Every student has a personal learning style. Although this is true for students of all ages, this notion is particularly pronounced in adult learners. Perhaps this is the case simply because adult learners have had ample time to become "set in their ways" with regard to what they feel comfortable with in the classroom. However, mere comfort can be deceiving, and many of the "ways" of learning adult students have become accustomed to utilize do more harm than good in their learning processes. In my case, I have found that my particular learning style can help, as well as hinder my academic progress -- this is particularly true considering issues of time management, research, and analysis skills.
There is little question that in my case, I seem to value autonomy in my learning style much more than I did as a younger student. This means that I do not seem to feel comfortable with detail-orientated in class "busy work." For instance, when it comes to writing a research paper or even an essay, I find it unbearable to develop in class outlines, sit in peer-review circles over multiple drafts, or any of the other "hand holding" exercises designed to teach the writing process or keep the students "on task." However, this is not to say that I don't require a set "schedule" of specific deadlines and class expectations, for without those, I can quickly sink into the mire of procrastination or even "over-saturation" from working on a particular project for too long.
Of course, at first, I imagined that this deep desire for autonomy and self-paced learning was unique to me. However, after reading some of the literature on adult education and the characteristics of the average adult learner, I found that many (if not most) older students also place a high regard on autonomous learning. In fact, after reading the landmark The Inquiring Mind (Houle, 1961), I began to understand just how prevalent it is for adult learners to undertake their continuing education with an independent nature.
In Houle's work, he states, "...behind any decision to learn something new lies a complex network of motives, interests, and values, and behind them, yet another layer of complex inter-linked factors; "a cataract of consequences" (p. 29). I believe that my and other adult learner's preference for autonomy is a result of the sum of these "consequences," and that my strong draw toward "self-learning" is a natural part of my inclusion in the adult learner demographic.
Interestingly, however, my mere preference for independent learning does little to explain some of my learning challenges that I seem to encounter on a regular basis. As I previously mentioned, I sometimes run into trouble with my research, time management, and analysis skills. However, according to the 1997 work by Kolody, Conti, and Lockwood, Identifying Groups of Learners Through the Use of Learning Strategies, much of this difficulty can be explained by understanding my place within five distinct "learning strategy" groups based on learning styles. These styles are as follows:
Navigator: High % of transfer students, high GPA, good planning skills. Good at locating and using information as well as organizing the information. Like outlines, schedules and defined deadlines.
Monitor: Use comparison skills to assess self-progress. Older students, good at using the best resources available as well as seeking out "expert" and secondary sources. Good time managers, they rely on avoiding distractions and set time periods for work. Rely on visual models to compare work progress.
Critical Thinker: Good at adjusting personal learning processes as well as applying past experience to solve new problems. They prefer to test their assumptions and methods against each new situation, and prefer hands-on learning, experimentation, an avoidance of memorization, and enjoy open-ended questions.
Engagers: These learners "love to learn." They place heavy emphasis on enjoying the topic or the learning process, and gain confidence and pride each time they complete an assignment successfully. Like to be "engaged with the subject" meaning that they somehow personally identify with the subject matter at hand. These learners enjoy group projects.
Networker: Prefer to learn material from many sources, including dialogues, networking and discussions. Use past experiences to solve problems, prefer interactive learning, teamwork, barnstorming techniques, as well…