Anxieties of Adult Learners

Adults may have many anxieties about learning and returning to an educational environment . Adult learners arrive at class with a wealth of experience that can be harnessed to generate interesting and dynamic debate. However, before this is to happen, we need to be aware that adults can also arrive full of anxieties, which if not managed correctly, can impair the learning process. These anxieties may be the legacy of their prior experience of education, or as a result of an extended absence from an educational environment. Examples of anxieties that might arise include:

    *Fear of failure
    *Concern about being the oldest member of the group
    *Fear of being made to look foolish
    *Fear of the new technological environment and the implications this has for their study, e.g. use of the internet and email, producing assignments, accessing the library
    *Concern about their ability to contribute and make intelligent/worthwhile inputs in classroom discussion
    *Doubts about coping strategies – juggling family, career and social commitments with demands of studying
    *Consideration about physical impairments such as fading eyesight or hearing which may impact on their participation in class
    *Concern about application processes to colleges or education providers. For example, sometimes the language of course brochures and/or application forms can be confusing as it assumes a certain amount of knowledge about education systems and structures
    *Distrust about their own abilities and about how valid or worthwhile their experience is in relation to the topic at hand
    *Questions about their study skills, e.g. note taking, reading – when to stop as they become more immersed in a subject
    *Fear of assessment and confusion about what is expected, particularly regarding more formal assessment exercises such as exams
    *Worry about the distinctions between academic writing and informal writing, and when it is necessary to use references and quotations
    * Concerns about external influences, e.g. a need to require a skill for employment purposes