The nontraditional learner has confronted educational leaders, professionals, and administrators with the emerging phenomenon of unique pedagogical methods and revelations. Research has explored the successes and failures of nontraditional learners both online, and live classroom settings. Flexibility in nontraditional learner characteristics seem to support the scholarly findings of Thompson et al. (2013) who posit that generally, “online learning has been found to be comparable” to the in-person format (p.234). That aside, adult learners should be assessed with particular considerations.
First of all, in terms of institutionally established learning protocols adult learners obviously do not fit the traditional mold. Therefore, a framework for assessment must include policy practices as well as embracing a commitment to meet them at the crossroads of their present experience. One starting point to assess adult learning, given an awareness of nontraditional learner characteristics, would be a consideration of their live situation and goals for furtherance of education. With myriad changes in the global economy, it is not unusual for adults to change their lives and career planning. The Institute of Health Science (2000) recognized this factor early on stating “in order to assess” career goals must be aligned to their capacities (“Serving Adult Learners”). Additionally, learning outcomes must be matched with adult styles and circumstances.
For example, if an adult works two jobs during the day and would best be served by taking distance courses online, the assessment must match real-life competencies of the particular method of instruction. Assessment of knowledge can be determined in a variety of ways to meet adult learner needs. Key placement considerations and best fit must determine the potential for most fruitful outcome for each individual. If finances will be a strain in some cases, the best program of lowered cost should be factored in. Common sense dictates that adults will not be able to concentrate on any learning, if economic survival impedes progress.
One of the best ways to assess adult learning is via the problem-solving based method. In this way, adult learners can draw on their life skills and knowledge. Certain experimental nontraditional method may include cohort assessment. A combination of several support systems for the adult learner help to inform how an assessment may be designed.
Thompson, N.L., Miller, N.C., & Franz, D.P. (2013). Comparing online and face-to-face learning experiences for nontraditional students. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 14(4), 233-251.