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Are our perceptions of mature student learning experiences accurate?

Author Carol Moran
Abstract As the number of mature learners engaging in third level education in Ireland is increasing and public policy continues to encourage further participation, educators responsibility to engage with their students in a meaningful and productive way is broadened and poses certain challenges. Government and organisational policy needs not only concern itself with increasing access for mature learners, but also with the learning experience being provided and the pedagogical situation created. Existing literature acknowledges the differences between mature and traditional (school leaver) students with the result that much research has focused on how mature learners should be facilitated in terms of their teaching and learning. The general perception is that mature learners require higher levels of engagement and interaction than traditional students and that rote learning and terminal examinations, while undesirable for any student, are particularly unsuitable for this cohort. The assumption that the learner and not the tutor should be at the centre of the pedagogical experience has become widely accepted. However, this paper examines the experiences of mature learners at an Irish Institute of Technology which creates uncertainty in relation to this hypothesis. The study used a mixed methods approach to gain an insight into the experience of mature learners at the Institute, with surprising results in relation to how we should teach mature learners. Initially an online survey was distributed to all mature learners on two of the institutes programmes and participants were invited to take part in an in-depth interview. Interviewees were selected at random and a number of themes were discussed, including teaching methods. All of the mature learners interviewed stated that they favour formal lecture style teaching to participative teaching methods and indicated their preference for tutor focused rather than student focused learning. This brings into question the growing trend towards student participation in the teaching process which has its foundation in the belief that learners want to be and benefit from being part of the teaching as well as learning process.
Keywords Mature learner experience, mature learner attitudes, pedagogy
Published In ICEP Proceedings
Year 2012
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