When teaching older learners, there are many important factors to consider. There are some fundamental differences between adult education and younger learners and these need to be explored before a teacher or tutor can successfully deliver a course of any type.
Adult education, by and large, involves a bigger commitment from learners. They are not part of the school system and the compulsory aspect has long since disappeared, giving a different perspective on learning.
Many adult education courses, for example, target hobbies and enrichment activities. Many of the courses are academic, however, and individuals may have had to attend as a matter of urgency, often pressured from their employers to boost their existing qualifications without which they will be unable to progress in their chosen careers.
Another important point to consider is motivation. Often you will find adult learners more focused than younger ones since they have developed some life experience and have identified their expectations beforehand.
That said, of course, there will always be groups of adults who challenge any teacher, no matter what their expertise happens to be. Education equals opportunity and most adult learners realize this.
It is crucial that you pitch the content of your course at the correct level. If you teach an adult education course, the advertising of this course is essential. Here, you can lay down some basic requirements and explain exactly what the course entails so that potential learners can make an informed decision about whether or not they wish to join the course or not.
Ground rules are also of paramount importance. These should be stipulated at the beginning of the course, too, and reinforced at the beginning of each lesson. With adults, this could involve a range of things such as ensuring mobiles are switched off or turned to silent, the appropriate use of language, being courteous and respectful, punctuality – though obviously this applies to both adults and younger learners alike.
The most important thing to appreciate with adults is that their lives are different than those of younger learners. Many adults may be re-entering education after a prolonged absence. These individuals may find the experience daunting and may need appropriate support. Others will have family commitments which bring their own challenges in terms of undertaking independent study or attendance.
Group work and pair work is a favorite amongst adult learners since it enables shy people to participate in activities, but also gives those confident individuals a chance to shine. Adults appreciate structure and routine and are more likely to be conditioned to this sort of thing – so taking the register and presenting clear objectives at the beginning of the lesson is imperative.
It should be deemed a pleasure to teach adults. Each person will have their own story, but all share the common goal of wanting to hear what you, the teacher, has to say. This knowledge is precious and forms the basis of your relationship.
Adults like to be able to measure their progress – it’s no use delivering a course for fun, without the individual student progressing in some way. With this in mind, all teachers and tutors should devise regular tests, encourage self assessment, as well as mark the work yourselves. Over periods of time, these records will help boost your learners’ self-esteem, especially if the course has no formal qualification attached to it.
No one gets it right all of the time. We must constantly re-evaluate, reflect and review our own practice if we are to be successful. Feedback from adult learners during and at the end of their courses, helps us to identify their needs so we can approach things differently next time and hopefully meet those needs more fully.