Key Differences

Key Differences

Let's take a closer look at the key differences between youth and adult learners.

Key Difference #1:   What is important?

What is told           |          What is valuable

Key Difference #2:   What knowledge and experiences do the learners possess?

Limited knowledge and experience         |        Vast knowledge and experience

Key Difference #3:   Why are they ready to learn?

Academic and biological development        |    Based on needs

Key Difference #4:   What motivates the learner?

Externally motivated     |      Internally motivated

Key Difference #5:   What have previous learning experiences been like?

Less well-formed values and beliefs      |      Well-formed values and beliefs

Click on the key differences to hear a more detailed explanation of the differences between youth and adult learners.

Key Difference #1: A key difference between youth and adult learners is how they determine what is important. In most cases, youth view the content as important because their teacher told them it was important.
Adults often have a different idea about what is important. For adults, they view course material as important when it will contribute to their own development and work success. Adults learn best when they perceive the outcomes of the learning process to be valuable.

Key Difference #2: Another major difference between youth and adult learners is the varying amount of knowledge and experience each possesses. Youth have a limited experience base, while adults have a broad, rich experience base.

Key Difference #3: Another difference is what youth and adult learners are ready to learn. For the most part, youth readiness is linked to both academic development and biological development. Adult readiness to learn is more directly linked to needs—needs related to fulfilling their roles as workers, spouses, parents, etc.

Key Difference #4: Youth learners and adult learners are motivated differently. Youth are often motivated externally while adults are motivated more internally.

For example, youth might be motivated by grades or praise. However, adults might be more motivated by feelings of worth or self-esteem.

Key Difference #5: Finally, adults come to the classroom with well-formed values, beliefs, and opinions about learning experiences. Unfortunately, some of those learning experiences are negative—based upon unpleasant learning experiences. Youth, on the other hand, have less well-formed sets of expectations.

Last modified: Wednesday, 18 July 2012, 10:39 AM
Skip Navigation