Higher Education how to Teach Adult Learners

It is often believed that if you can teach one person that you can teach them all.  This is not necessarily the case.  Each learner is an individual and in the case of teaching adult learners, there are different skills required than when teaching children.  Here is an overview of how to teach adult learners.  


There needs to be a mutual respect between the teacher and the learner.  Remember, they are not children, so do not speak to them or treat them as so.  Remember that learning for children is compulsory.  An adult has chosen to be there. 

Resources and materials

The language that you use and the activities that are set must be completely different.  For example, even if an adult learner is studying basic literacy, this does not mean that the same resources and materials that are used with children will be equally appropriate.  They will often have lots of pictures and this is not appropriate for the adult learner.  Make sure that the topics are also relevant and age appropriate.

Active learners

Involve the adult learner in the learning process.  Take your lead from them.  Consider their learning styles, whether this be visual, kinaesthetic or auditory, and utilise their skills.  Give them extension tasks so that they have the choice to expand their learning experience and make sure that they have the opportunity to ask lots of questions on different topics.


Communication is vital between the learner and the teacher.  It is important that you listen to how they fell they are doing, what they have learnt, what they are having difficulty with and how they think they can progress.  An adult learner will often have an astute idea of how they are best learning, or their learning style.  It is wise to have regular reviews where you can meet together and discuss all of these issues.  Use different styles of communication; one to one, group discussions and presentations are all ways of a teacher finding out about their students needs, progress and weaknesses.

Make them feel relaxed

It can often be difficult for an adult to return to education.  While it is a step forward, it can sometimes feel like a step backwards into childhood.  It is important that yo make them feel comfortable and at ease.  Point out the benefits that their education will bring, such as increase employment opportunities, increased knowledge and improves self-esteem.