In their own words: Older adults' perceptions of effective and ineffective learning experiences
Deborah L. Duay, Florida Atlantic University, United States
Florida Atlantic University . Awarded
The percentage of older adults in the American population is expected to increase from about 12% now to 22% by the year 2030 (Eisen, 2005). Educators can play an important role in managing the effects of this demographic shift by designing learning opportunities that increase older adults' motivation to participate and their ability to learn. Because older adults themselves can offer important insights on what helps and hinders their learning, the purpose of this study was to explore the perceptions of adults over age 64 residing in a large metropolitan area in the southeastern United States on effective and ineffective learning experiences.
Utilizing a qualitative design, the researcher interviewed 36 older adults involved in learning experiences at three distinct sites. Data were also collected through observations and document analysis. Five research questions were answered with the following four findings: (1) effective learning experiences are involving, (2) the instructor is a key component in the classroom, (3) familiar or relevant topics are interesting, and (4) the computer and the Internet are both loved and hated. The participants in this study value learning experiences that involve them in the classroom and keep them involved in the world. They enjoy asking questions, discussing ideas, and learning with friends and family members in environments free from the pressures of mandatory assignments and tests. They seek instructors who are knowledgeable about the subject, clear and understandable in their presentation, respectful of their experience, and effective at grabbing their attention through enthusiasm, humor, and relevant stories. When they discover effective instructors, they tend to take classes with them over and over again. However, when instructors' abilities are unknown, they look for learning experiences that will either expand their knowledge about something familiar or teach them something that will have some relevance in their lives. Finally, these seniors enjoy the convenience of accessing a wealth of information using computers and the Internet. Yet, they also experience considerable frustration in learning computer tasks and dealing with computer problems. Recommendations are provided for designing, marketing, and delivering quality learning experiences for senior adults.
Duay, D.L. In their own words: Older adults' perceptions of effective and ineffective learning experiences. Ph.D. thesis, Florida Atlantic University.
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