21.10. Earlier learning experiences affect the studies-related attitudes of adult students

Public examination of a doctoral dissertation in the field of education

Doctoral candidate: Lic. Ed. Merja Ylönen 

Date and venue: 21 October 2011, at 2 pm,  A118, Sampo-sali, Savonlinna campus

Language of dissertation and public examination: Finnish

Today’s working life challenges workers, job seekers and adult education to a continuous process of development. The ever more demanding and changing work tasks requires workers to have learning skills and adult education, working life and employment services to have versatile collaboration between them. Workers' and job seekers' learning competency and readiness are important activity resources as well as quality and competition factors. However, all adults aren't motivated to seek education; they suffer from insufficient learning skills and learning feels difficult.

This qualitative study attempts to clarify students' experiences and perceptions of learning and education under labour market and apprenticeship contracts. The objective is to determine the causes that encourage and support adult learning or reduce the learning motivation of adults. Previous learning and educational experience as well as attitudes about learning and beliefs about one’s own individual learning profile came up in this study.

The material for this study was gathered between years 2004 and 2006, and consists of unemployed job seekers’ and adult learners’ interviews (N=28) and of learning experiences written by the students of seven adult student groups (N=68). The study is based on the phenomenologist–hermeneutical method and the study scheme includes ethnographic elements.

It's important for the adult learners that their personal experience, knowledge and skills are appreciated and utilized during the education. The adults expect equal interaction with trainers and fellow students. The atmosphere within the group contributes to the students' ability to manage and to keep up the motivation. A good atmosphere enhances engagement to the education process and prevents interruptions.

The adult student's learning and motivation are influenced by his or her personal situation and the attitude of his or her family towards studies in general. Flexible and alternative ways of learning enable even those with family and working life responsibilities to study.

In their experiences and expectations the unemployed job seekers emphasize collaboration between working life and education. They learn best through concrete examples, exercises and by doing, so the workplace is the best environment for learning new things. Unemployed persons often feel that their learning abilities are inadequate or outdated, so they are not interested in education at school institutions, being even rather reluctant towards it.

The educational guidance for adults requires confidential and equal dialogue, concrete consultation and assistance, as well as the opportunity to process earlier learning and educational experiences.

The study offers adult trainers and educational guidance professionals various points of view, aspects and knowledge about adults' willingness for education and their learning readiness. Encouragement, equality and compatibility with the students' experiences and with their working life are essential elements of the adult education and guidance. 

The doctoral dissertation of Merja Ylönen entitled "Adults on the Way to Competence. Adult Learning Support Center Clients' Willingness to Learn and Experiences of Education" will be examined at the Faculty of Philosophy. The opponent in the public examination is Professor Eero Pantzar from the University of Tampere and the custos is Professor Pirjo Nuutinen of the University of Eastern Finland.

Photo available for download at http://www.uef.fi/vaitoskuvat

Contact: Merja Ylönen, merja.ylonen(at)diak.fi, tel. +358 50 0523 702

Publishing year: 2011

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