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Adult Education and the Learning Environment

When teaching adults, what are the essential elements of the learning environment? Identify and describe the environment.

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1. When teaching adults, what are the essential elements of the learning environment?


Support for adult learners is provided through a learning environment that meets both their physical and psychological needs. Such a learning environment is also an essential element in successful partnerships between learners and instructors.

Developing an atmosphere in which adults feel both safe and challenged should be the goal (Cranton 1989; Rogers 1989; Vella 1994). Any anxieties learners might have about appearing foolish or exposing themselves to failure should be eased, but they should not feel so safe that they do not question their current assumptions or are not challenged in other ways.

Instructors need to balance being friendly with challenging learners (Rogers 1989). An ideal adult learning climate has a nonthreatening, nonjudgmental atmosphere in which adults have permission for and are expected to share in the responsibility for their learning.

Suggestions for creating a learning environment that fosters a sense of support for and partnership with adults include the following:

--Capitalize on the first session. First impressions are frequently lasting ones. The first session should create the foundation for a healthy learning partnership and set the tone for the balance of the program. Consider informal furniture arrangements with chairs in a circle or around a table and allow time for introductions, including information about the instructor. Even if the first session is devoted to needs assessment and discussing learner expectations for the course, provide written information about the course. Assignments should be discussed at the outset with the promise of a complete syllabus (incorporating learner input) at the next session. ...

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When teaching adults, this solution identifies and describes the essential elements of the learning environment. 7 sources listed.