Get to Know Your Adult Students

Posted by on October 27th, 2015

“They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Though the exact contributor of this quote is unknown, the value still holds true, especially in an educational setting. An essential part of an educator’s role is getting to know his or her students. Getting to know your students provides a foundation of trust and mutual respect upon which you can build meaningful instruction.


Knowing How Your Adult Students Learn

“When students cannot learn the way we teach them, we must teach them the way they learn.” –Howard Gardner

As all students learn differently, part of getting to know your students is also understanding how they learn. Knowing how your students learn allows you to prepare instruction that will cater to their learning styles. In some cases, it may even be necessary to teach a concept multiple ways to make sure all of your students are being reached effectively. The most common learning styles include visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Learners can also be described by more specific learning styles known as multiple intelligences: visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic and logical-mathematical.


Learning Style Inventories

A learning style inventory gives insight on how students learn. Typically administered in questionnaire form, respondents choose an answer that most closely matches their personal preferences. The responses are tallied and grouped into a specific category revealing the individual’s learning style. At the end of the assessment, there is usually a brief general description of each learning style and a few tips on effective instructional methods. Learning style inventories come in a variety of formats including online interactive and more traditional pen and paper methods. A few learning style inventories you can use in your classroom are:

Education Planner Self-Assessment

VARK Learning Style Questionnaire

Edutopia Multiple Intelligences Self-Assessment

Edmunds Community College Basic Printable Assessment


Class Activities

Icebreaker activities are often used to get a group of people moving and more comfortable in a new environment or with a new team. Instructors can also use icebreakers to observe and learn more about their student’s learning styles. A few icebreakers to try are:

Fiery Theater Scenario – Ask students what they are most likely to do if they smell smoke in a theater: yell, run or look around? Have a discussion around which reaction correlates to which learning style.

Make Paper Planes or Origami – Provide students with three pieces of paper. During the first attempt provide verbal instructions. During the second attempt, provide visual and written directions. During the third attempt, only demonstrate the process. Follow the activity with a discussion about which approach was easiest for which students and why.

Kit Corners – Ask students if they have ever had to put together a kit or piece of furniture. Place posters in corners of the room describing an approach to putting together a kit or piece of furniture:

  1. Pick up pieces and start putting them together;
  2. Read the instructions through and then build;
  3. Read the instructions and look at the pieces before beginning; reference picture and instructions throughout the build.

Tell students to go to the corner that best represents their preferred approach. Follow-up with a discussion about each student’s choice and how it relates to their individual learning style.


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