Imposter Syndrome and Adult Education

Many universities and educational organizations offer specialized Adult Education courses. A lot of these courses are online courses. Everybody can sign up online, pay the fee and begin the prep course.

The promise is that if you learn at least 1 hour per week you will be ready for the exam within 2-4 months, and ambitious students who learn 1 hour per day will be able to pass the exam in just a few weeks.

Sounds really great, right? But it is not that easy. Why? Although students began learning enthusiastically, they commonly drop their learning routine after few weeks.

However, the same online courses, when used in combination with traditional classes, work really well. The difference seems to be the instructor’s approach and encouragement.

Why is that? Well, there are many reasons and there are solutions to this problem, too.

Impostor Syndrome

It is not uncommon for adult learners to feel insecure in the student role. Many students experience the “Impostor Syndrome” frequently doubting their ability to succeed. They report that they feel that everyone else knows more than they do.

For some, this impostor feeling is further compounded by negative experiences they have had with the educational system. Those experiences have often left the students with low self-esteem and self-concepts and a feeling that they are failures.

Instructors in traditional classes keep these potential psychological barriers in mind and provide support and encouragement when asking students to try new skills. They establish a positive learning climate where adults feel comfortable.

How to Overcome This Problem

Realize what you are experiencing, and ask your friends and family to support you. Remember: Adult learners often need to feel part of a learning community, a support network of learners that can serve as a sounding board.

Adult Learners Have Multiple Roles

Adult learners are engaged in multiple roles and this impacts the time and the energy they can devote to their role as students. Unlike many younger students, attending classes is not a full-time occupation for them.

Usually, learning is a secondary activity that needs to be accomplished besides their tasks as parents, spouses, or full-time job, so they can spend less time on their study.

Adult Learners Have Experience

Usually, adults learners learned a lot of things informally through talking with coworkers or friends, and through on-the-job training, observation, and trial and error.

This won’t mean that they have learned it all correctly or completely. What it does mean, however, is that adult learners have already developed preconceptions.

When the information presented in a course conflicts with an adult learner’s preconceptions, the learning process can be distorted or delayed. You can also say that the student’s learning routine is interrupted.

Good instructors in traditional classes know how to balance respect for students’ opinions.

How to Overcome This Problem

  •         Take your time to think about it
  •         Check other resources
  •         Try to accept the new way of thinking

What Else Helps?

  •         Sharing the newly learned knowledge with friends or family
  •         Keeping a learning journal
  •         Tracking your progress. I use trello.com. It helps me to keep track of my goals and helps me to realize what I learned by setting goals (written goals)
  •         Self-expressing online via blogs
  •         Awarding yourself, for every lesson you finish award yourself – You deserve it

Online lessons are a  waste of money if you don’t follow the learning programs. It is only natural that you will meet some obstacles in the form of your own stubborn mind, your low self-esteem as a learner, or just because of lack of time management.

But remember you can make it, there is no lift to success, you need to take the stairs and fight all obstacles.

Background and Resources:

To find an explanation for this phenomenon, we talk with students, educators, and researchers. The most common problem is what Stephen Brookfield, Ph.D. identifies as “The Impostor Syndrome.” 

Brookfield, a distinguished University Professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis-St. Paul, is the author of 16 books on adult teaching, adult learning, discussion methods, critical thinking, critical theory, and critical pedagogy.

 

Last Updated on April 28, 2021.

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