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Making Instruction Relevant

How might adult learner needs and expectations be a basis or foundation to relevant instruction? What are some specific ways (strategies or methodologies) that you can make your instructional content and delivery relevant to student expectations?

In making my instructional content and delivery relevant to student expectations I always want to affirm that human beings need to have something to do; someone to love and something to look forward to.

I always make it a point to "get to know" a student before attempting to educate them. I find this type of "tutoring" is the most effective way to help a student and their particular area of interest. In essence, "I need to know what they need to know". As an art instructor I pretest by having them sketch what they like from their head without my critique or direction. This simple drawing contains much information in it such as skill level, interests, work habits, etc.
Thanks, Dorian

Hi Dorian,
Good idea and a great way to use your subject area as a means to get to know your students. Instead of using an "icebreaker" in your class you are using an "artbreaker" as a means of getting to know your students.

I teach English at a business college, so students often don't see the relevance of my courses. I try to give them real world scenarios and examples of how my courses will play a role in their careers. For example, I'll explain that they need to know the grammar so that they can speak and write correctly as an educated person should.

Hi Kim,
Three words reflect what you are trying to get across to your students. Relevancy, relevancy, relevancy. If they can see application to what they are learning and how it will benefit them they will stay engaged. Keep up the good work.

On various levels, the needs and expectations of the learner tend to be fairly essential in formulating an instructional plan. As a matter of course initialization, as I refer to the entry point of a course, it becomes important to identify the existing skill and knowledge level in order to determine an appropriate launching point. One of the challenges I often face in my particular institution is the fact that course scheduling does not always seem to follow a well-defined sequence, due to course designs that sometimes lack what I would consider suitable definition of prerequisites. Thus, it is not unusual for students to be scheduled for courses for which, from both an instructional and learning perspective, they are not adequately prepared. This sometimes leads to the necessity of some "remedial" material toward the beginning of a course for a certain number of students. In my computer networking courses, for instance, I sometimes find that I am compelled to address basic and fundamental material which is designed to have been covered in previous courses but which a student may not have had an opportunity to be exposed to up to this point due to a sometimes inconsistent scheduling process. As instructors, our continual challenge is to somehow integrate this "prior" material into the current instructional plan. This is where pre-testing certainly becomes quite useful and even necessary.

I've always felt that in the business shcool Where I teach, I as an Instructor need to ready the students for employment. Some of the classes I have, I pretest the students over the entire subject area to be covered on the first day. Some do well and others don't. I discuss with them the results and I save the assessement for the last day of class. When I give the final exam and grade it I return it with the assesement so they can see that they did learn and how they grew within the subject area. With this I hope to help them understand that they can learn and that the knowledge gained will make a difference in their lives.

Hi Gilbert,
What a great way to show concrete grow to your students. By showing them where they were and how far they have come they will see that all of their efforts have been worth while.

An adult learner will tend to learn much less from instruction if they do not see value. Something I believe every facilitator/instructor should address at the beginning of each lesson and each day is the WIIFM. It doesn't matter what you are talking about, a student wants to know why they are spending time in your class, what's in it for me? Sometimes you can determine what the class is expecting just through informal discussion. Asking questions about how they see the subject pertaining in the career field they have chosen. Sometimes the students do not have the correct expectations or have no expectations at all because they do not truly know the career. This is another opportunity to excite the class and give them expectations of value.
I believe each time the class gets together this should be addressed using some of the following discussions:

How learning the lesson will improve the ability to earn money
How learning the lesson will improve the efficiency of completing the task
How learning the lesson will improve the possibilities for job satisfaction
How learning the lesson will improve the possibility of career advancement
How learning the lesson will save time
How learning the lesson will make the career more enjoyable
How learning the lesson will be mentally rewarding

There are many other items that can be added depending on what the subject material being taught is.

Hi Steve,
Excellent way of bringing together why students are in the course. They need to be reminded of why they are there and how each day spent in the classroom is going to enhance their earning potential and satisfaction as a well prepared professional.

I am actually very lucky in this situation. I teach Accounting at a career college. The vast majority of my students are taking this course because they want to and/or they want a job in an accounting related field. From time to time, I will draw on my work experience to give examples of concepts that I am covering in class. I am currently working on bringing in business professionals from the community to speak to my students.

Hi Linda,
You are in a good place as an instructor. Sounds like your students are there because they want to be and are motivated to learn and develop. The see the relevance to what you are teaching them. The use of professionals in the field is always a great motivator. Keep up the good work.

They need to see where things are going, so you should use examples and give them option to make choices

Certainly to present opportunities to adult students for them to mold or shape their learning path whenever possible. I think it is also important to link the course content to a successful career path via my own experience in the field. Avoid fluffing the course content with egocentric, self-agrandising anecdotes that add little or nothing the value of the curriculum.

Hi David,
Yes, adult learners are looking for relevancy and application in relation to their life experiences. Anything instructors can do to create these connections will be valuable. The sharing of one's own life experiences are valuable as well, but with the qualifier as you mentioned to make the examples pointed and related to the content.

One of the things I will ask the class to write down what there expectations are for this course
as well as some things they would like to learn in this class. It gives me an idea of what they would like to learn so i can see if i can incorp. them in to the the lesson in hopes to touch on them.

As in the first forum of this course, asking about individual students needs and expectation - and then listening carefully to their responses - will give me the information I need to allow me to build instructional content that is relevant to those needs and expectations. Without this process, I'd be shooting in the dark - maybe I'd find a target, maybe I wouldn't.

In a Business Communication course, the relevancy for clear, concise, comprehensive written and verbal skills is paramount to a successful any field. Using written and oral communication exercises, both as individuals and in groups allows the students to apply what they have learned in the lectures in various and varied ways. They always enjoy listening to the guest speakers who are brought in to the class; professional public speakers, career guidance counselors, and Human Resource mangagers (to name a few) give presentations on the importance of strong communication skills. At the end of class, there is time for a re-cap of what was covered in the lecture and by the speakers, for students to ask questions and give feedback.

Dr. Meers,

Not all students have the same needs and/or expectations when first taking an online course. One of the first things I do is to use the discussion board to have the students introduce themselves; explain why they are taking the course; prior learning or life experience; and, what their expectations of the course are. This is a good ice-breaker in getting to know each student.

Each week in discussion and seminar, I try to bring their experiences into what area of business we are covering. Many students in my courses are stay-at-home Moms, who may never have been in the workforce. Much of what would apply to a business, also applies to running a home. I can feel their enthusiasm knowing that they do bring relevancy to the topic being discussed.

In addition, a few days before the new week begins, I will send out my “What’s Coming Up in Unit- _”. This email goes into substantial detail that expands on what each of their assignments for that week is asking. Reviewing what is important to consider in doing well on the assignments, web-links providing additional information, and hints that will help them obtain a clear grasp of what is expected. When asked if these help, they overwhelmingly tell me they really do and wish other instructors did the same.

Jim D

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