Teaching and learning in adult education: working out the snags.

In the current study, we sought to better understand the factors affecting school perseverance among adults registered in the Common Core Basic Education Program (CCBE) at an adult education centre. For the purposes of the study, sixty-five adults and eleven CCBE teachers shared their perceptions and views about their learning and teaching experiences in the adult education sector.

There is a need to diversify teaching and learning choices, and to encourage contextualized adult learning.

Our research highlighted significant issues that raise questions about government policy and programming, as well as the dominant teaching approaches in CCBE and, more widely, in Adult General Education (AGE). The question of teaching approach emerged strongly in the interviews with adult students and teachers alike. The dominant approach used in AGE is the so-called individualized approach, which largely takes the form of individual study using workbooks. While students see this as an opportunity to stop being branded as “problem students” and to learn at their own pace (which they hope will be quick), they find that they fall behind in their lessons. According to the students, the workbooks are too overloaded with exercises and their teachers are not available to answer all of their questions.

As for the teachers, they consider themselves ill-prepared to support adult students; they perceive a disconnect between their work and their initial training, and feel that they are not using their full potential. The individualized approach often leads to a loss of motivation for both adult students and their teachers because it generally focuses on practice exercises carried out alone.

It appears important to revise the paradigmatic basis and the teaching and learning possibilities offered by an individualized approach, with respect to the expectations of adult students towards AGE. There is a need to diversify teaching and learning choices (instructional accommodations, differentiated instruction, etc.) and to encourage contextualized adult learning through the use of examples from life situations or students’ future work context.

Main researcher

Carine Villemagne, Université de Sherbrooke


Research report

Call for proposals

Deposit of the research report: April 2014