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Many stereotypes exist about the academic performance of learners based on categories such as their race, gender, or age. Stereotype Threat suggests that people can underperform in different areas, including reading, math, and learning new technology skills, when faced with the prospect of being judged against an existing preconception of their group.
Stereotype Threat occurs when a negative stereotype that exists in a culture about a group results in suboptimal performance by members of that group. This can impact performance even in settings where the learner does not personally experience prejudiced behavior toward them by instructors or peers. This is particularly true on tests where learners are told the test is diagnostic of their intellectual abilities.
People can hold two types of stereotypes:
In the United States, Stereotype Threat can impact adult learners from various groups:
Adult learners with limited literacy skills and groups such as first-generation college students may also face stigmas. Holding negative stereotypes of their own learning ability may be related to adults having a more "fixed mindset" view of intelligence rather than a "growth mindset" where they believe their abilities can be expanded.
Developing empathy in educators and in learners is an iterative process that requires taking the time to understand and honor others' perspectives.
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.
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.
Giving learners the opportunity to explain their thinking process aloud helps them to solidify their comprehension, and move knowledge into their Long-term Memory.
In an increasingly digital world, adults who struggle with using technology can benefit from direct instruction for an array of digital tools.
Formative assessment is "assessment for learning" rather than "assessment of learning".
When adults are aware that learning involves effort, mistakes, reflection, and refinement of strategies, they are more resilient when they struggle.
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.
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.
Creating patterns through mnemonic devices, such as acronyms, categorizing items, visual images, or rhyming, supports the development of memories, including learned content knowledge.
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.
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.
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.
Simulations and immersive virtual environments provide authentic learning at a level that can spark curiosity and deeper understanding by engaging multiple senses in exploration.