My first day of college was a liberating experience. Not only was I 18 years old and living on my own, but this was the first time in my life when I could recall feeling excited and empowered by going to school. Growing up, learning for me in the traditional classroom always posed a challenge. I learned to read slowly, which required me to be in Special Education classes and see a tutor. I also felt defeated by math at a very young age. These factors led to me being afraid of learning. When I finally reached my first semester of college, something inside me changed. For the first time ever, I was able to see myself as a smart and capable student. Because of this confidence and several traits that I have acquired along the way, I have been able to hone in my learning style preferences and do what I needed to in order to be a successful student in all areas of my life.
One key factor that has shaped my adult learning style is my work ethic. While this came out in my younger years, it has not been until adulthood that I have been able to see that my ability to work hard can often trump my inability to quickly and naturally understand new material and information. My work ethic can be attributed to my parents. While neither of my parents have much formal education after high school, both were forced to continue to learn about their respective careers in order to maintain relevant in the work place. Their work ethic was something that they modeled to their children as well as actively talked to us about. One of Kowles’ four assumptions of Andragogy is that “as a person matures, his or her self-concept moves from that of a dependent personality toward one of a self-directing human being” (Merriam, Caffarella & Baumgartner, 2007, p.84). While at a young age I relied on my parents to encourage me in my schooling, I grew up able to set my own expectations and develop ownership over my education.
Going hand in hand with my work ethic, another contributing factor to my learning style is my personality trait of being a perfectionist (a less flattering term would be “control freak”). I can recall from a very young age wanting to be in control of most situations and almost always wanting to do things “my way.” This is a characteristic that I feel greatly impacts the way that I learn. Because I strive to be in control, I tend to want to dive right into what I am learning. Whether it is a new teaching strategy or computer program, once I am shown how to do something once, I immediately want to then try it on my own. This quality has also helped me to not be timid or shy in most learning situations. I see learning to be much more than just a way a person retains information, “the learner is a whole person made up of the mind and the body that comes to a learning situation with a history, a biography that interacts in individual ways with the experience that generates the nature of the learning” (Merriam, Caffarella & Baumgartner, 2007, p.101). Because I come to each learning experience with the personality trait of wanting to be successful and in control, I have experiences that are strictly unique to me.
The authors of Learning in Adulthood: a Comprehensive Guide plainly point out that the sheer fact that so many people have thought about and researched the process of learning indicates that it is a very lofty topic. I am not able to define clearly what has shaped me into the type of learner I am today however, throughout my education, particularly in my pursuit of higher education, I have been able to attribute my work ethic and perfectionist nature to most of my success. Beyond that, the main contributing factor to my adult learning experiences has been the recognition of my