2023-2024 Catalog



Adult Learning Theory

CAPS programs offer a challenging educational experience for learners. The curricular format is often accelerated, interaction among participants is emphasized, and teams play an important role in the learning process. Instructors bring a combination of academic training and professional experience into the classroom. CAPS students have significant skills and experience to draw from and to share.

To make the most of these unique programs, those enrolled should be aware of the foundational beliefs concerning the education of adult learners that administrators and the faculty of CAPS believe are crucial to the learning experience. The following elements make the CAPS programs work:

Adult students are motivated to learn. Adults who return to school after spending time in the work force are typically ready to give the effort needed to learn. Because of this, learning proceeds much more quickly, and faculty do not have to spend time urging students to attend to their work. Indeed, accustomed to excellence at work, adults often labor to reach that same level of quality in their academic pursuits.

Adults have learned self-discipline. As a result of being in the work force and managing the complexities of both professional and personal responsibilities, adults have developed a sense of discipline that serves them well in the CAPS Programs. Assignments can be completed-and completed well-within narrow time frames despite busy schedules and varied work, family, church, and community responsibilities.

Adults have broad life experiences. Learning theory indicates that students learn by relating abstractions to memories of past experiences. For this reason, a person who has experienced a work environment is better able to absorb theoretical concepts. Drawing on a broad background of experiential knowledge allows adults to quickly grasp ideas.

Adults desire relevance. If students relate to a current task or contemporary problem, their ears “perk up” and brains “switch to high gear.” Because working adults encounter situations where their learning may be applied daily, they are more motivated and better able to learn.

Adults have developed skill in independent learning. To succeed in life, adults, by necessity, have learned to gather information on their own and process it independently. Thus, CAPS can rely on them to grasp more knowledge and skills on their own in the context of structured group and independent activities without having to rely on an instructor as a “fountain” from which all information flows.

Adults learn best when they are personally involved. The more active people are in their own learning, the better the learning. If students are only called upon to passively listen to instructors, little learning occurs. When students interact in small groups, engage in role play, solve problems, prepare projects, and apply techniques in the workplace, their learning is deep and retention is long. For this reason, CAPS seeks to create situations for active learning.

Adults have many insights of their own. As individuals go through life, they gain new perspectives and insights based on the events which have occurred around them. When a group of adults with varied backgrounds and work experiences come together, the accumulated knowledge and wisdom can be overwhelming. To rely solely on one instructor’s thoughts for the content of a course would impoverish the educational experience. For this reason, discussion is highly valued in CAPS classes.

Adults can direct their learning to fill in gaps in their knowledge. Reading and research outside the classroom allow students to close the gaps between their current knowledge and the knowledge necessary to meet CAPS course objectives. Adults are able to recognize when there is still much to learn, and have the discipline and learning skills to focus on those areas where they need to concentrate most.

Adults learn well in groups. Group learning is widely recognized as an effective learning process. Peers tutor each other, there is emotional support, and friendships develop in groups, all of which results in a positive climate for learning. Ideas and learning that would not have occurred individually occur in groups, resulting in the creation of synergy. Weaknesses in one student are offset by the strengths of others. Teamwork, cooperation, and leadership skills are fostered within groups.

Indiana Weselayan