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Mature Students

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  • Mature Students

    Interesting column in the Grauniad today by that Sutherland* chappie about how good an idea it would be to make 'higher (ie tertiary) education' more accessible, subsidised and generally 'friendly' for 'older' students - ie. people in their fifties plus, instead of a near-exclusive enclave of the relatively very young. He highlighted the advantages of the superior financial nous, better time-management and general extensive life experience of the older student.
    I'm a thirty-seven-year-old part-time PhD student, working both in a hospital-attached medical school and a marine biology lab, and I think he's got a great point. Certainly, I'm a more effective researcher/ studier/ resource investigator than I was for my undergrad work, and I think it would be great to see more 'older' students around campus. We seem to suffer with a terrible age-stratification in Britain. Besides the universities, the pubs and clubs are either under-21 or 'old fogey'. It's such a waste.
    I believe the situation is not as acute in the US. Comments and experiences, anyone?

    *Not Donald. He was the one that drove that Sherman tank around France after gold with Clint Eastwood. The other one.

  • #2
    :oops: Um... don't hate me for saying this, but having gone through the education system only once, the young and insecure Dee found mature students rather annoying. They raised the bar a little too high for my liking, with their clever questions and prior knowledge. In a way I thought of them as "cheaters". Not that I was ever less than lovely to any of the mature students I encountered, I just tended to wince every time they waded in to a discussion I was almost starting to follow. For some reason I used to have real issues with people who knew what they wanted to do, and why they were there. Terribly petty of me, I know, but hopefully most young people are less threatened than I was!

    I've considered going back to study Art properly, but that would mean going waaay back and breaking bread with 18 year olds. There's only ten years difference in chronological age, but I'm not sure I could handle the culture shock. I now realise how much pride the mature students I've encountered must have had to swallow, so I can feel some empathy with them. Frankly I'm sure I'd have a lot more fun at university if I went back knowing what I know now, but again that feels a little bit like cheating... and I'm not sure another bit of paper in my certificate drawer is really going to do me much good.

    If only they bottled ambition!
    "That which does not kill us, makes us stranger." - Trevor Goodchild

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    • #3
      Perdix, you framed the debate when you use the term "mature" instead of "older," but I'm going to talk mostly about older students.

      In my experience (i've taught at the university level for about 12 years, six of those full-time), overall maturity and age don't always go hand-in-hand, and academic and intellectual maturity, overall maturity, and age don't always follow one another.

      Having said that, the majority of older students I have are much more engaged in class and readings. Part of this comes from treating their studies the way they treat their jobs, part of it comes from greater self-understanding, and part comes from plain desire. They tend to really want an education (although not necessarily grades) a little more than many of their traditionally aged counterparts. This means that their measures of performance aren't always better, but they seem to get more out of the experience than many younger students.

      I start noticing a difference at about 26, and a marked difference at about 35.

      These students represent a unique challenge for me, becasue they have such a different perspective than traditional aged college students, and because they demand more off me--for better and worse-- and, as Dee points out so well, they also demand more of their classmates.

      However, I always enjoy having students like this in my classes, because it keeps everyone from becoming too comfortable (I mean that in a good way). I find their work ethic is often contagious, and their lack of fear in pursuing ideas often rubs off on others, as well.

      I may have to re-visit the "mature" student aspect of this when my head clears. Ironically, I just returned from a class, refreshed my browser, and the topic was there. Perdix just had to ask the question that would lure me into responding...

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      • #4
        Graham Hall was a bit bored with his fellow younger students, I recall, as were one or two other friends of mine who went to uni late. But they'd also done much of their wild living before they joined, so, as you say, Doc, tended to place a higher value on the education they were getting.

        Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
        The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
        Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


        Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
        The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
        Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

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        • #5
          All the folks on my course at Birkbeck ('Organisation of work, economics and labour law') are mature students. The class 'baby' is 25. All the rest are 40ish trade unionists. I think the tutors enjoy the challenge and can even learn a bit from us (we're part of what they're studying!). I don't think I would have got anything out of this particular course at 18.
          \"...an ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of Omnipotence in a place that is not home.\" James Branch Cabell

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          • #6
            As a 25 year old at San Diego State University, I find that even I am somewhat old compared to my classmates and exhibit a work ethic and level of maturity that some of my fellows do not have. Those extra few years of life experience seem to make a difference, although a man in his forties that sits next to me in my Rhetoric and Writing class is not a good student. I do not feel people above the average college ages (around 18-22) should feel intimidated by going back to school because young students are a lot of fun to be around. There was a 60 year old woman in my Medieval Art class last semester going for her 4th masters degree and I think that is a wonderful thing. We never stop learning until we die and I say if you have the time, go to school.

            This is my first post here at the multiverse and I am looking forward to having some interesting discussions with you guys. :)

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            • #7
              Pleased to meet you! :D
              \"...an ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of Omnipotence in a place that is not home.\" James Branch Cabell

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              • #8
                Spivak000 (Hi & welcome!) makes the excellent observation that 'young people are a lot of fun to be around'; another great reason for the 'older' student to attend Uni!(you're right, Doc! Your distinction of 'older' as opposed to 'mature' is much more descriptive - maturity being a non-temporally-linear trait!) The refreshing (if inexperienced) world-views of younger people are essential influences to older minds if the latter are to avoid stagnation, bigotry and ultimate petrification. That's the ultimate trade-off: experience for idealism!

                Now, shall I write up my research paper, do the ironing, then watch 'Panorama', or get up later, pinch the lecture notes from Tarquin, and sell my records* so that I can get blasted at The Jersey Lily tonight?


                *Oops, sorry. CD's. Damn!

                PS> Hope you enjoy Birkbeck, Mikey! I started my first, ill-fated and doomed PhD there a long time ago: Evolution of Underwater Flight in Penguins using morphometric techniques. Only did eighteen months, then ran out of money whilst simultaneously discovering some American chappie was just publishing much the same stuff. Pants.

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                • #9
                  Multiple incarnations of Perdix converge here from time to time. Forgive that one. If our Pedrix knew he could get the others to do the homework while he was out getting shit-faced, there'd be trouble.
                  The cat spread its wings and flew high into the air, hovering to keep pace with them as they moved cautiously toward the city. Then, as they climbed over the rubble of what had once been a gateway and began to make their way through piles of weed-grown masonry, the cat flew to the squat building with the yellow dome upon its roof. It flew twice around the dome and then came back to settle on Jhary's shoulder. - The King of the Swords

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                  • #10
                    I was a mature student, a few years back. I'd got fed up, freebooting around the British Isles, digging archأ¦ology, or working in yet another crap job. Eventually, I ended up in London studying. I got to experience the student life, get a reader's ticket for the British Library (the old one at the British Museum), go on anti-Apartheid marches, get a degree and even met Mike.

                    Pretty good, I'd say! :lol:

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Ah, yes! The PolyPerdix is both a reflection of my multiversal travels, and the fact that the internet connection in my surgery (aka: 'The Time Centre') is set up on a Fokker-Smythe 'Centurion' Model 1927 Steam Adding Machine, which refuses to let me log on properly. Sorry! I'm too thick to work out how to fix it!

                      Androman, I like the sound of your student experiences! Especially the digs (bit of direct temporal exploration) and meeting up with our host. I love digs - although I'm more in the palaeo rather than archaeo field, I can't resist digging up all sorts of old crap (sounds like my writing, too, come to think of it...). The old BM Reading Room is much missed. The 'Land Liner' that replaced it ain't the same, really...

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                      • #12
                        You realise that a steam-powered server requires a steady flow of coal. Who'll pay for the deliveries? Not such a promising avenue, it would seem. Now, if someone can give us a solar powered server, that'd be something. Except, we'd have to keep it out side, and the exposure might cause the bits and bytes to run out of the back of the thing. It would work if we could get a really tiny sun going in the lab.

                        My experience in school has be mostly negative for all kinds of reasons. But the two main things as an adult student and adolescent student are that adolescent students are eager to make you feel bad for being incorrect (ie chortling when you get it wrong) and adults never show up for team projects. Very frustrating. All my computer knowledge that I use regularly has been self taught, or explained to me by Those Who Know. I'm constantly curiious and as a child had the tendency to tear apart my Christmas 9 volt AM radios, once the battery had gone dead, which happened within a week having left the radio on in my bed while I slept. I've read numerous technical manuals and web pages and find that I learn what I need to know by ad hoc research.

                        Are there any others out there, youth or adult, who don't get much out of school, regardless of age or maturity? Has it affected your success? I want to be a good student, but as an adult, I can't waste any more time or money on a formal education, because I know I won't make the grades. My basic problem is that I check out while trying to do the homework. I can't seem to get the concentration going. But I can when I'm working on computers. Am I crazy or is this some kind of learning disability? Maybe I can borrow some of Bart Simpson's Focusin.
                        The cat spread its wings and flew high into the air, hovering to keep pace with them as they moved cautiously toward the city. Then, as they climbed over the rubble of what had once been a gateway and began to make their way through piles of weed-grown masonry, the cat flew to the squat building with the yellow dome upon its roof. It flew twice around the dome and then came back to settle on Jhary's shoulder. - The King of the Swords

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          re: Berry

                          I've always been of the opinion that one does not learn from a teacher, one learns from books. The role of a teacher (or lecturer, or don) is to point the student in the direction of the more useful books, and to attempt to enthuse the student. To me, a teacher is not an instrument for diseminating knowledge, but for recruiting people to his/her subject, and directing said recruits to suitable sources of information.

                          The main thing that I've gained so far in my time at Uni (I'm a first-year Classics Undergrad at Oxford), that I wouldn't have gained outside (since I'd have read most of the books anyway), is actually the ability to research and write essays very quickly, to a strict deadline. Apart from that, it's just an excuse to spend a few years reading about stuff you're interested in.

                          As for concentrating - I do know what you mean. I tend to have to really psych myself up to work, normally in a fairly ritualistic manner (put a certain CD on at a certain volume, place one glass of wine in such and such a location, take one sip per 100 words....) Concentration is always much, much harder when you perceive something as work (which is probably why you find working with computers so much easier), I find - but the only real answer is to fight through it. Once I get on a roll, and past the first few paragraphs of an essay/sentences of a translation, etc. etc., maintaining concentration becomes much easier.
                          Arma virumque cano.

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                          • #14
                            Berry, I think you're beign a little too hard on yourself. You sound like you're exactly the kind of student I would want. You know how to find information, you like working with ideas, and you respond well to challenges.

                            I understand about the homework, though. Few things are less exciting than doing busywork. I like to think that the outside reading I assign isn't quite as dreadful as typical homework. Like Kalessin says, I like to point people to the right direction.

                            I will disagree with Kalessin in that I absolutely think it is my job to teach people. Of course I want to engage, recruit and encourage students, but I also teach them things that are related to the substance of my discipline, as well as how ask better questions (of themselves, of others, and reading), so as to be better equipped to learn on their own. I believe you have to help people find the start of the path, and sometimes that means just showing them where it is.

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                            • #15
                              I agree with that, Doc. Your job is much the same as I saw mine as an editor. You don't teach anyone to write -- you just tease out the gold and show it to the author. People teach themselves from a variety of motives and by a variety of routes.

                              Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
                              The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
                              Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


                              Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
                              The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
                              Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

                              Comment

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