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Interview of An Adult Learner

Kathryn R. Cochran
University of Memphis
Spring 2015
Instructor: Dr. Mario Brown

Certificate of Authorship: I certify that I am the autho. I have cited all sources from which I used
data, ideas, or words, either quoted directly or paraphrased. I also certify that this paper was
prepared by me specifically for this course.
Signature: Kathryn Renee Cochran

Date: February 2015

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Adult learners have become a common group in the field of higher education and as the
field grows, education must transform to fit their wants, needs, and desires just as it has for the
learning of children and young adults. An adult learner, as classified by Rhonda Wynne of the
Asset Project, states that adults certainly have extra considerations that go into play when
considering classwork and schedules such as: family, careers, time, money, transportation, and
more (Wynne, 2003). Adult learners are unique in learning styles as many of our class articles
have stated, but I have explored the diversity and learning styles of adults in my communication
with two adult learners. One of the learners is Chris Heigle, a fellow classmate in the Masters
program alongside with me, and the other interviewee is an adult learner, my aunt Cindy, who is
currently in an Ed.S progam at Austin Peay State University. I spoke with Chris via email and
Cindy via email as well as skype. I recorded my questions, as well as their answers, and in
reading the articles, I have found comparisons of their time as adult learners with what the
research states.
I asked the same questions to each interviewee, but tailored each one to fit the answers
that were being given. I interviewed Chris Heigle first and learned that he works full time as a
college administrator and is also a father, as well as completing this masters degree. Chris was
open to the interview and spoke candidly of his willingness to work, maintain enrollment in the
masters program, as well as being a father is due to the potential that a masters degree allows
him as well as the self respect that goes along with the degree. Chris stated that his biggest
barrier is time, and that because of time limitations, he prefers self directed learning styles and
online courses. Chris overcomes his time barrier by staying up late, often times doing work
during his lunch hour, or having to take time away from his family in order to complete

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I felt that Chris main barrier (time) as an adult learner were covered by Lisa
Baumgartner in the psychological/cognitive approach. Baumgartner states that one version of the
psychological/cognitive approach examines life events and transitions. As stated by
Baumgartner, Pearlins model from 1982 notes that anticipated life course role changes, such as
getting married and having children, cause less psychological distress than unscheduled changes
such as car accidents or the loss of employment (Baumgartner, 2001). In Chris case, I feel that
this model is correct, but lowers the expectations in regards to the amount of stress that comes
with anticipated life events. For further explanation, it is vital to know that the biggest barrier in
Cindy and Chris interview, they each stated that time was the biggest barrier. While they each
are busy due to anticipated life events such as marriage, children, and jobs, I feel like Paerlins
model minimizes those anticipated life events, implying that because they are anticipated, they
dont cause as much stress. I feel that that logic is slightly flawed as the world ages and different
hindrances continue to rear their head.
My interview with Cindy was completed using skype and email. Cindy is a teacher in the
Nashville school system, as well as a student in an Ed.S program. One of the biggest differences
in Cindy and Chris is that Cindy spoke strongly about preferring to have the presence of a
teacher when learning. Thus, she stated in her email that she prefers classroom-styled classes
with an instructor that is often available and willing to have a commanding presence in the
classroom, as opposed to a more free will amongst the students. Cindy stated that she felt that
this was due to her age as well as relying more on traditional learning styles because of the fact
that she wasnt raised with computers or the internet. She later clarified herself on skype, when
the conversation was able to flow more freely, that she prefers a teacher presence in the
classroom with a self directed learning style outside of the classroom.

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As the first article for this class was based on angragogy and self directed learning, I
found myself resorting back to that article many times when reviewing my interview with Cindy.
At one point in the article, the article discusses on pages five and six that the assumptions that
andragogy and self directed learning were key for instructing adults is not always the case. The
article stated that the methods of teaching when referencing andragogy were not necessarily
true for all adults, but that it could be true for children and adults, thus leading to his continuum
(Merriam, 2001). I mention this article because one of the most underlying comments when
interviewing Cindy was her constant idea that she would prefer to have a teacher present in all of
her classes as opposed to the majority or all of her classes ever being online. The article backs
this opinion up by giving off the impression that not all adult learners would prefer to learn at
their own pace or on their own scale, and im glad that the author of the article didnt expect or
rely on all adult learners to shun the idea of classroom learning or high teacher presence.
The most important question that I asked Chris and Cindy was why?. Why do they
work all day and stay up late into the night in order to continue their education? Each one gave
answers such as: job promotion, self respect, and the opportunities that present themselves as
they obtain more education. But Cindy stated, and Chris interview implied heavily that they
each have a passion for learning, education, and spreading that passion. Cindy stated that the
further she continues her education, the further she can reach her students and her future
students. As the article and research from Adult Education Quarterly from the article Life
mission and adult learning, the research shows that when a mission is connected, the work and
the passion will maintain steady (Kroth, Boverie, 2000). I think it is important to state that when
I considered the questions I would ask Cindy and Chris, one of the first questions that popped
into my mind was to ask them why they feel the need to continue their education despite the

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hindrances in their personal lives. After all, wouldnt it be easier if all adults simply worked, had
families, and planned vacations and get aways? I feel that adult learners life mission, as
described by the article, is the main enforcer of continuing education even if it is at the busiest
portion of their lives. The article states regardless of this transformational process, a core
mission seems to sit at the center of a persons life (Kroth, Boverie, 2000). Without mission and
without purpose, im not sure if im convinced that adult learners would find a reason to continue
to learn.
As I stated to begin this paper, adult learners are unique and the number of adult learners
will only continue to grow. In my time spent reading articles and interviewing Chris and Cindy, I
found that much of the research that goes into a lot of depth and detail is indeed backed by the
average adult learner in two programs at two different institutions. It is vital that as universities
continue to blossom with adult learners, that departments at universities and instructors take note
of the important role that they play in an adult learner. I feel that the style of learning for an
adult, though different than a traditional aged college student, is still important to continue to
research, learn, and add educational value to. These interviews allowed me to relate what ive
read in the articles to real life scenarios, and I feel much more strongly in agreement with the
articles and the idea behind adult learning and what it can do for the education industry in the
university system.

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