When we think of the term learning, it's hard to avoid the memories of reciting our ten time tables in front of the class as a child. And this is because we spend the initial quarter of our lives learning skills to help us through the next 3 quarters. But learning doesn't stop there, it is something we continue to do throughout our adulthood.
But how does learning as a child compare to learning as an adult?
When creating learning concepts, it is important to understand your audience. But this goes as far as challenging learning traditions and ideals that are used in schools to see if they are effective for adult training. Understanding how child learning and adult learning compare is a vital element when creating learning methodologies.
When you learn something new as a young child, purpose isn't something that is considered. Small children don't usually need to understand why they are learning something for it to be effectively received. This begins to develop as the child gets older. The idea of purpose becomes a bigger contributor of the information being effectively understood. The older child tends to need to know the purpose of the learning more, whether it be to get them through their GCSEs or how to get a job when they are older, learning without purpose can be harder for the pupil to connect with the older they get., Which then develops further into adulthood, adults lead busier lives and spending time learning something has to have an end goal that will better them, whether it be progressing in their job role or learning something they have an interest in, it is only effectively received if they need to know it.
Challenging the classroom Hierarchy:
Another huge difference between adult learning compared to child learning is the productiveness of the classic classroom set up. Now as learning theories are developing, some may argue that the traditional classroom learning is ineffective full stop. However this idea goes further than the literal form of being sat in a classroom with a teacher, it encompasses all learning in-which somebody is physically teaching another because they know more about the subject in question.
As a child, we know the drill,we aren't yet prepared for the world independently and therefore need authoritative, experienced figures (adults, parents, teachers) to help us develop our skills. So in a classroom, children trust that the teacher is the dominant force that will provide them with knowledge that is unavoidable and needs to be taught. This also makes the teacher more relatable to the child. However, similarly to the previous point, this tends to become more of a diluted environment as the child progresses through life. Universities and some secondary schools and colleges have a more relaxed system of learning in the classroom environment. More independent study, referring to the tutors on first name terms and have more conversational style of learning with the teacher. This is amplified further through to adulthood, the learners need to feel they are equal to the tutors. This is again, because the adult learner is choosing to be there, learning needs to be relevant to their lives, making the teacher figure something the adult learner has decided to listen to.
This point is a tricky one, as it does apply to both adult and child learning, however is more of a crucial element to adults it seems. And that is: being able to practically get involved in the learning. As a child, we tend to be happy enough being talked at, and only responding when asked a question to challenge that knowledge. However adults find learning more effective when they are part of the initial thought process. So group collaboration, role playing and discussions are more productive as adults are free to give their opinions and thoughts and come to the answer themselves. This isn't as effective with children, as they rely on the experienced to give them the correct conclusions.
There are many elements that can differ when analyzing productivity in child learning and adult learning. It is important to get the learning style right for your audience and try not to fall into classroom traditions with learning as a 'one size fits all' approach definitely doesn't work.