Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

by on January 20, 2012 in Reflections with No Comments »


A considerable amount of the students at MCNY are “adult learners”. While 18-25 year olds are adults, this term specifically refers to adults ages 35+. REAL adults. Adults with much more life experience then the average college student.
Adult Learners come here for our accelerated degree programs. The promise of a degree in a shortened time period is very attractive to the AL who feels that they have already lost some time.

Many ALs haven’t sat in a classroom in over a decade. Many are clueless about college life and the culture of higher education. One particular encounter with an AL who will go by “John Doe” is particularly worth mentioning.

Mr. Doe came to the LEC unaware and upset by the fact that all college work was required to be typed. He had never learned how to type and had no access to a computer. The last time Mr. Doe was in school floppy disks were all the rage and that was if your school had access to computers. I had a feeling his school wasn’t one of them.

I initially wanted to run for the exit. How the heck was I going to help this student?

I ended up referring him to the Mentor and Leadership Development Program. They help students transition to college life as well as help improve computer literacy.

My encounter with Mr. Doe was something I found myself constantly reflecting on. I wanted to learn more about what it’s like to be an adult learner in the college classroom. I began engaging in frequent discussions with students at the LEC. I also learned a lot about them from their comments in the classroom and from their written work. Teaching a Purpose I Values and Ethics Class was perfect for my little endeavor.

I quickly learned that most of these students are extremely dedicated and motivated. They are much more serious about their education than the average college freshman but it was painfully evident that time management was a huge problem. They have spouses, children, full time jobs or careers, and financial obligations unlike the traditional college freshman. Those who could master time management would be successful.

I’m continuously learning about this student population.

As an educator, I want to be able to cater to the learning needs of these particular students with these particular needs while holding them to the standards I have for all college students.

I am realizing that they are not the only “old dogs” that need to learn “new tricks”.

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