I have been working in the field of Adult Education for almost eight years with Holland College, a community college in Prince Edward Island. I have had the pleasure of working with hundreds of determined adults in their pursuit of higher levels of formal education. The Adult and Community Education division of Holland College has learners engaged in a variety of program offerings ranging from basic literacy and numeracy skills, preparation for the GED (General Educational Development) exam, and high school credits. I have taught mathematics and science credits in both small, rural centers and in a larger, urban center. Students walk through our doors with every possible combination of literacy level, educational background, and hope for future success.
By far, the majority of adults I work with intend to continue to post-secondary education either at the college or university level. I have found that adult learners approach their education with a view of life that, due to their age and life experiences, is much different than individuals who have not spent time away from some sort of school life. As Perry states in Best Practices in the Adult Setting (2003), “adults are not big children.” Education programs for adults must incorporate recruitment efforts, learning models, teaching strategies and opportunities for diversity that are designed to be meaningful, inclusive and flexible.
Adult learners experience multiple demands on their time. At any given moment, practically every individual enrolled in Adult Education could be involved in some other productive task. As Grant explains in her article “What About the Meals and Emergencies?” (1991), female students face additional demands of care for children and spouses. Learners could be looking for employment, taking on an extra shift at work, providing extra care to dependants. Even once students have committed to their studies, it is not uncommon for them to feel guilty that they are sitting in a classroom instead of attending to their “to do” lists. (Fairchild, 2003)