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Some are convinced that learning new skills is a privilege for young people who are just starting their careers or looking to get a promotion. But in reality this is not the case, because it is possible and necessary to develop one's skills and obtain new qualifications at any age, since, among other things, it helps to maintain physical and psychological health at the proper level.
We will tell you how our cognitive abilities change over the years and what fears and psychological barriers must be overcome in order for the educational process to remain effective and enjoyable.
What prevents you from starting to learn
In their study "Barriers to adult learning: Bridging the gap", scientists Sheran Merriam and Rosemary Caffarella identify several attitudes that often become obstacles to learning new knowledge:
In adulthood, people with an already formed worldview find it much more difficult to adhere to different points of view and be critical of their own, according to Merriam and Caffarella. For example, most adults are convinced that rote memorization is essential for effective learning, while with age many experience memory impairment, which is a serious problem.
Commitment to old methods
Adults tend to be guided by past experience and knowledge that they have learned well before. Which, on the one hand, is not bad, but, on the other hand, an adult is often inclined to comprehend new things, relying on outdated categories and ingrained strategies for mastering skills, which means he is less open to new ways and formats of learning. All this together can significantly slow down the educational process.
Fear of not coping
Fear of failure haunts adults much more often than young people. In adulthood, we tend to make less and less critical mistakes, because we prefer to rely on what is already known. This can become a cause of fear before starting learning, because in this process you still have to go through failures - this is how negative associations associated with learning are formed.
Another psychological factor that interferes with starting learning is self-doubt.
Oddly enough, in adulthood, the issue of self-esteem is more acute than in young people. However, psychological reasons are not all that can stop adults on the path to education and professional growth. Finance can become a significant obstacle, because all additional courses are a new item of expenditure and not everyone is ready to invest in self-development, despite the fact that this is one of the key investments in their future.
Firstly, the acquired knowledge can sooner or later be monetized, secondly, you can lose a lot, but not your experience and skills, and thirdly, advanced training allows you to remain competitive in the labor market. Lifelong learning, according to the report of the International Economic Forum "The Future of Jobs", is one of the most in-demand skills these days.
When it comes to finance, the problem is often not the cost of the courses, but rather the low level of financial literacy. It is necessary to correctly manage a budget, accumulate an airbag (10% of monthly income) and take all this into account even before the start of training.
Also, of course, education takes time, which for many is an even more valuable resource than money, moreover, it is often limited: the problem of lack of time is quite acute for almost every adult who needs to combine many aspects of his life. However, this problem can be solved with more efficient time management and comfortable scheduling.
What about cognitive ability? Of course, with age, memory, coordination, attention and other processes associated with mental activity change, but this does not mean that an adult is not capable of learning. The question is what tools he uses for this. Indeed, with age, the rate of cognitive processing of information - this is the time it takes a person to solve a particular problem, for example, to carry out arithmetic calculations - slows down.
The so-called mobile intelligence is also decreasing, that is, the ability to think logically and analyze what has not been encountered before, but crystallized intelligence develops - accumulated experience that allows solving problems, relying on already acquired knowledge and skills. According to psychologist Raymond Cattell's theory of intelligence, this type of intelligence is responsible for extracting knowledge from long-term memory, and its development is most often measured by the level of a person's verbal ability (for example, the volume of vocabulary).
The difference between mobile and crystallized intelligence can be seen on the example of the approach to solving the problem, which was proposed by researcher John Leonard Horn. The terms of the problem are as follows: “There are 100 patients in the hospital. Some (this is necessarily an even number) are one-legged, but wear boots. Half of those who remain with two legs walk barefoot. How many pairs of shoes are there in this hospital?"
People with advanced crystallized intelligence are more likely to solve problems using algebra. They will think something like this: “x + ½ (100-x) * 2 = the number of shoes worn, where x = the number of one-legged people, and 100 - x = the number of two-legged people. It turns out that a total of 100 shoes are worn in the hospital. " Those who have more developed mobile intelligence, in turn, assume that “if half of people with two legs walk without shoes, and all the rest (an even number) are one-legged, it turns out that, on average, a hospital needs one pair of shoes per person. … In this case, the answer is 100 ".
Crystallized intelligence develops in parallel with the social and cultural development of a person, which logically occurs with age.
Due to the way in which information is perceived in adulthood, some skills can be more difficult to learn. For example, it will be more difficult to accurately study a foreign accent or learn "perfect pitch" in order to master music perfectly. On the other hand, adult students have their own advantages - for example, much more developed than young students in the ability to analyze, self-reflect and discipline.
By the way, age-related changes in cognitive abilities can be controlled - and with the help of education. For example, a research group from the University of California conducted an experiment in which they organized regular classes for a group of people aged 58 to 85 years in Spanish, music, photography, drawing, as well as a course on studying iPad functions. On average, people studied in classrooms for about 15 hours a week (about the same as undergraduate students) for three months. Each week, they also discussed with the tutors the obstacles they face to learning and the value of the skills acquired.
After the experiment, the researchers noticed changes in the short-term memory of older people - for example, they became easier to remember an unfamiliar phone number and keep it in memory for several minutes, and also began to switch faster between different tasks.In just a month and a half - half the study period - the participants improved their cognitive abilities to levels that are on average 30 years younger than the subjects.
Points to Remember in the Context of Adult Learning
No matter how old you are, new neural pathways for consolidating old knowledge and mastering new ones can still be created - in exactly the same way as to keep the brain working. However, in the context of adult learning, researchers Merriam and Caffarella suggest that educators should be mindful of the following:
Unlike children and adolescents, adults are autonomous and independent, and in order for information to be well stored in their head, they cannot be tightly controlled.
Adults have already accumulated a foundation of life experience and knowledge, which also come into play when it comes to learning: for example, professional deformation can fall on the nature of the perception of information.
Adults are goal-oriented and generally want to see a clear reason for learning something, as they are focused on solving a specific problem, and not on studying the subject as a whole.
Adults are motivated to learn under the influence of internal factors, not external ones, and it is difficult to argue with this: in our youth, we are all simply forced to learn. People in adulthood become students consciously and, as a rule, exclusively on their own initiative.
Despite the difficulties that arise in the process, mistakes that make you want to give up everything halfway, and the views of others, in which a demotivating question like “Why do you need this?” Is read, learning at any age is worth it. Mastering new skills instills self-confidence, allows you to change your career vector, improve your professional qualities, and also become part of a new community.
In addition, gaining knowledge in adulthood helps to strengthen mental and physical health - people who are engaged in active mental activity have much less risk of suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's disease in old age. Finally, learning helps to expand the social circle of acquaintances, which is beneficial both in terms of networking and the development of emotional intelligence. So there is no age limit for education.