Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Information Competency for Adult Reentry Students

Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Information Competency for Adult Reentry Students

Article excerpt


This paper discusses an academic library's experience with teaching in a program for adult reentry students. It chronicles the collaboration between a university library and an academic department to improve student information competencies. Program assessment is included.

Introduction & Literature Review

Adult reentry students are a growing population on university campuses. As reported in the 2001 edition of Digest of Education Statistics, students older than thirty have increased from fewer than three million in 1985 to more than four million in 2000, with a predicted modest growth rate. These nontraditional students often face greater difficulties with college work than do their younger peers. For students in the thirty-something and older age brackets, tasks such as registering online for classes, emailing an essay to a professor, or even manipulating a mouse can prove challenging. Many students have the added responsibilities of full-time employment, parenting, and other commitments. This paper discusses an academic library's experience with teaching in an accelerated degree program for adult reentry students. It describes how a university and its library can ease the transition for reentry students and improve their likelihood of academic success.

Millions of adults returned to higher education in 1999, a result of an economic climate that makes job related knowledge and skills quickly obsolete and underscores the importance of lifelong learning (Greenberg, 2000). While there is no precise definition of the nontraditional student, a recent Department of Education report identifies the nontraditional student as one who possesses any of the following characteristics: delayed enrollment, part-time attendance, full-time employment, financial independence, dependents other than spouse, single parenthood, did not complete high-school (National Center for Education Statistics, 2002). Current articles note that the population of adult students is a force to be reckoned with. Lintner reports that the "homogenous campus of 19-23 year olds is changing." A new group of older students will greatly influence the design and delivery of courses. Higher education must recognize and address their special needs (Lintner, 1997). There is an abundance of literature describing the needs and stresses of the adult student. Malcolm Knowles, an educational theorist, conducted extensive research into the specialized teaching of adult learners. He identified several attributes unique to the adult learning style. These include anxiety about performance, a need for rapid application of information to real life settings, higher self-motivation, and a preference for a facilitated, rather than directed, instructional format (Knowles, 1980). In a comparison of returning and traditional students, Dill and Henley (1998) found significant differences in academics, peer and social relations, and autonomy and responsibility. For example, adult students reported greater enjoyment for classwork and homework, while traditional students expressed greater worries about academic performance.

Librarians have addressed these differences in planning user education for adult students. At Iowa State, a library instruction program was redesigned to attract the adult learner. Classes were offered in a weekend format with an emphasis on collaborative learning and practical, hands-on exercises. The students were appreciative of this tailored instruction format (Vakili, 1993). Tamaiuolo (1990) reports that many of the principles of Knowles' theories apply to library instruction. Adult students may feel great anxiety about the technological changes in libraries from their earlier academic careers. They also want to be treated as adults, sharing the responsibility for their learning with their professors. Grassian and Kaplowitz (2001) discuss the importance of targeting information literacy programs to adult learners who need a very practical, generic form of instruction, with practicality as the key element. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.