Adult Learner

Systems Change
Adult Learner > Strategies > Cultural and Life Experiences Connections

Cultural and Life Experiences Connections


Understanding adults' lived experiences and cultural backgrounds and connecting them to instructional practices helps all learners feel like valued members of the community. When instructors and training programs integrate the life experiences and cultural knowledge learners bring to the classroom, they help students draw on their Background Knowledge to better understand and relate to the material. This strategy is one that supports the practice of culturally responsive teaching to improve Motivation and allow representation of all learners in the curriculum.

Use It In Your Learning Environment

To make connections with life experiences, instructors must learn about their students' backgrounds and interests, which will build trust and a deeper relationship. Instructors can use this knowledge to carefully select texts and materials that integrate aspects of adults' lives, cultural backgrounds, and interests that allow for more meaningful connections, including for learners whose Primary Language is not English. Designing products that allow learners to see their cultures represented not only engages learners but also makes the learning more accessible and relevant.

Learning in adulthood also often occurs in real-world settings that support situated, or everyday, learning. Making connections to life experiences can also support active learning strategies such as problem-based learning where learners work on challenges in the real world that matter to them, such as from their jobs or societal issues. Allowing space for learners to reflect on their life experiences can support the development of counter-narratives to what may have been negative past experiences with schooling due to racism or other barriers, thereby mitigating Stereotype Threat.

Additional Resources

Additional examples, research, and professional development. These resources are possible representations of this strategy, not endorsements.