Section 4: Our Learners

Understanding Our Learners

Learners at Grace Centers of Hope

For many of us, this is our first experience designing instruction for this learner audience of adults in an adult basic education program. While we will not have the opportunity to fly or drive to Michigan to meet the learners in Grace Centers of Hope’s education program, Kim, Courtney, and our subject matter experts are here to help us.

Client Questionnaire

The spring 2014 service-learning cohort presented Kim and Courtney with an extensive questionnaire. Along with the help of Bonnie, they spent hours responding to our questions. Their responses offer a wealth of information about the learners and how the education program operates to help them. Please take a moment to review the questions asked by students, and the responses given by our client.

As we begin to conceptualize our learners and the context, it is important to realize that all learners enrolled in the education program live on-site in the Grace Centers of Hope shelter. Many in the program have minor children who also live on-site. While the learners range in age from 18 through adulthood, most are in their 30s or 40s. The learners vary in terms of their entry skills and knowledge with some completing their formal education in elementary school and others in high school, but most are able to perform at a ninth grade level. In addition, learners enter the program at different times, which affects the continuity of instruction. Currently, there is no need to provide instruction in a language other than English.

It is also important to realize that some learners have negative attitudes toward academic settings, and are apprehensive about the structured education program requirements. However, as adult learners, they have work and life experiences from which they can draw real-life application. In addition, while younger learners may be familiar with using the Internet to access social networking websites, many learners have little experience with computer hardware and software, particularly using a computer for education and testing purposes.

Learner Personas

To offer additional insight into our learner audience, a group consisting of instructional design faculty advisors and subject matter experts in our spring of 2014 service-learning cohort helped us conceptualize the learner population through descriptive personas. Here are the four personas they developed.

U.S. Educational Attainment Data

U.S. educational attainment data also give us insight into our learners. According to 2012 U.S. Census Bureau educational attainment data, approximately 30 million adults over the age of 18 (13% of the total population within this age range) had not attained a high school diploma or the equivalent. To put this figure into perspective, the U.S. Department of Education reported 55 million children were enrolled in grades PreK–12 in 2012 (National Center for Education Statistics, 2012). Therefore, if all adult Americans without a high school diploma entered the U.S. PreK-12 school system, enrollment would increase by 55%!

For more information on U.S. educational attainment, please see the following resources:

The U.S. Census Bureau data offer additional insight regarding the educational attainment levels of adults age 25 and over who have not completed high school. The table below summarizes the highest level of educational attainment for these 25 million adults. Of note is the need for educational opportunities at a range of levels, including for the 41% who concluded their formal education before completing the ninth grade.

Table: U.S. Adults +25 No Diploma, Highest Grade-Level Attained

Highest Grade-level Attained (000) %
Less than 1 year 796 3.15%
1st-4th grade, 1,688 6.68%
5th-6th grade 3,504 13.86%
7th-8th grade 4,296 17.00%
9th grade 3,692 14.61%
10th grade 4,011 15.87%
11th grade 4,718 18.66%
12th grade 2,572 10.17%
Total 25,276 100.00%


Not surprisingly, the 2012 U.S. Census Bureau data reflect that high school completion was related to employment. While the unemployment rate reported in the census data was 6.2% among those who had not attained a high school diploma or equivalent, the unemployment rates were less among those who completed their formal education after receiving a high school diploma or equivalent (5.4%) and among those who completed a Bachelor’s degree (3.5%).

Your To-Do List

1) Please review the video, the client responses to our prior questionnaire, and the personas linked above. In anticipation of the individual reflection you will submit in Section 6 at the end of this orientation, jot down any challenges you foresee in designing instruction for our learners?

2) (Optional) To begin the process of interacting with our client, please post any follow up questions you have about the learners and the education program to Kim and Courtney within the Discussion Forum under the Q&A Grace Centers of Hope forum.