Training programs for adults are conducted in diverse formats and can either be formal or informal or informative sessions to skills sessions and can last for an unspecified time, be it an hour or more. Sponsors of these programs can conduct them at conferences centers, in training centers such as universities, or whichever place is conducive for the session. Similarly, adult learner programs can be organized for individual learners or a group of learners and can be conducted at the community or even national level. Such programs can be organized for small individuals or a large group of professionals such as managers and directors. Characteristics of adult learners are significantly different from young learners due to the social roles played by adults and their experiences. Adults are regarded as hardworking, self-directed, and goal-oriented, meaning that their programs are different from school-going children. Moreover, adults have numerous barriers that prevent them from participating in educational programs, such as little motivation, confidence, and time. Based on their unique characteristics, organizers of learner programs need to ensure that the designed curriculum considers all the challenges and meets the needs of adult learners.
The Caffarella interactive model provides an interesting approach to planning for programs such as adult learning. The model places the organizers as the key decision-makers since they are the ones who spend a considerable portion of their time developing, implementing, and evaluating programs. Adult learning programs are conducted for diverse reasons, including encouraging growth and development of adults, helping adults respond to the challenges they encounter, preparing adults for exiting and upcoming work opportunities, evaluating community and societal issues, and assisting organizations in achieving their desired results and adapting to change (Cafarella & Sandra, 2013). The interactive model has eleven key components and five foundational knowledge areas that learners need to understand. These key areas include adult learning, cultural differences, technology, relationship, and power. The model describes what the learning programs need to do and how to do it, describes how to program planners practice and expand their thoughts while planning for such programs, and helps educational experts frame the training sessions for their specific groups.
When planning for adult programs, organizers need to consider their life experiences since adult learners have life skills and experiences that determine their expectations. Moreover, adult learners are always active learners who work hard both in class and during other activities. Their activity is high since most adult learners facilitate their studies and are always determined to excel. Moreover their busy schedules need to be considered. Learning programs need to be flexible and mix both face-to-face and online programs to allow them to study at a time that is more convenient to their needs. Program planners also need to consider the academic inexperience of adult learners and motivate them since most learners are apprehensive of going back to study. Lastly, adult learners need to be respected due to their career and life experiences. Learners need to undertake an approach different from that of undergraduate learners.
Four key components need to be included in adult learning programs; motivation, reinforcement, retention, and transference. Adult learners need to be motivated to learn, failure to which they are likely to quit and let go. They can be motivated by creating learning opportunities that will improve their personal development, clearly defining how the learning program will impact their lives and experiences, and motivating them with extrinsic experiences. Adult learners need reinforcement to encourage good behavior or alleviate bad behavior. Furthermore, planners need to ensure that the information they offer will be well received by adult learners and retained throughout the learning modules. In addition, transference will ensure that learners get the opportunity to practice what they have learned in real-world situations. Transference can be improved through social learning, allowing learners to engage more and learn from their mistakes.
Based on planning experience, four major stumbling blocks affect the adult learning experience. First, school-life balance is still a challenge in adult learning programs. Most adult learners need to cater to their families by looking for livelihood means and spending time with their families. Balancing work, family, and learning is quite challenging, and most learners may end up quitting. Second, adult learning requires motivation, failure to which learners may find it more challenging to study. Due to the numerous responsibilities, it is essential always to motivate them and keep pushing forward. However, it is easy to motivate adult learners since most have intrinsic motivation to learn. Third, adult learners also experience social pressure and personal fears. Most learners find it quite challenging to interact with much younger peers in a classroom and therefore opt to enroll in adult-only classes or online classes. To eliminate social fears, adult learners need to be comfortable with their situation and be committed to achieving their goals. Lastly, technological advancements can negatively impact the comfort of adult learners in classrooms. Most learners experience difficulties interacting with the dynamic and ever-evolving technology or even adapting to the learning formats that are different from what the learner experienced in the past.
Caffarella, R. S., & Daffron, S. R. (2013). Planning programs for adult learners: A practical guide. John Wiley & Sons.39-75