Exploring a learner-centred method for the acquisition of 21st-century soft skills among adult education learners

  • Noah Kenny Sichula The University of Zambia
  • Musonda Luchembe The University of Zambia
  • Moses Changala The University of Zambia
  • Davies Phiri The University of Zambia
  • Flora Ngoma Moono The University of Zambia
Keywords: Adult learning, higher education, 21st-century skills, discovery teaching


This article presents the findings of a study that looked at learner-centred teaching methods that inspired adult education students in a higher education context in the acquisition of knowledge and 21st-century soft skills for the job market. The study sample was 130 participants and included 126 learners and 4 lecturers. The study used both quantitative and qualitative research approaches and was framed within andragogy-the adult learning theory. Discovery teaching was found crucial in facilitating the acquisition of 21st century soft skills among the adult education learners. Navigating their way to the solutions of the assigned problems enable the acquisition of soft skills. However, the utilisation of discovery teaching was reported to be hampered by two main broad factors. The diversity and changing landscape of the nature of adult education learners . Several of them were identified and described as young, different from the traditional adult education learners who are often characterised by vast work experience, mature, and focused. This phenomenon had a bearing on the effective utilisation of discovery teaching in class because lecturer dependency was described as quite apparent among the young learners. Secondly, it was observed that the foundational year of study in the programme did not provide a firm grounding for discovery teaching and learning. The learners were introduced to lecturer dependency through responsive academic help rendered to learners and progressed to higher levels of study. While we found discovery teaching to have versatile inroads in several pedagogic practices, essential for the acquisition 21st-century soft skills, there remains a gap in inextricably embedding discovery teaching in the teaching of learners on this programme.