Challenging and Motivating the Adult Learner in Higher Education

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I believe that students learn best when they can tailor the material to their own personalized way of learning. For example, I feel that it is important that students understand and evaluate their own learning style. When students can understand how they learn best then they can tailor their study habits and test taking strategies to their individual learning style. I teach primarily first year college students and I have designed a lecture around an introduction to learning styles with the primary focus on making them better students. The students enjoy the in class activity of determining their learning style and discussing how they can use their learning style to its fullest extent.

I teach college students and I always wonder what they are thinking. I think that it is important that they become critical thinkers and learn how to think outside of the box. I enjoy teaching them about how to become critical thinkers and the discussions that develop during the lecture are interesting. I think that it is important for them to think critically in college because they need to retain the material that they are learning to use in the real world. Many of my first year students are Registered Nursing majors and it is essential that they retain as much as possible in preparation for their future career in health care.

I think that in college a student’s thinking is influenced by development. I feel that knowledge and thinking can be furthered and developed throughout life. I am a strong believer in lifelong learning. My students are at a level of learning in their educational career and I can see them progressing each class towards the next level. It is exciting to see them mature as thinkers. As students mature, they discover interests that they did not know that they had. To support my feelings on life long learning, I found that according to Medel-Anonuevo, Ohsako, and Mauch, (2001), learning allows us to change, sustain or improve our skills and knowledge over a lifetime (Medel-Anonuevo, Ohsako, and Mauch, 2001).

I use questioning and cooperative learning in my classroom to develop the thinking of my students. We discuss their interests and reasons for continuing their education throughout the semester. I ask them to share their experiences with their classmates during a project called Student Experience Project. This gives my students an opportunity to utilize cooperative learning by telling a story about their past educational successes or failures. For example, I had a student last semester that shared a story of success. He was a 50 year old retired military general and wanted to utilize his VA educational benefits to obtain a degree in theatrical performance. He was the perfect example of a lifetime learner.

I feel that it is important for students to learn how to learn. In my first year experience class for first year college students, we talk about how everyone learns differently. I stress that they should know how to be intentional about their learning and that they have to take responsibility for what they learn. Skipping class, not turning in homework and procrastinating on projects are not intentional methods of succeeding in the learning process. I feel that students that are explained how to learn have a better understanding of how they can perform at a higher level in the classroom. Many of my students are first generation college students and they frankly don’t know what is expected of them in college. I teach them about time management, study skills and managing stress. When they are aware of expectations they can be intentional about their learning. According to Murray (2000), it’s never too late to teach students how to learn and students that use learning strategies have a higher chance of graduating from college (Murray, 2000).

I believe that the foundation of knowledge begins with educating children. I feel that children can gain knowledge each day by discovering the world around them. For example, I feel that only a portion of knowledge is developed through traditional education in the classroom. For example, I believe that children should be out and about discovering things, talking, watching and learning from other people. Teachers in traditional classrooms could incorporate this type of knowledge development by taking the students on field trips, inviting guest speakers into the classroom, and encouraging them to develop their knowledge by learning from one another. Overall, I think that it is important for children to seek knowledge through discovery.

I believe the purpose of education is to develop a students mind to think. I feel that this is important because through thinking the student can develop skills to evaluate information and predict an outcome. Decision-making is a basic skill that is essential in education and everyday life. As an educator, I feel that a student can be successful if I can develop their mind to comprehend, evaluate and decide on an outcome for problems in life and education. I also feel that a purpose of education is to create an educational goal for students. For example, allowing students to reflect on themselves will allow them to create goals for their education. If they can use their mind to think about what their goals are and evaluate their abilities, they can create a foundation for success in education.

I believe two basic needs of students are that they need to be challenged and motivated. Regardless of their level of learning, it is important that students be challenged. A special needs student can be challenged with an assignment to develop their reading and writing skills while a gifted student could be challenged with critical thinking questions. As an educator, I would strive to create the educational challenge by designing assignments and activities tailored to each level of learning. I also feel that an important need of a student is motivation. Without motivation the student will not have the desire to succeed and achieve their educational goals. For an elementary student, that educational goal may be continuing to the next grade level or mastering cursive writing. In college, the motivation to graduate with a degree and find a better paying job would possibly be the goal. Regardless of the student’s level of learning, it is important that they have goals and a motivation to succeed.


Medel-Anonuevo, C., Ohsako, T., & Mauch, W. (2001). Revisiting Lifelong Learning for the 21st Century. UNESCO Institute for Education. Retrieved February 10, 2009 from

Murray, B. (2000). Teaching Students How To Learn. Monitor on Psychology, 31 (6). Retrieved February 10, 2009 from


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