Mind the Gap: 6 Tips for Addressing Adult Learner Skill Gaps

Monday, January 12, 2015 -- Leslie Holland

If you were to take out your high school math textbook today and look at the table of contents, there likely would be some topics listed that you remember very well and quite a few that don’t spark any memories at all. Now, if you were to do some of the lessons in that textbook, there are concepts that may come flooding back with the steps falling quickly into place and others that cause you to stumble. This is the world of an adult learner. Whether adults have been absent from the classroom for months or years, the experience of returning to learning amplifies what they remember and what they believe they have forgotten.

What strategies can help us focus and target these gaps so that our learners’ knowledge looks more like the Empire State Building and less like a game of Jenga?

Use these six strategies to help your adult learners fill their skill gaps in any subject!

Ask

1. What do you remember? Review the topics so that you are aware of what is expected and highlight any key vocabulary that may help recall a concept. This helps you understand what is to be done.

2. Where do you think you are? Highlight or mark the topics that you recall in terms of confidence (e.g., strong, moderate, limited). This can help you see what you already know before beginning.

Review

3. Can you proceed to the next level by a quick study and review of the vocabulary and key terms in some areas where you have prior knowledge? (These areas are identified by your highlights on the previous step.)

4. What are your goals? Do you have a short-term expectation? Do you need to reach a certain level within a timeframe?

Define

5. How have you assessed your skills? Using data can help refine the areas in which you are proficient and the areas you have still to work on.

6. What is your roadmap? In words or with graphics, you can illustrate where you are and what you need to work on first. Were there areas you needed to go back and fill in before moving forward?

Adult learners need to be involved in the process of learning and have ownership of their educational goals. Implementing these strategies will help your students have ownership of and reach their personal learning goals.

Want to learn more about how to address learning skill gaps for your students? Check out our Five Steps to Targeted Instruction for Adult and Higher Ed Learners resource!