Adult Education

Tips for Teaching Adult Learners instead of Younger Learners



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Tips for teaching adult learners as opposed to young learners

Instructors need to understand the difference between young and adult learners in order to be effective. This includes their characteristics, how they learn, what they bring to the learning situation, their needs and expectations as learners.
Be equipped with strategies for meeting adult learners' needs and managing them in order to motivate them to remain in the institution. Details are presented below.

Instructors should explore adult learners' backgrounds and expectations right from the first encounter. This will enable planning to take these on board all the time in order to remain relevant.

Adults are autonomous and self-directed while the young are totally dependent on the instructor. Involve adults actively in the planning and learning processes.
Guide, rather than supply facts or information. Facilitate their search for knowledge and allow them to choose what they learn. This will enhance their confidence and feel ownership of the learning process. This raises their motivation further and appreciation of attendance at class.

Adults have a huge store of knowledge and experience while the young are almost blank slates. Tailor-make learning to link with their past experience. Make maximum use of their wealth of experience in every learning situation. Let them see relevance of new learning experiences to their past and future. Decide on what information to give young learners because they have very little knowledge and will accept whatever the instructor gives.

Adults are goal-oriented while the young are at school because parents or government want them to be there. Adults know what they wish to achieve by attending classes while the young do not. Organise learning program for the adults to facilitate attainment of those goals and objectives individually or as a group. This will raise their motivation and see attendance as worthwhile.

Adults are relevancy-oriented. Instructors should make sure that learning objectives and what they learn must be seen to be relevant to their needs. Tasks and projects set must allow them to respond in a manner that reflects their own interests and link with their experience.

Adults are practical and not interested in theory. Instructors should be explicit in how learning experiences relate to the learners' work, not knowledge for its own sake.

All learners need to be respected. Instructors should treat them as equals in knowledge and experience and allow them to express opinions freely. Acknowledge experience adults bring to the classroom and provide opportunities for them to express this in various activities. Making them feel inferior may be in conflict with their statuses at home and at work. Such conflict may interfere with the learning process and lead to loss of motivation.

Good rapport with the adult learners will increase level of motivation to attend. Subject competence provides respectable leadership which inspires the learners with confidence and value attendance at every learning session.

Instructors should be strong believers in lifelong learning in order to inspire their learners with confidence that they can succeed too.

Make learning for adults problem oriented, personalised and accept the learners' need for self-direction and personal responsibility. This can be achieved by carefully selecting examples to illustrate concepts or learning experiences from real life situations related to work or life experiences.

Young learners depend on others while adults depend on themselves to manage their lives. Open communication channels and approachable manner of the instructor will facilitate learning much to the benefit of adult learners.

Young learners learn for its own sake while adults view learning as potential and useful to them for the future or immediately at their work places.

Learning speeds are different. The young are faster and adults are slow. Instructors should allay fears and anxieties caused by slow learning or difficulties experienced right from the beginning. Positive reinforcement as well as proper timing of instruction can help a lot. Reference to theories can be scary and meaningless to adult learners. Use simple facts or concepts to explain issues. Do everything possible to reduce stress levels in learning situations.

Young learners have less life experience but learn quickly while adults are more experienced but learn slowly and well. Avoid rushing through what has to be learnt to complete syllabus. Learners' progress should dictate the speed or pace of instruction.

Young learners are more receptive to new ideas because they are told it will benefit them while adults already know the benefit or otherwise and may not accept new ideas that may be contrary to long held ideas. Instructors should be careful not to impose views or force adults to discard views already held.

Young learners largely depend on extrinsic motivation while the adults have intrinsic motivation. Adults are already motivated and instructors only have to sustain and extend it.

Therefore, understand adults as individuals, be equipped with principles of effective adult instruction, respect and value the knowledge and experience they bring, be practical and relevant in everything you do with adults and help them achieve their goals. (821 words).

More about this author: Ignatius Isaac Dambudzo

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