Skip main navigation

New offer! Get 30% off one whole year of Unlimited learning. Subscribe for just £249.99 £174.99. New subscribers only. T&Cs apply

Find out more

The tools, skills and resources that we can bring back to education… in bucketloads

We know that adults bring subjective experience to learning. We test new knowledge against our existing stock of experience, learning, and expertise.
© University of York
Following on from Knowles’ six characters of adult learners, fellow educators suggest that adults bring subjective experience to learning. Mature learners are motivated to learn because they are usually undertaking the learning voluntarily and with an investment financially, emotionally and time.

Mature learners:

  1. Will test new knowledge against their existing stock of experience, learning, and expertise

  2. Have a need to be involved in the development of their learning programme; they do not like being relegated to a “passive” position

  3. Are able to put new knowledge to work immediately. Many adult learners are employed while also being enrolled as a student. The work/study situation is ideal for immediately applying their knowledge

  4. Carry a greater sense of responsibility into their studies. They take full responsibility for the success or failure of their learning

  5. Are most likely have intrinsic financial commitment, this serves to increase the level of responsibility, even though their role as a learner, is often a secondary one to that of family and work responsibilities. Adults will still prioritise reading, preparation and revision time into these other schedules.

  6. Tend to be more diverse in age, learning styles and experience than younger, more traditional students and this can bring excellent learning opportunities for fellow students, teachers and support staff.

At this point in the course, you may be beginning to think that you do have life and work expertise that would be an advantage in the learning setting. Some of these skills may be fantastic organisational skills, problem solving, creative thinking, energy to complete a task. What are your transferable skills? Share with others.


Merriam, S. B, Bierema, L. L. (2013.). Adult Learning: Linking Theory and Practice. Georgia: Jossey-Bass. Faculty of Education; Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi-110025

© University of York
This article is from the free online

Returning to Education as a Mature Student

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now