Meeting the Special Needs of Adult Students

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

This chapter outlines a holistic approach to higher
education program planning for adults in which the
potential and limitations of conventional universities
to serve adults are considered.


10
Planning Programs for Adults

Deborah Kilgore

A few years ago, I was talking with a professor at a private liberal arts university, where one-third of the enrollment is adult students. “We've been doing this for twenty years,” he said angrily, “but you can't even get a cup of coffee around here at night or on weekends.” This example illustrates a lack of not only understanding about the needs of adult learners but also awareness of the students themselves. When many university decision makers think of their students, nontraditional students do not come to mind. Even if a program designed specifically for adults is situated on a college campus, often it is treated by all but those directly involved as an afterthought, rather than fully incorporated into the everyday world and everyday thinking of university leaders.

Coffee or a snack may seem like a small thing to those who do not imagine a student who has no time to eat dinner after her or his full-time job and before a night class. However, this and other small amenities are important to adult students, conveying to them that they matter to the university (Schlossberg, Lynch, and Chickering, 1989). I am not proposing to roll out a red carpet and leave the lights on all night long, but as others have noted in this volume, adequate services should be available to students when and where they need them.

In this chapter, I offer a suggestion for planning adult education in a holistic way. Educational program planning is a dynamic, continual process of decision making that takes place among a web of interdependent people, activities, and administrative functions (Caffarella, 1994). To view the program planning process holistically is to view all its components as inseparable from one another. Such a perspective brings into focus not only the many aspects of program planning that may be familiar to readers but also the unique issues surrounding planning with adult students in mind.

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