Lesson 4 - Principles of Adult Learning Illinois State Library

Multi-Dimensional Approach

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Literacy development is a multi-dimensional social process requiring interaction, focus, engagement, and practice..
To acquire language, adult learners must interact with their tutor and the subject material, focus on the task at hand, and practice their developing skills. Let's look at a sample adult learner experience.


Santos is 70 years old and recently entered the literacy program. He was placed with Jane, a new tutor who had just completed her tutor training. Santos and Jane hit it off directly and became fast friends. At the beginning of each session, Jane would ask Santos about his life, his family, and his hobbies. Santos became very comfortable sharing information with Jane.

Soon, Jane realized that Santos was very concerned about an upcoming written examination for his driver's test. Jane immediately altered their tutoring lessons and they began working on preparing for his written exam. Santos came to each tutoring session prepared to study. He would actively listen to Jane as she read the Rules of the Road book aloud. Jane would ask Santos questions as she read the materials to check his comprehension and ask him to repeat information to ensure that he understood it correctly, and summarize passages in his own words.

Santos and Jane practiced every day for two weeks, often taking "practice exams." The day after Santos successfully passed his driver's test, he and Jane celebrated his success.

Consider the Multi-dimensional Approach to Learning chart below to see how the approach Jane took with Santos provided the multi-dimensional approach necessary for learning.

Multi-dimensional Approach to Learning

Interaction Focus Engagement Practice
Santos and Jane visited with each other before the tutoring began. This enabled them to interact with each other. Jane provided opportunities through reading aloud for Santos to interact with the content he needed to learn. Santos was prepared to learn. He was actively listening and working with the material Jane provided him during the tutoring session. Santos was engaged in the learning process. Jane asked him to summarize materials and repeat information. Jane provided daily practice exercises so that Santos could interact with the content, learn areas which needed additional focus, and remained engaged in the learning process.

Principles of Adult Learning - Reflective Activity

Take a minute to reflect on the information you have read thus far. Compose an email to your trainer. Put the title, Principles of Adult Learning - Reflective Activity in the subject line.

Copy and paste the following paragraph into the body of the email. Then type in your answer to the question below and send it. Completing this assignment is a requirement of your training. Your trainer will respond to you through email.

Considering the general principles of adult literacy development briefly explain why using an integrated curriculum would support those principles.