Ten principles for effectively serving adult learners
With Adult Learner 360, colleges and universities gain unique insight into the effectiveness of their adult student support. This support is assessed through the lens of CAEL’s Ten Principles for Effectively Serving Adult Learners, areas of focus that enhance adult learner retention and completion.
Adjusts to shifting external market forces and is able to adapt to the changing expectations of internal stakeholders, adult students, and employers―understanding the needs of those they serve by developing creative academic solutions.
All Principles require an openness to change in order to actualize solutions to the challenges identified by survey respondents. The Adaptivity Principle considers the responsiveness of your institution to student needs, including how student feedback is incorporated by your institution to make changes. Faculty and staff respond to a comprehensive suite of questions related to the success of change initiatives and best practices for gathering data. These questions indicate how successful your institution may be in implementing change related to another Principle area.
Assessment of Learning Outcomes
Defines and assesses the knowledge, skills, and competencies acquired by adult learners—both from the curriculum and from life and work experience—in order to assign credit and confer degrees with rigor. Learn more about
The first of two classroom-related Principles, Assessment of Learning Outcomes provides insight into several assessment practices, including placement testing and rubrics. This Principle alsoconsiders the clarity and alignment of learning outcomes to programmatic outcomes. Institutions that score well on this Principle are primed for successful implementation of advanced methods of prior learning assessment.
Promotes choice using an array of payment options for adult learners in order to expand equity and financial flexibility. Learn more about initiatives related to
Financing examines two key themes related to financial aid: accessibility and communication. Many institutions have found that while adults are satisfied with the services they receive, information is not as accessible as it could be. Since cost is a primary determining factor that impacts adults’ decisions to enroll at an institution, students’ satisfaction with Financing is inseparably linked to their success in higher education.
Life & Career Planning
Addresses adult learners’ life and career goals before or at the onset of enrollment in order to assess and align its capacities to help learners reach their goals. Learn more about efforts to revitalize life and career planning by
Life & Career Planning explores topics such as career advising, career education, academic advising, and prior learning assessment. Institutions often find that students have mixed experiences with academic advising and career advising. Students find the topics of this Principle to be very important; five out of six adult students enrolled in higher education are pursuing a specific career goal. Life & Career Planninginforms academic pathways which are tied to future career success.
Conducts its outreach to adult learners by overcoming barriers in time, place and tradition in order to create lifelong access to educational opportunities. Learn more about
Outreach considers the factors at play as institutions strive to break down barriers related to enrollment. Some of the important themes in this Principle include the registration process, diversity, and access to the services that adults need to simplify the transition to higher education. Many institutions uncover challenges related to student enrollment, while others uncover that institution-wide diversity metrics vary from students’ classroom experiences related to diversity.
Uses technology to provide relevant and timely information and to enhance the adult student learning experience. Learn more about
Technology considers how effectively all other Principles are leveraged through technological means. This Principle explores dimensions including technical support, online communication, and the relevance and modernity of campus technology. Students’ satisfaction with this Principle is directly related to how effectively they are oriented to campus technology upon enrollment. Faculty often report a need for more development around using emerging technology.
Engages in strategic relationships, partnerships and collaborations with employers and other organizations in order to develop and improve educational opportunities for adult learners.
Experiential learning opportunities drive the Strategic Partnerships Principle. Institutions pay careful attention to how important various experiential learning options are to their adult learners to understand what opportunities should be developed. Relationships with stakeholder groups, including employers, community-based organizations and alumni, are considered through the lens of how they impact the quality and effectiveness of services found in other Principles.
Student Support Systems
Assists adult learners using comprehensive academic and student support systems in order to enhance students’ capacities to become self-directed, lifelong learners.
How can you find out how well your student support systems currently meet the needs of your adult students? Learn more about our unique institutional survey platform
Student Support Systems considers the accessibility and flexibility of the resources that adult students need in order to be successful. These resources can be academic, developmental, personal, and/or social. Students often report that they would like referrals to outside resources for support services not offered by the institution. As the recipients of support services, students are typically more critical of this Principle than institutional respondents.
Faculty uses multiple methods of instruction (including experiential and problem-based methods) for adult learners in order to connect curricular concepts to useful knowledge and skills
The Teaching-Learning Process is the second Principle that relates primarily to classroom practices. The faculty-student relationship is considered in this Principle, including topics such as communication, flexibility, teaching methods and the respect for diversity in the classroom. Faculty are encouraged to respond to additional items related to relevant training opportunities. Group learning options emerge as a topic with a wide swathe of student importance scores, suggesting there is no one way to instruct all adults. Adaptability is needed to serve the changing student population, including flexible offerings for learning communities.
Supports guided pathways that lead into and from the institution's programs and services in order to ensure that adult students' learning will apply usefully to achieving their educational and career goals
Transitions into and out of higher education are considered in the Transitions Principle. Respondents explore topics related to credit evaluation, completion plans, planning for transfers, and career readiness. Students attending two-year institutions respond differently to this Principle than those attending four-year institutions. Institutions that effectively leverage articulation agreements with common transfer institutions will see stronger student satisfaction here, especially if information related to the transfer of credit is easy to access and understand for the typical adult student.
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