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Title: Ways of learning in later life : older adults' voices. An exploration into older adults' preferred learning and communication styles and how these fit with recent neuroscience insights into adult learning
Author: Bissland, Val
ISNI:       0000 0004 2740 4961
Awarding Body: University of Strathclyde
Current Institution: University of Strathclyde
Date of Award: 2011
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This study explored older adults’ preferred learning and communication styles to identify the types of classroom experiences which could best contribute to wellbeing and mental capital. Growing evidence from the brain sciences points to associations between learning and well-being, and between learning and protection from cognitive decline (Foresight Mental Capital and Wellbeing Project, 2008; Field, 2009; Frith, 2011). The mixed method study has an equivalent status design (Creswell, 1995) which used Honey and Mumford’s (1986) Learning Styles Questionnaire, followed by a supplementary questionnaire. Then, it moved to a social constructionist/interpretive framework (Gergen, 2004), which involved conversations to determine older adults’ subjective understanding of learning now and in the past. The main framework for thematic analysis came from neuroscience which has uncovered knowledge about lifelong brain plasticity and the interconnectivity of emotions and memory. Also, of importance were the theoretical frameworks of Yang’s (2003) holistic theory of knowledge and adult learning and, to a lesser extent, Gee’s (2005) Discourse analysis. The study found a range of learning styles, encompassing 14 combinations, from activists to theorists. Therefore, this indicates the need for a wide range of imaginative classroom practices. The participants conveyed a sense that they wished to build on their existing understanding in open and interactive modes, which contrasted strongly with early memories of learning. This also chimes with developments at the interface of neuroscience and adult learning, where constructing one’s own knowledge in a social context has been shown to activate multiple brain networks and build stronger memory. In essence, the older adults were seeking enrichment, not acquisition. While there is no single right way to learn, this study provides evidence that insights from neuroscience indicate that classrooms where social dimensions and active engagement are intertwined, create learning spaces attractive to older learners, and can offer opportunities to build cognitive reserve, wellbeing and mental capital, which is vital with the new timeframe of possibilities that longer lives afford.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ed.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available