Complete Rubrics, Chapter 7: Adult Learners

Quinlan, Audrey M. A Complete Guide to Rubrics: Assessment Made Easy for Teachers, K-College. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2006. Print.



Chapter 7: Rubrics with Adult Learners


Quinlan begins this chapter with a discussion of adult learner stages. Most post-secondary students are in Erickson’s early Adulthood (19-40) stage, which means their main conflict centers around intimacy versus isolation, “which means that they will either be able to form meaningful relations with others or remain self-absorbed” (100).  Some of our students may be in middle or even late adulthood, and they deal with generativity versus stagnation or ego integrity versus despair respectively (100).  Quinlan also talks about the difference between pedagogy and andragogy (teaching adults). Basically, andragogy focuses more on independent learning and using the students’ wealth of knowledge and experience more in the learning experiences (101). 


Quinlan gives Mark Tennant’s book Psychology and Adult Learning (1997) as a resource for recommendations for teaching adult learners. According to Tennant, adult educators need to:


  • Value the experience of the learners
  • Engage in reflection of the learners’ experiences.
  • Establish the environment or spirit of a community of learners.
  • Empower the students.
  • Assess each student as an individual.
  • Encourage learner to discuss conflicting points of view.
  • Help students to identify the social, historical, and cultural bases for their experiences.
  • Encourage a wiliness to make changes based on learning experiences. (102)


These characteristics are pretty clear to those of us who teach college, especially non-traditional learners who don’t need lecture and direction as much as guidance and information.


Quinlan then goes into a discussion about grading and about grade inflation, wondering if professors don’t spend enough time grading—or at least enough time communicating their grade decisions to students. Rubrics are, of course, the answer to communicating grades clearly and as objectively as possible (103-06).


The rest of the chapter gives numerous examples of rubrics that are or can be used in post-secondary work, from research papers and dramatic performances to instructor evaluations and self-assessments for classroom lessons and preparedness.

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