How to Teach Adult Learners
When it comes to teaching in further education you will have to teach a chunk of adult learners. 3.8% of the learners were adult learners in the further education sector. With Covid-19 impacting learning as well as the working world. There is ever more reason why adults should take up education. If you’re new to this, it may seem daunting, to teach adults. But it won’t be! We are dedicating a blog to how you can teach adults.
One thing you must know is that teaching adults is a very different experience from teaching younger learners. Whether it’s to upskill for a new career or to improve their knowledge, education is a great tool. So let’s start simple. What is an adult learner?
Often referred to as mature learners. An adult learner is someone that is over the age of 25, and they are in the process of receiving education. This could be from a college, university, or workplace training. Many mature students are those who have taken a break from education. They could be returning to finish off some education they might need. Finishing off a degree, or studying to gain a new qualification.
You will need to keep in mind that adult learners aren’t empty vessels like children are. They will have their own life experiences and knowledge that will help in facilitating their learning. Children have little to no life experiences that they might base their learning. Adults however have a great deal, this allows them to enrich their education. They also compare and contrast the new knowledge against past learning.
What we learn in childhood and early adulthood forms the foundation of what we learn as adults.
So where do their priorities lie?
Principles of adult learning
So there could be many priorities that adult learners may have. They tend to seek education for their needs and goals. Because of this, you will need to approach them differently. Adult learners learn best under these conditions:
- Education is self-directed. The student needs to be actively involved in the learning process
- When lesson plans incorporate background knowledge and experiences
- When learning is relevant to their current circumstances.
According to the adult learning theory, adults differ from children because they need to know why the learning is beneficial to them. Adult learners are largely self-directed. They also expect to take responsibility for their decisions.
You may want to think about the acronym MIME. This stands for Motivate, Inform, Monitor, and engage.
Make sure your learners understand why. This isn’t just about why they are sitting in your class or workshop. They are there to learn something new or be certified in a particular field. They want to know and move forward. This is why making them understand that something is important, why each component of the course is an essential part of the learning process.
Adult learners are motivated to learn when they need to learn. Let them know straight away how the training or course will be useful to them on the job, this gives them more incentive. Share defined goals, objectives, and the agenda for the training every time. They need to know how it will benefit them. Or how it will make them better workers or professionals.
Adults have the freedom of learning in their way. We can refer to these as learning styles. It’s beneficial to you as a trainer or teacher to know each of these learning styles and how your students learn. Your learner may have a combination of learning styles. So it’s good practice to cater to different learning styles, as things may not work for some learners. Here are a few examples of learning styles. Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic/tactile.
It’s also handy to integrate interactive activities into your presentations and workshops. There is an easy way to identify learning styles in your classroom. You can conduct a short learning style assessment at the beginning of your class.
The education process should be positive and encouraging. For quite a lot of adults stepping back into education can be intimidating. Especially if they haven’t undertaken a class in years or decades. They may be apprehensive when it comes to what the course is like and if they will do well. It’s important that you have a positive outlook, are encouraging, and have patience.
As we mentioned before, adult learners will have a lot of life experience already, so you must recognise that. Feeling respected means that the trainer is acknowledging the learner’s experience and current knowledge. As a trainer/teacher you can help make a comfortable productive learning environment by:
- Showing respect for the learner’s individuality and experience
- Adapt your language so that learners are not offended
- Be open to new and different perspectives
- Adopt a caring attitude and show that.
Recognise any contributions that they make in the classroom, even if it’s small. Their confidence is boosted this way, and they are made to feel welcome and that they can participate.
Learning needs to be experiential. This has two meanings. It must honor the life experiences and knowledge an individual brings. As well as, active participation in activities during the session. These learning experiences can take many forms. Such as activities that get your students involved to enhance your learner’s experience. Try and take a varied approach to these activities to try and engage all your learners.
Sometimes adult learners like to explore topics on their own, so try and let them do this, by giving them the information and letting them decide what is worth learning, but following the steps to this, they should know why learning certain things is important to their career progression. This is why taking a varied approach to teaching adults is important.
Keep feedback open
Most types of learners would want feedback, however, adult learners will be more open to criticism and guidance. They will seek out the opportunity to speak to their teachers and trainers, so you must keep that avenue open for them, so they can come to you about anything, if there are any issues that they have with any course material or if they’re struggling in general. If the avenue to come to get feedback isn’t open it tends to be frustrating, try and keep that in mind.
Learning these practices is going to be extremely beneficial for you. Whether you’re a teacher or trainer. You want each learner to have a great and equal experience in the classroom, and even with online teaching. You can use these practices to teach via a zoom call, it’s just the need for adaption. It’s possible to make them feel comfortable and manage time over zoom and other forms of online learning.
We hope this has helped you in understanding how you can teach adult learners. If you have any more questions about it then you can give our friendly team a call on 01205 805 155!