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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.
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:
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.
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.
Developing empathy in educators and in learners is an iterative process that requires taking the time to understand and honor others' perspectives.
Beginning meetings with check-ins and maximizing opportunities for informal check-ins, whether live or online, can foster a sense of Belonging while building Social Supports.
Adult learners can self-organize into groups called communities of practice to engage in longer-term examination of a topic to build deeper understanding.
Understanding adults' lived experiences and cultural backgrounds and connecting them to instructional practices helps all learners feel like valued members of the community.
Developing cultural awareness as an educator is an ongoing process that includes building empathy for diverse learners, intentionally recognizing how one's own identity intersects with learners' identities, and creating an awareness of how the environment can impact learners' Sense of Belonging.
Discussions about race can range from celebrating the importance of diversity to understanding the impact of racism from the perspective of those who have been historically marginalized.
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.
In an increasingly digital world, adults who struggle with using technology can benefit from direct instruction for an array of digital tools.
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.
Giving learners the opportunity to share their knowledge, skills, and understanding with others 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.
For adults, the Composition process can become more robust when learners can express ideas through multiple media, which includes visual, audio, and digital production.
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.
Problem-based learning (PBL) is a learner-centered multidisciplinary approach focused on real world applications using active learning methods.
Simulations and immersive virtual environments provide authentic learning at a level that can spark curiosity and deeper understanding by engaging multiple senses in exploration.