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K. Stack


Financial education seeks to strengthen and change behaviors that lead to increased incomes, better management and protection of scarce assets, and effective use of financial services. It does not just raise awareness and provide information. To achieve sustained changes in behavior, financial education uses
principles and practices of adult learning to guide a learner-centered approach for both design and delivery of curricula.

Adult learners have special characteristics. They bring their own life experiences to a learning event. They want and need practical information and skills. Adults are most motivated to learn something that will solve an immediate problem, provide tangible benefits, and relate to their own situations and interests. Motivation increases when a learning event engages them in give-and-take that uses their past experience and existing knowledge to solve problems and reach goals. They must be equal partners with their teachers in the educational process. Their acceptance of new ideas, attitudes, and behavioral patterns does not come about through a piecemeal approach; it involves changing their whole cognitive, affective, and behavioral systems (ideas, feelings, actions).

Adults learn more effectively when teachers use a learner-centered approach, defined as connecting the content of learning to what adults already know and making it relevant to their lives. Adults must have an opportunity to reflect on new content, relate it to their own personal situations, practice using
it, and determine its application. In contrast, a more traditional approach to education focuses on what the teacher will do with and for the learner. Expressions such as “give a lecture,” “present a case study,” or “explain financial terms” are used. Learners are expected “to know” or “to understand” the content. The learner-centered approach is different. By design, the learner does something with the content. For example, learners will “use tools to plan their cash flow” or “identify two ways to manage debt.”