively Do Adult Education Programs Contribute To Lifelong Learning?

Dipti Mandalia

Jon Marbach

Payal Prabhu

Project Description

Adult learning is about change: change in attitude, change in knowledge, change in behavior, change in a skill and change in how we think about things.

      There can be at least two types of motivations that play an active role in making an adult return to the university after the age considered 'normal' to attend school. These may be either intrinsic or extrinsic. The former is directed towards a want to do something important for one's self, one's family, or one's community. This does not necessarily arise from a pressing environmental need to learn in a school setting. In contrast, extrinsic motivations for going back to school arise from a need to enhance or change careers. This might involve getting a degree in a completely new area, or getting a higher degree in the current field of work. Our group is interested in exploring adult learning theory and evaluating it practically through a survey conducted on-campus.

      We wish to compare university learning in college-age students (ages 18-25) against adults who come back to school (ages 30 and above) after the 'prime' of their college experience. In particular, we wish to lend empirical evidence to the hypothesis that workplace experience brought into the classroom enhances the learning process. We also hope to understand how courses in Continuing Education can be structured around the needs of the adult students to maximize their learning curve.

      We propose to get this data from a survey that we will conduct through the school of Continuing Education at the University of Colorado at Boulder. In the course of this project, we will hand out surveys to students attending classes in Continuing Education and question them on their learning experiences through the classes they have taken or are currently taking at the university. We will also aim to have them contrast this adult learning with previous traditional college-age university attendance (if any) to elucidate the main differences in the two stages of learning. Another dimension of the project will be observation of adult education classes in-session to understand the ways in which interactions within the groups are different.

Progress Report | Project Home Pages

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