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Adult Learner Persistence and Feedback

Recently I was interested in investigating two particular aspects of adult learning.

First of all I am interested in what keeps people coming back to a learning experience that involves more than just a single session.

It turns out there is something called adult learner persistence according to the New England Learner Persistence Findings from the New England Literary Resource Center (NELRC).  The following, from their website, lists six “drivers” that fulfill affective needs:

  1. Sense of belonging and community
  2. Agency
  3. Relevancy
  4. Clarity of purpose
  5. Competence
  6. Stability

Please view the NELRC short but effective summary at

Secondly since I hear the word “feedback” so often I wanted guidelines to define and flesh out my simple understanding. ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) has a chapter from, How to give effective feedback to Your students by Susan M. Brookhart at the link below

In summary the feedback should be about the:

  • Task
  • Processing of the task
  • Self-regulation
  • Self as a person

The emphasis should be on the strengths and weaknesses of the performance, to help create strategies that will help improve performance, to help the student connect their work with their intention, and to help position the student as the one who did and will do the work.

The breakdown of these principles of effective feedback seems quite straightforward. Imagine instructing someone on how to properly eat a whole lobster. Even when sitting on your hands and shutting your mouth while the learner figures out how to do it, it is so hard to be an encouraging cheerleader while giving effective prompts.  It is hard to resist taking the lobster apart yourself.  Giving good feedback is hard to do.