Online Course - Module #2:  Approaches to Adult Learners


Practitioners who are best equipped to offer effective literacy programs are ones who can build on a thorough understanding of adult literacy learners and the factors that affect their learning. A certain level of knowledge and expertise in this area has been identified by the Adult Literacy Educator Core Skills List as essential for educators who work with adult learners in Ontario. Developed by Managers and Administrators of the Literacy and Basic Skills Program, the ALECSL document constitutes the standard by which quality practice in adult education can be recognized and measured. 

Click on Adult Literacy Educator Core Skills List if you would like to see the complete list.

The first section of the Core Skills List focuses on professional practice that has to do with Approaches to Adult Literacy and Adult Learners. The essential skill in that area is the ability to:

“create a positive learning environment for learner groups in their diverse social/economic/cultural contexts.”      

But what does that mean exactly? It raises a few questions:

  • What does it take to “create a positive learning environment for learner groups in diverse socio-economic and cultural contexts”?
  • What would that positive learning environment look like, exactly, in an LBS classroom?
  • How would an instructor’s skill in this area be recognized?

The ALECSL goes on to list a number of ways in which this skill is demonstrated, i.e. an instructor who has this skill:

  • accepts and affirms different social groups in their settings.
  • considers issues that affect learning (e.g. abuse, health, housing, disabilities).
  • uses strategies which foster understanding among diverse learner groups.
  • makes adaptations which respond to individual learning styles, goals, and behaviours
  • establishes and promotes an atmosphere of mutual trust and partnership in the classroom.

That helps a little, but we are still left wondering, “What specific things would you have to know, and what specific things would you do in order to put these skills into practice on a daily basis?”

Answering that question is the goal of this training

About This Course

Approaches to Adult Learning and Adult Learners will introduce you to the kinds of people who enroll in LBS programs, the diverse issues they bring along with them, and the impact these issues have on the learners’ success.

You will also review and learn more about:

  • principles of adult learning,
  • positive learning environments,
  • making adjustments to the learning environment as learners move closer to becoming self-directed learners.

The course is organized into seven units of study which you can see outlined in the Table of Contents. In each unit, there are course notes, hotlinks to files with further readings, links to information and resources online, and questions for self-reflection. Guided self-reflection through journaling will help you step back from the materials in order to consider the impact these materials have on your own thinking and think about what implications follow for your teaching practice.

Objectives and Outcomes

The purpose of this training is to help you develop stronger connections and relationships with learners in order to increase your effectiveness in the teaching-learning exchange. The assumption is that:

  • as you learn more about adult literacy learners,
  • deepen your understanding of their challenges and their best ways of learning,
  • see your role more clearly in terms of what you can provide,
  • you will be better equipped to help the learners achieve their goals. The outcomes for this training, then, focus on increased knowledge as well as skill development.

Upon completing this course, you can expect to be able to demonstrate:

  • an understanding of adult learners and the diversity issues that affect their learning,
  • practical ways for accepting and affirming different social groups in their settings,
  • strategies for fostering tolerance, understanding and unity within a diverse learner population,
  • ways to facilitate learning that are appropriate various individual learning styles, and behaviours, for learners at various stages of self-direction,
  • accommodations to make for various individual learning styles and behaviours,
  • strategies for promoting an atmosphere of mutual trust and partnership in the classroom.
  • strategies that encourage active participation in learning and promote retention in LBS programs.

Proceed to Table of Contents