Myths About Adult Learners: Revisited

Many graduate programs are year round, with breaks for holidays and in between semesters. This month starts a new term for many graduate students. It’s a time for a fresh start, hope for the future, and time to get back to your studies. I’m reposting one of my blogs on adult learners. I believe you’re never too old to learn. It’s a mindset for good health and a happy life. In celebration of new adventures, I hope you enjoy my post on adults and life long learning!

As you know, Dr. Patti and I are adult learners. We support projects that encourage anyone to gain new knowledge and ideas and contribute new solutions to new problems. We spent many years in the workforce before returning to school.

Chasing A Dream

For many years, Dr. Patti and I held on to our dream to get a doctorate. Sometimes I wonder how we held on for so long.

For me, it was a challenge I wanted to pursue. Maybe it was the ultimate intellectual exercise, maybe I wanted to understand research, maybe I wanted to learn how to be a good writer.

We had no idea if we would achieve our dream. We just knew we had to go back to school to make it happen…

Myth As A Negative Tool

Recently I read an article about the myths of adult learners.

I never heard of these myths before now. BRelated imageut myths evolve from random and unproved beliefs.

They are like rumors that just keep hanging on.

Myths are generally negative and can be a tool to keep people boxed in. For example, some myths about adult learners are:

  • “I have to quit my job to go back to school.”
  • “I can’t afford to go to school.”
  • “I’m too old to go back to school. I’m too old to learn.”

This last myth is very popular — I hear this one from people working in the same job for 20 years, and think they’ve lost their ability to learn anything new.

Here’s another myth: Adult students are nontraditional students. But according to the National Center for Educational Statistics nontraditional students are the exception and not the rule.

About 50% of all undergraduate students are nontraditional. This makes sense if you think about the number of veterans returning to school.

Advocates for Nontraditionals

You can see the negative messages in all these myths – they can be tools or excuses for not doing something you might really want to do.

iStock/Pamela Moore

These nontraditional qualities are determined by demographics: More adults have jobs, families, and are part-time students.

The myth that only 18 to 24 year-old students are in college is outdated.

Slapping a nontraditional label on adult students is a disservice.

College administrators, faculty and students think of nontraditionals as being a step behind younger students.

Re-frame and Rename

The article suggested that four-year and ivy league institutions re-frame their services to attract more nontraditionals. Ideas include flexible scheduling (more evening classes), student services (career transitioning), and developmental education (student challenges in college and beyond).

The problem remains with the institutions themselves, not the students. According to the article, many nontraditional learners are in the pipeline for underfunded community colleges, or expensive for-profit schools.

Maybe nontraditionals should be renamed contemporary learners or leading-edge learners.

Umbrella on Hand

Of course, learning is a personal choice. I suggest that you follow your heart. Life is too short to listen to myths that focus on what can’t be done, or what you can’t do.

There are always negative people who want to rain on your parade. Keep your umbrella on hand!Image result for adult learningLearning is not limited to age or intellect. Sometimes it really does come from the heart. Only you will know what’s best for you. At least give yourself a chance and do something for yourself.

There is no question that you’ll have to make sacrifices and set new priorities when you return to school. But if you want an education, just do it!!

Sources: Demographic and Enrollment Characteristics of Nontraditional Undergraduates: 2011-12
The Myth of the Nontraditional Student

Dr. Bessie

The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.
~~~Gustave Flaubert~~~


Author: Dr. Bessie DiDomenica

Food Policy Researcher • Resilient Agriculture Advocate • Public Speaker • Public Policy Wonk • Writer • Teacher • Social Entrepreneur • Associate Editor

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