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STEM Education: Differences in how adults learn vs. how children learn

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Learning doesn’t stop at school, especially when it comes to STEM education. Nowadays, many adults go on to be life-long learners outside of the classroom. Different resources allow adults to continue learning about STEM throughout their lives.

However, we must remember that there are differences in how adults and children learn. Keeping this in mind can help us make sure we’re learning effectively. In this article, we’ll look at the differences in how adults and children learn and how they use these differences to optimize their learning.

1) Children are naturally curious. Adults are curious about topics that interest them.

When you teach a child about something new, your job is to get them excited about what you’re teaching. This means providing as much information as possible, so they understand the topic thoroughly. Children are naturally curious about the world around them. As such, teaching children STEM topics means that you need to provide them with as much context as possible. You also want to create an environment where they feel comfortable asking questions and exploring the material further.

On the other hand, adults aren’t as curious as children. They usually only want to focus on the specific topics that interest them. For instance, most adults won’t take a general science course. Instead, they’ll prefer to take more specialized courses like physics or chemistry. So when adults learn about STEM, they tend to rely on their knowledge of the subject. From here, they ask more focused questions and explore specific concepts more deeply.

2) Children just take direction from teachers. Adults can learn independently.

In order for kids to learn effectively, they need to be guided by someone who knows what they’re doing. In STEM classes, children need to receive instructions from teachers. They won’t learn by themselves. Instead, children need someone guiding them through the process.

As adults, we often learn things without being told what needs to be done. We do this because we’ve developed our own methods for learning which work well for us. This is why adults can learn STEM using any number of different methods. Whether it’s through reading books, watching videos, or online courses, adults generally find ways to learn on their own terms.

Here at Ascend Education, we offer different courses that are designed to help adult learners. Our courses implement virtual labs, video trainings, and practice assessments to guide adult learners throughout their journey.

3) Children are motivated by rewards. Adults are motivated by challenges and goals.

One of the biggest differences between adults and children is motivation. When teaching children, you need to motivate them to learn. This means you have to think of different incentives than if you were trying to teach adults. For instance, math teachers can give students stickers or extra credit points for good grades. This creates a reward system that motivates students to keep studying.

On the other hand, when adults are learning, they don’t always need external motivations. Some adults simply enjoy the challenge of learning. Others are already internally motivated to learn, especially if they have an end goal in mind. So when adults learn about different STEM topics, their internal motivation is enough to make them continue learning.

4) Children are more sociable with others. Adults like to process information on their own.

When learning, most children don’t care about how other people will react to their efforts. As a result, they’re not concerned about social factors. This is why it’s great for children to learn in a group setting. With peers to interact with, they can talk to others about their insights. This gives them an avenue for processing information after learning about a certain topic.

Adults, however, aren’t as sociable as children in classroom settings. This means that processing information by discussing it with others won’t always be practical. So instead, it’s best to provide adults with some time alone so they can reflect on their learning. This is enough time for them to process new ideas before sharing them with anyone else.

5) Children don’t have much life experience to draw upon. Adults already have different life experiences.

Children are still growing up. That means they lack life experience compared to adults. To understand the world around them, they need to observe and ask questions until they figure out what’s happening. This is why it’s difficult for them to learn complex topics — they simply don’t have enough experience to support understanding.

On the other hand, adults have already had years of experience living in the real world. So when learning, they don’t need to spend as many hours observing and asking questions. Instead, they have plenty of experience to draw from. This allows them to understand more complex topics and find ways that these topics apply to their lives.

The Bottom Line

There are many benefits of learning even after finishing school. However, there are differences in how adults and children learn. By taking into account these differences, educators can create better learning environments. As a result, both adults and children can learn more effectively.

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