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Adult Learner

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Adult Learner > Factors > Social Supports

Social Supports

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Social Supports are the perception and presence of a support network available to help a person if needed. People are social creatures, and our happiness is in part based on having supportive friends and family. The power of Social Supports extends to learning: a learner's perception of the strength of the support they have is a key contributor to their academic success, including learning as an adult.

Main Ideas

Key sources of Social Supports for adults can include partners, friends, employers, teachers, and other institutional resources and staff, where the quality of relationships rather than quantity matters greatly. These sources offer different types of support to a learner:

  • Emotional support by caring for and showing compassion to the learner;
  • Appraisal support by providing the learner with helpful feedback;
  • Instrumental support by contributing resources such as time and money; and
  • Informational support by providing information and advice.

Social Supports for adult learners can include family or partners who provide child care, employers who allow flexible work schedules, and friends who show support and interest in academic goals. These supports can increase learners' commitment to their goals and success, particularly for women who may have greater care-giving commitments.

Social Supports can be beneficial even when learners do not take advantage of the support. Rather, it is important that adults perceive that these Social Supports are available to them which can boost confidence.

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