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The trauma that comes from experiencing adversity releases stress hormones that can lead to changes in the body and brain. These changes can have negative consequences on academic achievement, cognitive skills, and other outcomes which can endure into adulthood.
Adverse experiences include:
Exposure to trauma can begin in childhood. According to the 2012 U.S. National Survey of Children's Health, nearly half of children (46%) had at least one adverse experience, with 11% experiencing three or more. Trauma exposure is more common in adolescence than childhood. The National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder reports that approximately 6 in 10 men and 5 in 10 women have experienced at least one trauma in their lives, with men more likely to experience or witness physical assault or combat and women more likely to experience sexual assault. People of color may experience traumatic stress from racism over their lifespan. Adults may also experience trauma from being involved in the criminal justice system.
Trauma can impact adults' readiness to learn, for instance, brain injuries that produce cognitive impairments or emotional disturbances. Negative schooling experiences in childhood, including being bullied or ridiculed by other students or teachers, can cause adults to internalize negative messages about their intelligence. Additionally, Black, Indigenous, and other learners of color may have experienced racial trauma in the form of implicit or explicit biases or discrimination, such as school disciplinary policies.
While Adverse Experiences can have far-reaching impacts, there are evidence-based interventions available to support recovery.
Using language that is accessible and appropriately leveled for each student allows all learners to feel successful and participate in learning.
When annotating, learners engage deeply with a text and make their thinking visible while reading, which supports Foundational Reading Skills.
When adults can connect and communicate with authentic audiences about their interests and values, learning becomes more personally meaningful and relevant.
Case studies support authentic, active learning experiences centered around real world situations that present an account of a particular set of circumstances for learners to engage with.
When designing instruction for adults, expectations and goals should be clearly outlined to help learners focus on the material and make plans for success.
Adult learners can self-organize into groups called communities of practice to engage in longer-term examination of a topic to build deeper understanding.
Competency-based learning is self-paced, focused on mastery, and centered around demonstrating learning outcomes and skills rather than where or how they were attained.
When learners process and express information visually, they are activating more cognitive processes while Problem Solving.
Understanding adults' lived experiences and cultural backgrounds and connecting them to instructional practices helps all learners feel like valued members of the community.
In an increasingly digital world, adults who struggle with using technology can benefit from direct instruction for an array of digital tools.
Teaching learners how to effectively search the internet is critical for helping them learn how to find accurate and relevant information and aids in developing information literacy.
Direct instruction in math strategies may support some adult learners once conceptual understanding is in place.
Research shows that, along with traditional reading comprehension strategies, learners use unique strategies to read the non-linear, hyperlinked structure of online texts.
Adult learners who are struggling with Foundational Reading Skills, including decoding and phonemic awareness, can benefit from explicitly learning phonics skills in an educational setting.
Seeing and using new words repeatedly and across contexts is critical for vocabulary acquisition.
Analyzing errors is especially beneficial in helping learners develop a Learner Mindset and critical thinking skills, which are a component of Problem Solving.
Networking and supporting adult learners in expanding their social networks provide access to additional resources and Social Supports, which can impact their trajectory and Motivation.
Experiential learning is learning by doing, which may include self-directed learning activities.
Giving learners the opportunity to explain their thinking process aloud helps them to solidify their comprehension, and move knowledge into their Long-term Memory.
Formative assessment is "assessment for learning" rather than "assessment of learning".
Game-based learning is an active learning experience with clear objectives and measurable outcomes designed to be intrinsically game-like.
Setting overall goals with actionable steps for achievement can help learners feel more confident in their abilities and help minimize procrastination-related behaviors.
Visualizing how ideas fit together helps learners construct meaning and strengthens their recall.
Opportunities for students to practice skills in context, with instructor support and also independently, helps to move concepts and ideas into Long-term Memory.
Visual reading aids, such as handouts and online guides, help learners to maintain Attention and serve to support the learning process.
Immediate feedback can improve a learner's confidence, self-awareness and enthusiasm for learning, which leads to increased Motivation.
Inquiry-based learning is centered around open-ended questions posed by instructors and/or the learners themselves and fosters a Learner Mindset.
Adult learners benefit from knowing there is an instructor available to provide support as needed, especially during asynchronous learning.
Journaling allows learners to reflect on their thinking and feelings, process their learning, and connect new information to what they know and their practical experiences.
Intentionally incorporating voice and choice into adult learning experiences is critical for making learning meaningful and relevant.
Giving learners the opportunity to share their knowledge, skills, and understanding with their peers strengthens learning and increases Motivation while also building Social Supports.
Mindfulness is a practice to create internal balance and a sense of being present in the moment.
Creating patterns through mnemonic devices, such as acronyms, categorizing items, visual images, or rhyming, supports the development of memories, including learned content knowledge.
For adults, the Composition process can become more robust when learners can express ideas through multiple media, which includes visual, audio, and digital production.
Instruction and training presented in multiple formats allows learners to activate different cognitive skills and Background Knowledge that are necessary to remember procedural and content information.
Effective note-taking during lectures or reading directs learners' Attention to the relevant information, helping them identify key concepts, understand links between ideas and retain information better in their Long-term Memory.
The opportunity to observe peers or experts in action or participate in shadowing can provide a unique and authentic learning experience that often involves questioning, metacognitive thinking, and Problem Solving while providing Social Supports.
Learning in social contexts has been shown to have significant effects on comprehension of material and retention of new information into Long-term Memory.
When learners provide constructive feedback on each other's work, they reflect on their own understanding, learn to give relevant suggestions, receive specific ways to improve, and engage in Metacognition.
Understanding that different individuals may experience and view the same event differently is a higher level cognitive skill that develops in adolescence and throughout adulthood.
Making space and time for physical activity, through brief movement breaks in the classroom or workplace and incorporating it into daily life, has benefits for the body and mind.
Positive self-talk can support self-efficacy, optimism, Self-regulation, and a Learner Mindset.
When instructors ask questions or have learners create questions before introducing a text, they activate interest, increase Motivation, and help them assess what they already know about a given topic.
Problem-based learning (PBL) is a learner-centered multidisciplinary approach focused on real world applications using active learning methods.
Process-based writing focuses on how learners brainstorm, outline, draft, and revise their writing and is most effective when paired with feedback, especially for English language learners.
Reflection can take place throughout learning, supporting critical thinking and Problem Solving skills when learners actively question assumptions, and after learning experiences to support Metacognition.
Creating a quiet space free of distractions is critical for adults to be able to focus on learning.
When instructors are able to provide context, and connect math concepts to an adult learner's world, math can be seen as relevant and applicable to their daily lives and work- a core aspect of adult Numeracy.
When adults monitor their comprehension, performance, and use of strategies when learning they become more invested in their work, build their Metacognition, and actively participate in the process.
Simulations and immersive virtual environments provide authentic learning at a level that can spark curiosity and deeper understanding by engaging multiple senses in exploration.
Learning and studying information across multiple sessions that are spaced, or distributed in time, can promote learning and long-term retention of both basic and conceptually complex facts and concepts.
Bringing learners' everyday literacy practices such as text chats into instruction provides regular, low-stakes practice communicating with authentic audiences.
Analyzing short video clips, replays of important aspects, and videos of oneself applying what has been learned can improve Metacognition and Long-term Memory while fostering a Learner Mindset.
Analyzing and discussing solutions to problems helps students develop a deeper understanding of Problem Solving processes and Numeracy skills.
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