Teaching adults is very different from teaching children and teenagers. Unlike younger learners, adults are more self-dependent when it comes to learning, requiring less structure and more self-direction. More than that, adults enter degree programs and traineeship programmes that will immediately improve their careers, unlike children and teens who have yet to discover a clear career path. Thus, for adults, education comes with swift application and relevance.
These are just some of the differences that adult learners and younger learners have. But one thing is for certain: educators who are teaching adult students must adapt their teaching style accordingly.
Here are some of the best strategies that will help you teach adult learners more effectively:
Accept and encourage skepticism
Another striking difference between adult and young learners is that adults tend to challenge new information presented to them. Children accept information as they are taught it, but adults are more skeptical due to their experiences, preconceived notions, and other information that are already in their brain storage.
Skepticism is a vital part of adult learning. When adults are challenged by new ideas and information, the better they can retain them. Hence, as an educator, it’s imperative that you not only accept skepticism but encourage both inside and outside of the classroom.
Make coursework convenient
Adults have a lot of other things going on in their lives apart from pursuing their education. They have jobs to go to, households to manage, families to take care of, and a dozen other responsibilities to attend to. That said, it’s important to make coursework as convenient as possible. For example:
- Make readings easily readable by breaking text into short paragraphs and using bullet points
- Use a user-friendly online platform for submitting assignments
- Allow assignments to be completed via mobile whenever possible so that students can turn them in anywhere at any time
- Send plenty of reminders for new coursework and approaching deadlines to make it easier for students to remember; adult learners have a lot going on, so much so that it’s easy for them to forget about school work
- Convert course material into PDF format and make them downloadable
Keep lessons relevant
Adults prefer lessons that they feel are relevant. They want to learn about things that have a significant impact on their lives; things that will bring value to their careers, as well as the world they’re revolving around.
You can achieve this by emphasizing the value that each lesson brings into the real world. For example, remind your adult students that the accounting lesson you’re teaching will help them better understand their own finances, or how the grammar readings are going to enhance their communication skills at work. When adults see the value that lessons can have on their lives, the more engaged they are with the course, and thus the better they absorb information.
Use students’ experiences
Another advantage of teaching adult learners is that they have far more experience than younger learners. By relating the material to your students’ experiences, the more likely they are to retain what you teach. This is because when a new problem is presented, adults can use their prior knowledge to generate an answer or an explanation for the problem at hand.
There are several ways with which you can integrate this strategy into your lessons. Here are some examples:
- Ask a question at the start of the class, then ask students to write down what they know and what they have yet to find out
- Hold pre-lesson quizzes to gauge the level of knowledge that your students have
- Ask students to share real-life stories that are relevant to the lesson at hand
- Relate your own experiences to the material
Make use of emotion
Adults learn better when taught with content that is emotionally driven. By inserting emotions into your lessons, the course will feel much more relatable to adult learners, and thus make it more relevant. Remember, keeping things relevant is the key to effectively teaching adult students.
Integrating emotions into course material is not that difficult. You can achieve this by using real-life experience as examples, presenting real-life situations (whether fictional or not), and using visual aids that enforce a positive connection, among other strategies. But whatever you do, the goal is to make your students pay attention and actually absorb what you’re teaching.
Teaching adults can be as challenging as teaching younger learners–that is if you are unsure of what teaching style to use.
When teaching adults, keep in mind that they learn differently from children and teens. As such, you need to adjust your teaching style to fit their needs and preferences.