Posted by Christy Williams on September 25th, 2015
Adults return to a high school education for a number of reasons. Various motives drive them to improve career prospects, to complete goals they had somehow given up, or just to show they could do it. Instructors might prefer students had higher aspirations like the sheer love of learning, but you understand that adult learners need specific attention that determines your teaching methodology. Understanding where they are coming from shows you how to help adult learners apply knowledge to life.
Baggage Students Carry
For many returning adult students, little has changed circumstantially. They may have the same learning disorders, financial limitations, and poor work/life balance. Still, if they are returning, you can assume they have learned to manage their baggage enough to value self-sufficiency.
Among the lasting concerns of adult students are bad memories of boring “chalk ‘n talk” lectures and testing with little relationship to their real life needs. Adult schedules are tougher than during high school days, with work and family pulling adult students several ways. Traditional curricula and institutional schedules can restrict and restrain them. Maturity brings a respect for the need for planning, but students may not be any better at setting goals and determining the strategies to achieve them.
Most traditional schooling emphasized individual and solitary work, causing many students to internalize problems with learning. Teach your adult students the value in diversity and shared experiences as part of the learning process.
Skills that Apply Knowledge to Life
Applying classroom learning to real life situations rewards adult learners, often increasing motivation to learn more. Drawing clear links between lessons and real life needs satisfies their expectations and presents a tangible return on investment. For example:
- Reading Comprehension is important to students’ short-term success and long-term continuing education. Use a variety of text types including magazines, newspapers, blogs and books to teach skills like highlighting, outlining, and summarizing to show how they can be useful beyond the classroom walls.
- Computation Skills apply to much more than simple math. Your students must calculate shopping discounts, build and sustain household budgets, understand and identify credit interest, and compute and file correct taxes.
- Computer Literacy is indispensable at work and home. Keyboarding and office skills let students advance themselves and educate their children. Self-paced tutorials and work-related assignments connect learning with actual life.
- Measurement Specifics let students work on do-it-yourself projects, plot metrics and trends, and illustrate data with graphs and charts.
- Geography no longer lies flat with maps on the wall. Everything is live and dimensional. Smart phones and GPS systems make the world smaller, so while students learn geography, they also discover connections between location, climate, resources, and economy.
Ways You Can Help
The challenge for adult ed instructors is to understand the need to:
- Engage students in self-discovery and self-direction through discussion and inquiry rather than lecture.
- Value student experiences as a source of positive data.
- Create engaging lessons that make education a living experience to draw from.
- Assign projects and activities that link content with real-world needs.
- Use every trick in your pedagogical repertoire, but focus on tools and techniques that give the students flexibility, novelty, and engagement such as tutorials, online interactive activities, and games.
Engaged students learn and apply more, they participate and process more, and they retain and return more. Creating the engagement is both your challenge and personal reward.