Resources For Teaching Adults

Written by Jeremy Horelick
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An exhaustive body of work has been done on how adults learn and why they choose to return to school in the first place. Needless to say, the motivation for adults is drastically different from that of children. Understanding this difference is one of the biggest keys for teachers of adult students, who will find it much easier to "get through" to them by tailoring the curriculum appropriately.

Perhaps the single biggest reason adults go back to school is to cope with some sort of life-altering event such as the birth of a child, the death of a friend or a relative, the loss of a job, and the need to find a new one. Typically, adults return to school to learn some sort of tangible skill that carries with it a concrete reward such as job preparation. While adults are likely to find broad survey-style courses interesting, they're less likely to sign up for these and more apt to choose a tightly focused curriculum.

Strategies for Teaching Adults

Grasping the motivation for adult learning gives teachers a valuable resource in the classroom. They can then hone their material for maximum relevance and trim the proverbial fat from their lessons, much of which their students will already know. It's important for adult educators to remember that their students have entire lifetimes worth of experience on which to draw. Lessons must therefore be presented in an entirely different framework than they are for kids.

Educators must also bear in mind that adults have ingrained ideas and values that have served them for 20, 30, 40, or 50 years and are therefore largely immutable. The successful adult educator will develop ways of integrating new information with these deeply held convictions. At the very least, they must recognize that adult learners are slower to absorb new concepts and lexicons--particularly in the technology field--that have no easily identifiable references.


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