Sunday, March 16, 2008

Question From Reader: Teaching Adults Crochet

Sheila asks: When you're trying to teach an adult who has no prior knowledge of crocheting, is there much difference between teaching that person vs. a child?

Great question, Sheila!!

I think the answer here is a straight yes/no.  I know, that's an answer as clear as mud, and this is because as adults we're more complex than we were as children.

In various medical reports, it is stated that when we're born we use only 25% of our brain.  These are the functions that keep us breathing, keep the heart beating, and tells us when we're hungry or uncomfortable and thus cry.  As the days, weeks, and months pass, we learn that if we cry a certain way a different reaction takes play; we're fed, we're changed, we're held.  By the time we're three, we are using nearly 90% of our brain.

The rest of the time, well into adulthood, we're fine tuning.  We learn to associate certain actions with reactions, and it is in our youth that our egos are most fragile.  We seek approval, and when we don't get it we learn to associate a negative feeling with the said action.  When we receive positive reactions, we repeat the deed, wanting to learn more, in order to experience the endorphins that come with the approval.

With each experience, new connections within the brain are made.  As children, those connections are made rapidly.  When we reach the emotional state of adolescence some of those connections are purged; as an adult we either use it or lose it.  So, keeping in mind that neural connections are made, strengthened or weakened based upon our experiences, and our age, then the answer to is teaching crochet to adults the same as teaching children, the answer is no.

But, if we're addressing the need for positive endorphins, thus positive approval for our actions, then it's yes!  Who doesn't love being told they're doing a great job, right?  :)

As adults, when we're learning a new skill, such as crochet, we still seek out that positive affirmation that we're on the right track.  But, we are also aware of right and wrong, and thus want to know, without ego bashing, that we're on the right path.  We can take critique.  Once we learn how to do something right, those endorphins fly.  Many are content to enjoy this state.  Others, who have learned positive affirmation from taking risks, will then want to try things on their own -- thus breaking the rules to see what develops.  And this is ok too.  (Really, I think this is why some of us need a pattern to follow exactly; why some of us love to take patterns "off roading;" and why some of us can crochet items without ever needing to consult a pattern.)

As I stated the other day, with a child, we need to keep it simple, keep it fun & inviting, all while needing to keep attention span issues in mind.  (When this happens, finding a child crocheting under the covers late at night by flashlight, or trying to crochet while practicing the Trumpet, as my Mini~Dee has done, may result!)

With an adult, we still need to keep the experience fun & inviting, but since an adult has learned the skill of patience and perseverance, the lessons can be more complex.  We know that as an adult, along with positive critique, and repeating lessons, those positive endorphins will eventually flow once our brains make the connections.  Sometimes we'll pick up on it quickly, other times it will take several attempts.  As long as the experience is positive, we will learn, even from our mistakes.

On the other hand, it is also important for the teacher to recognize the adult student's learning style and needs that have been reinforced childhood.  Some of those students will require more of the teacher's time, some will require more affirmation.  When the teacher helps the adult student make those neural connections with positive feedback, much as it does for a child, it makes the learning task easier -- no matter what the age.  The positive endorphins will urge the student to want to continue no matter what their learning style is.

Note: I am not a medical professional. The comments here are my own based upon the reports I have read, and my own experiences of teaching crochet to both children and adults.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Dee!  I thought your answer was beautiful and thorough.  As always, I appreciate your expertise!

Love and hugs,

PS  thanks for bringing up MiniDee crocheting under covers with a flashlight.  I still laugh about that from time to time!