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With increased life experiences, social interactions, and participation in education, adult learners bring a plethora of Background Knowledge to learning. As adults have new experiences and are presented with new information through various media, their prior knowledge can be used to make connections, generate Inferences, and expand their understanding.
Though academic knowledge may be dependent upon individual educational experience, adults' Background Knowledge also encompasses everyday cultural experiences and interactions within their personal communities. When adults learn, Background Knowledge is essential to processing new knowledge into their existing schemas. As many cognitive functions may decline with age, older adults often compensate for these declines using relevant Background Knowledge.
Learning can be difficult for adults when programs do not take Background Knowledge into consideration. Programs must balance teaching new information which maintains Motivation with connecting information to learners' Background Knowledge to reduce frustration. To support authenticity in their learning, addressing real-world scenarios with adult learners can draw upon their prior knowledge and help show how new information can be used in their lives.