Barriers to Adult Learning

Barriers to Adult Learning

Maria Martinez Witte, James E. Witte, Iris M. Saltiel
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-739-3.ch027
(Individual Chapters)
No Current Special Offers


There is a growing need for an educated, skilled workforce that is able to learn and adapt to new challenges. Expecting this need to be met by those graduating from high school is not realistic as the current educational system has not adequately served the non-traditional student. This chapter reaffirms that Career Technical Education programs are excellent ways to meet adult learning and workforce development needs. The challenge, as described in the chapter, is to engage adults in becoming lifelong learners. This will require removing barriers to adult learning that relate to cost, accessibility, and interest. State and federal leaders also have a stake in addressing this need as it affects the nation’s ability to compete on a regional and international level.
Chapter Preview


A skilled workforce is needed to support our society now and in the future. In addressing the importance of a strong economic local, regional, and global position, it is beneficial to remove barriers that may hinder adults from engaging and continuing educational goals and interests. The mere expectation of K-16 students funneling through the traditional educational system and progressively meeting the workforce needs of our nation will not be sufficient. Keeping students in school to complete high school requirements or to obtain a General Educational Development (GED) is one of the first steps to promoting a skilled labor force responsive to our nation’s needs.

Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs make a difference and serve students whose needs were not being met in the traditional curriculum. CTE students frequently find the hands-on, application-oriented courses to be an incentive to continue their secondary and post-secondary education track (Peters, 2008). Gohm, Humphreys and Yao (1998) found that students with strong visual-spatial skills were not as successful in the traditional high school courses; however, excelled when they transferred to the CTE courses. Instead of students dropping out of high school, CTE programs can serve as an alternate choice in retention. The freedom to choose courses, to self-regulate, and to self-direct the pace and content have shown to be strong preferences for CTE students (Peters, 2008). The hallmark of high-quality CTE programs are literal connections to the specific field; flexibility so that students can choose programs (Benson, Johnson, Taylor, Treat, Shinkareva, & Duncan, 2004); and content that is flexible and open to new and developing fields (Peters, 2008).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Traditional Student: A student who is typically 18 years old and enters the university as an undergraduate straight from high school.

Adult Education: The practice of teaching and educating adults and may take place in the workplace, cooperative extension, or continuing education at secondary schools, at a college or university.

Adult Basic Education: Instruction in basic academic skills and General Educational Development (GED) preparation. English Literacy may also be provided according to the needs of the local community.

Adult Learners: A term used to describe any person socially accepted as an adult who is in a learning process, whether it is formal education, informal learning, or corporate-sponsored learning.

Career Technical Education (CTE): Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs prepare students for both work and college experiences. These programs provide an experientially-based connection to real-world issues and problems and prepare a workforce with skills necessary for employment.

Non-Traditional Students: Individuals typically 25 years of age or older, who may have delayed post-secondary education enrollment, are financially independent of parents, work full-time, have dependents other than spouse, and who may not have a high school diploma or GED.

E-Learning: Learning conducted via electronic media, especially via the Internet.

Post-Secondary Education: Education beyond the high school level.

Distance Education: Formal learning in which the student and the instructor are not in the same place at the same place.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: