Teaching adults is not the same as teaching children. Adults already have a lifetime of experiences on which to draw upon. They've developed habits of learning, some of which may be positive and some others that may need shifting into a more positive direction. According to Colorado State University's Writing@CSU program, adults, “want to be able to apply what they're learning in the real world.”

Group Learning

Build teaching activities for adults that utilize their past experiences, education and knowledge. Allow adult students to interact without being put down or discouraged. Adult students need to feel safe in expressing themselves.

Involve students in the learning process. Form groups of students with varied experiences so that students can learn from one another. Impart the basics of the lesson, then have them talk about the lesson in the group. For example, if the subject is a piece of literature, have each group put together a group paper on what was taught, their response and how it impacts them. The group learns not only about literature and its value, but also increases skills in working together. How you work with groups, depends upon what is being taught, and the course objective.

Examples

Adult students need to know how the content of the instruction relates to them and why they should spend time and effort doing assignments or participating in class. Teach with activities that include personal example. If you have a building contractor in the class and you are teaching math principles, have the contractor share examples from his own work experience to illustrate the principle taught. Have others in the class give examples from their professions or from personal knowledge.

Take these examples and have students use their understanding of the principles to put together teaching aids with poster board, charts and illustrations or write up a personal experience using the math principles of the lesson. Draw the adult students into an understanding of how what you are teaching impacts their everyday lives.

Application

Adult students are problem-solvers. Take the teaching activities for adult students into the real world. If you are teaching about interpersonal relationships to adult students at the managerial level, share basic interpersonal relation skills. Have the students discuss the relationships within their job environment. Discuss what works, what doesn't and what they'd like seen changed. Discuss what they can do to improve the situation.

Have students act out scenarios in which they do what they feel needs to be done. Provide pointers and have the class of adult students analyze each situation and provide feedback. Continue acting out the principles taught until the adult students feel comfortable with their new skills.

If possible, take students into a real-world situation of an office, a work site, a hospital, ... all places where students work. Have them observe both positive and negative interpersonal relationships in the work situation. Discuss later in the classroom, providing feedback of what worked and what didn't and how this changes their own focus. In a negative situation have them offer real and practical solutions to what they've observed. Whatever you teach, allow the students to solve problems and see real results from their actions.