Conflicts Faced by Adult Learners Essay

Conflict may be defined as a struggle or contest between people with opposing needs, ideas, beliefs, values, or goals - Conflicts Faced by Adult Learners Essay introduction. Conflict on teams is inevitable; however, the results of conflict are not predetermined. Conflict might escalate and lead to nonproductive results, or conflict can be beneficially resolved and lead to quality final products. Therefore, learning to manage conflict is integral to a high-performance team. Although very few people go looking for conflict, more often than not, conflict results because of miscommunication between people with regard to their needs, ideas, beliefs, goals, or values.

Conflict management is the principle that all conflicts cannot necessarily be resolved, but learning how to manage conflicts can decrease the odds of nonproductive escalation. Conflict management involves acquiring skills related to conflict resolution, self-awareness about conflict modes, conflict communication skills, and establishing a structure for management of conflict in your environment. Unfortunately, the term “conflict” has only the connotation of “bad” for many people; so much so that they think principally in terms of suppression, giving little or no attention to its more positive side.

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One author emphasizes this by stating: “It seems entirely likely that many, if not most, organizations need more conflict, not less. ” Other states: “The absence of conflict may indicate autocracy, uniformity, stagnation, and mental fixity; the presence of conflict may be indicative of democracy, diversity, growth, and self-actualization. ” Some social critics relate the military to the former by their references to the military mind in which they equate absolute and unquestioning obedience with normal military functioning.

We are human, though, and it is almost impossible for us to divorce ourselves of feelings, beliefs, and values. We create, or get involved in, conflict, and we possess predispositions as to how it ought to be addressed or handled. We tend to have a strong behavioral leaning, a set pattern, for our participation, and this emerges as a major factor in setting the nature of conflict. We can note this predisposition for a set pattern of behavior in our tendency to want to apply equal penalties or identical punishment regardless of the cause of an infraction of rules.

We can say, then, that conflict is a state of unresolved difference between two individuals, an individual and a group, or two groups. The difference can be real or imaginary. Regardless, it is a difference and will cause some form of conflict if the involved parties are in contact with each other. The conflict exists until the difference is resolved. The important aspect is how the individual accepts and responds to it; how he seeks to control or stimulate the dynamic conflict situation. In this age of specialization and sophisticated technology, we can readily find power imbalances in organizations.

This often results in conflict. In technically oriented organizations (e. g. , military aviation, major communicative networks, and science-based units), the managers rarely are able to be experts in all the disciplines or specialties they control. These managers find themselves greatly dependent on technical experts who work for them. Differences arise because of differing knowledge bases and perceptions. Note the hard feelings and accompanying resentment we often experience when a boss, removed from the situation, picks a piece of correspondence we have prepared.

Unmanaged, these differences can have negative results. But this need not be if we carefully select mature and adaptable managers who can understand the high degree of informal (expert) authority held by subordinates who have technical competence. Every individual usually has a number of competing needs, desires and roles within them. Many difficulties in this are beyond the scope of management but within the scope of professional counsellors, though there are some aspects of personal conflict that managers need to understand and possible provide remedy.

Conflict desires have an effect on relationship with others. One form of these conflicts will select from two favourable outcomes. For example should you share your food or eat all of it as you are very hungry. Personal conflict can also be explained as a conflict between two people, most often from a mutual dislike or personality clash. As we set goals, we may find that there are many ways to achieve them. One will be through a conflict with others as you will apply for a job and you pass an interview whilst others fail. A conflict will arise in the minds of those who did not get the job.

Blaming others for predicaments is easier for those who did not get the job than changing their goals when they discover too many blocks in trying to find another job. People in conflict can test and develop their capabilities; however, on the other hand the conflict can have negative impacts too. Some people do not like conflict as it makes them upset or defeated. Conflict can increase distance between people. People can defend their stands, since they do not like to admit that other people’s ideas are better and they can have biased attitudes. It can bring distance instead of tem development.

Constant bickering and frequent bitter disagreements tend to wear you out and make it hard for you to commit to a relationship. Sometimes vital information to the other person may be withheld out of anger. Acknowledgment of conflict existence can help in analyzing and understanding the cause of the problem. It is very important to separate the problem from the person, since this can increase resistance and opposition between parties. Management of emotions is critical, since when emotions are shown strongly, people tend to personalize the problem and accuse each other.

Everybody might want to say his/her opinion, hence active listening can contribute to conflict resolution. Opening up for other people’s opinions, developing ideas, and incorporating other people’s ideas and reaching a resolution will ensure a positive outcome of any conflict resolution. This paper will discuss areas in which I am experiencing conflict between myself and the characteristics of my current programme. It will provide reasons for causes of the conflicts and identify ways in which these conflicts could be resolved.

Adult learners return to school for so many reasons. Each has his or her own, but majority of the most common relate to demographic, societal, economic and technological changes, the changing needs of the job market and the changing changing interest of adult learners themselves. Demographic and societal factors include grater life expectancies, a decline in birth rates and the presence of baby boom generation in the workforce. Economic and technological changes have eliminated or changed the nature of many jobs and thus increased the need for job retraining.

These changes have caused an influx of adult on college campuses (Imel, 1998). Clayton and Smith (as cited in Benshoff and Lewis, 1992) revealed that non traditional women students persue an undergraduate degree for reasons such as self improvement, self actualization, vocation, family and knowledge. As an adult learner I enrolled in order to improve my qualification and be in a position to compete with others in the job market. I enrolled when I already was employed and had a family (husband, children, parents, in laws and relatives).

These roles demanded all my time and my schedule was full. But because I needed to acquire a degree I thought, I will get all the required support from my employer, my husband and family members as they all supported me in my plan to go back to school. The tasks I have of being a full time employee, with a job that demands all my time from eight in the morning to five in the afternoon, return home after work to be a mother to my children, cooking for them after work, helping them with their homework, a wife to my husband were never reduced.

Instead there was an additional role of writing assignments, researching, reading and preparing for tests. The pledged support from my employer, my husband and family does not come through as they feel it is my responsibility to take care of my family and at work my employer also does not provide any support. I am only able to study in the evenings once I have completed all the household chores and when the children have gone to sleep. Even though I try to devote all my energy to my school work I am always very tired by that time and often find myself asleep on my books.

This severely affects my school work. It portrays me as not a directed learner as I submit assignments late all the time. The work that I do demands every minute of my time during the day as I am working out in the rural communities, I am often out of the office during lunch times such that I cannot devout the lunch hour for school work. The programme requires a lot of contribution from me that I attend all lectures. Assignments have deadlines which I have to adhere to, but I often fail to meet these deadlines due to pressure at home and at work.

At times I plan to devout my weekends for doing school work and attending study groups. Most of the time this does not materialise as other commitments suddenly come up at home (parental or marital), within the community or at work. Sometimes I have to attend family funerals or community funerals or meetings. Sometimes I am notified that my sickly mother in law is not well and suddenly have to suspend everything and take care of them for the weekend, being the only daughter in law and house chores within the in-laws household.

Financial challenges also cause conflict as I cannot afford to pay the fees and at the same time support my family, I am compelled to borrow from money lenders in order to balance, and the sad thing is that the interest charged by the money lenders is very high and a large proportion of my salary repays the loan monthly. By the time I settle the loan I have to borrow again to pay fees for the next year at school. Lack of family support severely affects my progress as I have to do all the household chores without any support from the family.

There is no motivation to continue as it sometimes seem like my role as a wife, mother, daughter in law and employee have to come first and my education last. My employer knows I am studying and I informed them when I was planning to register for studying but there is no support at all. At times residential sessions, study weekends and exams coincide with activities at work and in most instances I am denied leave and often reminded that I have to choose between work and study. This is conflicting with my desire to continue learning and reduces the motivation in me to learn and become a better person.

The programme demands that I attend all lessons whenever required, submit assignments and write tests on specific dates as required by the lecturers. Nothing allows me flexible rescheduling that accommodates my challenges as an adult learner. At times I am so broke to travel to class as I have to travel over 90km to reach school and when I go to school I also need money to surf the internet make photocopies at the library and type and print assignments as I am required to submit typed assignments.

At times when these challenges becomes too much I am in desperate need for counselling services which are not available to part-time students at the university. As a woman I have my own dreams and aspirations and I have been socialised to conduct myself in a certain manner and perform certain roles that goes with being a wife, a mother, a daughter in law and a community members. These roles at times clashes with what I really want as me. I have over the years repressed these conflicts as I want to continue with life and am eager to continue and finish my studies.

Confronting the situation will at times lead to family members coming together to discuss me as a disrespectful wife who is failing to handle her household and communicating with my husband will result in him feeling that my education is making me to disrespect him and my children will feel I am failing them as their mother. At times I am in denial and cannot confront these challenges but act like all is normal for the sake of peace and progress in my studies. I pretend that all is well yet I am suffering both physically and emotionally. My programme is not flexible enough to cater for students like me.

If it was an open learning for instance it would accommodate all these challenges that adult learners face like a more flexible class rescheduling to ensure that I plan for it and ensure that it does not conflict with my other roles as an employee, a mother, a daughter in law and a community member. Despite these barriers, adult learners of any age can learn and succeed in their pursuits if they are afforded the opportunity, assistance and support they need. The University need to reassess and revise their policies in relation to adult learners, especially in the areas of student accounts, registration and class rescheduling.

Curricular, instruction, counselling, support services, faculty development and administration procedures must all be made more flexible. In addition, the University must develop and implement strategies to enhance and increase retention. Employers need to make policy changes to support adults in their educational pursuits. They need to allow more flexibility in work schedules and promote employees as soon as they are ready to be promoted. Similarly, the government leaders need to modify education policies to give more weight to occupational and adult education.

More money should be invested in these areas to assure a steady flow of well educated citizens. A capable workforce would be able to undertake or adapt to new occupations as needed and would greatly contribute to the growth and development of the country. Counselling services need to be made available to adult learners to ensure the availability of such support whenever needed. Additionally, a payment plan could be implemented in which students are allowed to pay their school costs in affordable instalments.

Family and friends support is needed in order to help care for children, do household chores and care for the sick and elderly parents. Counselling could also be offered to ensure spousal or peer support. Decentralisation of classes closer to the learners are could also help. If classes can he run in the various regions is can help minimise the cost of travel and the time spent on the road to and from school. The use of defense mechanisms would also help the adult learner as the ego would employ defense mechanisms to protect the learner from feeling guilty, embarrassment and shame.

Communication by the adult learner would also help. If I communicate with my husband on how I feel and how stressful it is for me to do all the work expected of me without support and how much it is negatively affecting my school work maybe he will listen and want to help out wherever he can. In conclusion, one can say that the measures that would rectify the various difficulties or conflicts that I face an adult learner are secondary to the initial need to advance the understanding of and the appreciation for adult education.


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Amason, A.C. (1996). Distinguishing the Effects of Functional and Dysfunctional

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Benshoff, J., & H.A. Lewis, (1992). Nontraditional College Students. Retrieved September 2, 2001, from

Conrad, J. (1993). Educating part-time adult learners in transition. Retrieved December 3, 2001, from

Reio, T.G., & Reio, J. (2000). Combating workplace ageism. Adult Learning, 11 (1), 10-13.

Mutangira, J.P.B. (2002). Psychology of Adult Education 11 (IDE – BAE 314). University of Swaziland.

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