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Teaching adult learners

I think its important to remember that even though we are teaching adult learners that does not mean that they act accordingly and we as instructors and teachers need to adapt to each individual personality in our class.


Good point. Some adult learners are less mature relative to social situations or expected academic behavior. We need to help them understand what they need to do to fit in and to excel.

Jeffrey Schillinger

I have had success with having the students teach me the upcoming lecture- they really become engaged and learn the material when they have to present the information.

I agree - number one we need to model and expect our adult learners to follow suit - one bad example and you have lost the class - unless you can turn it into a learning experience of what not to do - second having the students learn the material in a way that makes them feel it is important and that they can learn it well enough to teach it makes them feel accomplished


Having students present to their classmates does work well.

Jeffrey Schillinger


Adult students need to know the "why" in order to feel the effort is worth it.

Jeffrey Schillinger

I have found that when an adult learner understands the rationale, or the principle behind the purpose, they are more likely and willing to respond and communicate in class.

This is very true and very important when working with adult learners. On many ocassions adult learners show more enthusiasm and get more involved and help coach through the different age groups.


Good point. Adults often want to know the "why" before they are willing to accept the "what."

Jeffrey Schillinger


Leveraging students' strengths to help other students is an effective approach. All students come to us with something that will be valuable to their classmates. Sometimes that something is not easy to find, but it is there if we look for it.

Jeffrey Schillinger

I agree with this also. I believe that when someone is working towards a goal they Are more focused and excited about learning. Most adult learners are more motivated to get to their goals.


Thank you for this post. How do you determine the individual motivations of your students?

Jeffrey Schillinger

Hi Elizabeth,

You make an excellent point. I enjoyed reading your comment regarding adult learners and how instructors need to adapt to each individual personality in our classes.

I feel as though adapting to each individual personality can be complemented by encouraging each student to learn. Sometimes this may take the form of remedial instruction, which is sometimes a difficult topic to discuss with a student. However, as our predecessor theorists on learning have hypothesized, certain "milestones," if you will, must be accomplished prior to the acquisition and understanding of new concepts.

In terms of teaching the adult learner, a good majority of adult learners have received their education many years ago, and in addition, I feel as if there are many "loopholes" in people's educational experiences. So, one way in which I would like to adapt to each adult learner in the classroom would be to identify the areas in which each individual student might need remedial instruction, and ensure that fundamental skills are learned. If we can accomplish this objective, then it may be possible to encourage adult learners from a variety of educational backgrounds to become autonomous learners in the academic fields which they pursue.

Again, I think you made an excellent point, thank you for the opportunity to comment.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Thank you for this thoughtful post.

Jeffrey Schillinger

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