Adult education: can an old dog learn new tricks?

Tutoring, and in life, you constantly face the consideration of adaptability. The tutor discusses it.

You sometimes hear an adult claiming they’re too old to learn a given topic, or that learning, for them, doesn’t happen so easily as when they were young.

Possibly with physical endeavours, there is a window of opportunity during which coordination is easier to develop. When the body is growing, it’s more changeable, so can perhaps adapt more thoroughly to new motions, etc.

With mental training, I believe adults to be equally capable as children. An illustration:

Since September I’ve become a house-husband, struggling to learn to cook, about which I knew very little. Last night, my wife told me that my son hopes I will help cook his birthday dinner – he likes something in particular that I’ve made.

Last year, my son’s wanting me to help with his birthday dinner would have been unimaginable. This year he does, because I’ve managed to adapt: to some extent, I’ve learned to cook.

In my opinion, adults can learn just as well as kids, and probably even better. However, there is a difference: adults need to embrace change, whereas kids expect it. Learning, of course, is change.

A kid knows that next year, they should be different from today. Staying the same, for a kid, is unhealthy, because they need to develop. Since kids are constantly changing, learning makes sense to them – it’s just change, so can happen more or less spontaneously, as do other changes in their lives.

An adult needn’t necessarily change. Furthermore, when an adult does, it may often be in response to some upheaval – a change of job, for instance. For an adult to change, will is generally required – the adult must initiate and execute the change.

Because children learn spontaneously, whereas adults learn by force of will, the adult has more control over the process, so can learn more quickly in many cases. However, the adult needs to spend effort in a way the kid may not.

I have my talents, but cooking is not among them. If, as an adult, I can learn to cook, then the typical adult can learn virtually anything.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.