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The Importance of Peer Engagement to Adult Learners

Traditionally, adult education has focused more on passive learning methods, such as lectures, reading materials and video presentations. These methods have their benefits when there is a large group of learners and content needs to be delivered quickly. However, they come with an increase in student disengagement. As a result, there has been a shift towards active learning, which encourages participation and peer engagement in adult education. Below are some ways peer engagement can enhance adult learning.

Ways Peer Engagement Helps Adult Learners

“A sense of a learning community needs to be created by the instructor through the promotion of interactions between the instructor and the adult learner as well as interactions between the peers and the adult learner…” 

– Dr. Darlene McDonough

  1.   Fostering a Supportive Learning Environment

Adult learners face unique challenges like juggling work, studies and family responsibilities. Thus, interacting with peers creates a supportive environment as learners can share their experiences, challenges and successes. This camaraderie creates a positive atmosphere that motivates students to persist through difficulties.

  1.     Enhancing Motivation

Learners tend to hold themselves accountable for their learning when they engage in discussions, group projects and problem-solving activities. Furthermore, they may become more invested in learning to contribute meaningfully to discussions.

  1. Strengthening Communication and Social Skills

McDonough notes that “needing to make new friendships and develop social relationships with new associates” motivates adult learners. In addition to being motivational, peer engagement enhances communication, active listening and teamwork skills. All these skills are essential in adults’ professional and personal lives.

More Ways Peer Engagement Benefits Adults

  1.     Sharing Diverse Perspectives

Adults enter the classroom from diverse experiences, backgrounds, cultures and career paths. By interacting with each other, learners can bring their unique voices to discussions. They can also obtain a broader understanding of topics, including first-hand accounts that learning resources cannot offer.

  1.     Improved Problem-Solving Skills

Abedini, Abedin & Miliszewska (2017) note that adult learners “need to know how learning practice can resolve a real problem and why they should learn something.” Peer engagement encourages adult learners to discuss and analyze complex problems to come up with solutions. Subsequently, this teamwork improves their understanding and critical thinking skills.

  1.     Better Retention of Knowledge

Discussing concepts and problems with peers reinforces knowledge and learning. Therefore, peer engagement enables learners to develop a better understanding and more lasting memory of class content. 

The Takeaway

Peer engagement is pivotal in adult education;  increasing it can make the learning experience more motivating, engaging and enriching. As adult education continues to evolve, embracing collaboration with peers in different learning settings is crucial for unlocking the full potential of adult learners.

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