Monday, July 30, 2012

Helping Developmental Adult Learners Become Successful

by Beth Hammett   

Related Teachers Pay Teachers Storefront: Beth Hammett's Education Helper 

The shift for adult students to take responsibility of their learning process and to apply concepts learned in classrooms to real life scenarios can be overwhelming. In grades kindergarten through twelve, if assignments were missed, supplies were needed, or work was unsatisfactory, students were reminded constantly by parents and teachers. Suddenly, after senior year, students show up on campuses for their first day of college. Many students, especially developmental adult learners, thumb through their syllabus and wonder if they can survive the first week classes.    

Who are developmental adult learners? Students who need extra coursework to enhance their skills to become college-level ready. Most colleges require all first-time students to enroll in orientation courses. Then, students are placed by college advisers into developmental or college level courses based upon previous coursework or test scores. Developmental adult learners’ skills can range from beginning, lower-level English language learners to almost college level ready.  

How can teachers help developmental adult learners be successful in their coursework? First, use icebreaker activities so students get to know others in their classes. Try Find Someone Who, which includes optional information, such as school emails, phone numbers… The activity helps students build buddy lists, learn names, and get acquainted. Also, try a meet-and-greet the first day of class. Have four or more colors of notecards handy to hand out. On the cards, ask students to write their: names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, and two hobbies, plus anything extra they want to share with their instructors. When finished, have students find others in the room with the same colors of notecards. Ask students to share their hobbies with group members. As students exit at the end of class, stand at the door, collect the cards, and repeat first names. Hang onto the notecards for future contact use. In addition, try Comprehension Postcards to reinforce skills once the semester is underway.  

Another strategy is to introduce students to learning styles activities. Try an online assessment at Vark or use a learning styles handout test. Have students get into groups according to learning styles. Ask the groups to make a “Top Ten List of Study Strategies for ________ Learning Style”.  Share with the whole class. Also, be sure to model the first in-class note-taking assignment and help students understand that concepts are needed for future assignments.   

Whether audio, kinesthetic, or visual, developmental adult learners learn best through approximately twenty-minutes or less of lecture followed by an activity then hands-on practice. What does this look like in the classroom? A twenty-minute lecture on end punctuation marks results in students turning to partners to share one rule learned. Next, in small groups, students peer workshop their essays to check proper end punctuation marks. Developmental research reiterates that students learn best through interaction with peers.  

The National Association of Developmental Education provides a list of best practices for use with developmental adult learners. Researchers from the National AcademicAdvising Association (NACADA)  state the more peer connections developmental adult learners make while they are in college the more likely they are to become successful.  

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