Meeting the Special Needs of Adult Students

By Deborah Kilgore; Penny J. Rice | Go to book overview

The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning is
currently cataloguing alternative programming features
that are most effective with adult students in a best-
practices inventory organized around a framework of
high-level descriptive principles of effectiveness. This
chapter identifies a few interesting features from a quick
survey of this alternative programming landscape.


9
Alternative Programming for Adults

Thomas A. Flint and Ruth Frey

Other contributors to this volume have already identified the numerous ways in which adult learners differ from eighteen- to twenty-two-year-old college students. A close inspection of the policies and practices of select high-performing, adult-serving colleges and universities (Flint and Associates, 1999) reveals that in many ways “nontraditional” students thrive when institutions use nontraditional or “alternative” programming. In this chapter, we identify a few interesting features from a quick survey of these alternative practices.

By alternative programming, we refer to nonstereotypical structures and processes used by colleges for both the curriculum and student life. Typically, the college curriculum is discipline based, packaged into courses, delivered by the faculty in classrooms, and aggregated over four years of full-time study into the baccalaureate degree. Extracurricular features may include clubs, cultural events, and athletics, with colleges providing support staff to deliver these extras. Bundled together, this approach is modal but no longer the only or even the most common approach to providing higher education.

Alternative approaches, including those practices we describe later, may be found in isolation or bundled with other atypical practices to form new, distinct delivery models. This much is certain to any adult educator of even modest experience: Adults want alternatives, not the stereotypical experience of college. The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) currently is cataloguing alternative programming features that are most effective with adult students in a best-practices inventory organized around a framework of high-level descriptive principles of effectiveness. When put into practice, these principles characterize what CAEL calls the Adult Learning Focused Institution (ALFI) (Flint, Zakos, and Frey, 2002).

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