Conclude the course having had at least one significant experience that allows for autonomy and demonstrates how their experience relates to what/how they’ve learned.  Give them some opportunity for autonomous, selfish learning.

Adult learning theory (Knowles et al, 2005) says that adults are:

  • intrinsically motivated
  • experienced
  • goal-oriented
  • aware of their own self-concept
  • looking for relevance to their lives
  • always asking ‘why’

Therefore, the beneficial tool would be to have some level of homework assignment, project or exam that allows them to use what they have, who they are and what they know as a person.  They have to be able to apply what they’ve been taught to their own lives or professions in some way.

Example:   Students may choose their own project in an Organizational Communications class: a student may do an overall analysis of the organizational communication of her current workplace OR a student may write a detailed press release for a business she plans to start OR a student may discuss ways in which she would like the organizational communication in her workplace to change and why.

Example:  Case studies, too, work well here because they often refer to or can be applied to a job or career that the respective student in which the student is interested.  An aspiring therapist in an upper-level psychology class benefits from doing case study analysis of troubled  youth.

These types of projects allow the overarching lesson objectives to be met and essential questions to be answered while grabbing the adult-learner because she has a need to understand how it can be applied to her own life.  She is intrinsically motivated to learn and feels a stronger sense of self-concept, as her goals can be met by learning the material and expanding her existing knowledge base and life experience. This synthesizes the FOUR RULES.  This is how meaningful and sustaining learning occurs for adults.

Knowles, M.S., Holton, E.F. & Swanson, R.A. (2005)   The adult learner: the definitive classic in adult education and human resource development. Oxford: Elsevier.

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