A number of adults each year return to school or take part in additional classes to continue their education in areas of study in which they are interested. The challenges of teaching adults are different of those in teaching children. Adults generally are refining knowledge and skills they already possess, so the information can be presented at an advanced pace. Activities in the classroom can vary and don't need to be introductory in nature.
All classes, regardless of subject matter, can benefit from the exchange of ideas between classmates. Discussions play an integral part of advanced learning. However, each participant must respect the diversity of the class environment; the teacher must moderate all discourse to keep it focused and unbiased. Often the teacher will have to play “devil's advocate” to continue the conversation; he may also want to have discussion questions prepared. It is the instructor's role to connect the opinions and ideas of individual students to provide a full scope of the material covered.
Adults are mostly self-motivated and independent in what they learn from a class. Especially in foreign-language learning, repetition is important to acquire new vocabulary and skills. Practice exercises should provide a range of opportunities to use and repeat the newly acquired skills. Fostering the repetitive process in a safe classroom environment will help to develop new habits and break old ones. It is essential that the repetition not feel like strict, militarized drills but work as a fluid activity to incorporate difficulties that students may encounter.
Many concepts and skills learned in advanced adult classes may be intangible and difficult to conceptualize. Role-play activities can place these hard-to-understand ideas into real-life situations and contexts. Material that can relate to personal experiences is far more useful to adult students. It is important for adults to be able to use what they learn in the world around them. When the subject matter is relevant to an individual's situation, the learning experience is stronger, more enjoyable and more rewarding.
It is not enough to have adult students just learn from the instructor offering information. An important skill that any adult student should be able to learn is actively teaching others. The students should be able to give presentations or teach the material they are covering to the other students in the class. This accesses a number of learning and communication skills and deepens their own knowledge of the subject matter.
- Colorado State University: Teaching Adults
- University of Hawaii: 30 Things We Know For Sure About Adult Learning
- University of Hawaii: Active Learning
- Michigan State University: Techniques for Teaching Adults, And Structuring Your Classroom Presentation
- Oklahoma State University: The Volunteer Teacher Series-Teaching Adults
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