Qualities of a Good Adult Education Instructor

Posted by on December 3rd, 2015

When students return to complete their education, they do not want the same student-teacher relationship they had in traditional high school. They didn’t like the regimen then, and they are hoping for a fresh start now. Good adult education instructors understand the needs of the students and should strive to bring at least seven qualities to master classroom management:

1. Create the Atmosphere

Smaller classes give you the opportunity to develop a positive environment. A no-fear environment helps students open up to realize their full potential. Because criticism inhibits students, you can encourage students to recognize others’ viewpoints while calmly expressing their own. Good instructors draw the parameters for contributing thoughts and ideas and then they step back, directing, not dominating, classroom discussions.

2. Challenge the Thought

Students need guidance in forming opinions. You want to let them stretch their critical thinking, but you need to coach them on differentiating between valid opinion and mere taste. Though they may not articulate it, students are looking for your leadership in how to do this.

3. Walk the Talk

Students look for you to model behavior regarding learning, showing excitement about learning and connecting lessons to real world experience. Students want to walk away with skills and learning they can apply to real life. When you make learning personal and relevant, you give them the tools necessary to succeed beyond the HSE exam.

4. Clarify Expectations

Effective instructors know how to reduce class content to several clear talking points. It can be helpful for you, and beneficial to students, to post those expectations at the beginning of class and to return to them at the end of class. This creates a subtle but governing agenda for the class meeting time. When you can phrase those expectations as belonging to the students, you give them ownership of the outcomes.

5. Reward Promptly

Adult students put a great deal of emphasis on respect. They have often been short-circuited by their earlier education experience when they felt ignored, underrated, or marginalized. Respect comes in many forms, but instructor and student both profit from frequent and timely rewards. Students expect clear metrics for performance, and personalized feedback provides a flexible tool. Rewards needn’t be more than a sincere personal compliment, but they empower student success.

6. Question with Focus

Instructors also show respect when they ask questions in constructive ways. You can phrase a question so that it acknowledges the student’s words and contributions. You can also phrase it to show that you sincerely want and respect the student’s input. Indirectly, you share the value with other classmates and model an approach.

7. Build Relationships

It’s common for adult students to return to school for something larger and more personally rewarding. Instructors should make every effort to build individual relationships with each student. For instance, you can design specific responses to individual challenges presented by students. This creates a class environment where students are respected as individuals.


As your strengths and experience deepen as a teacher, you contribute to your overall profession. Quality professionals show leadership in content expertise, create an atmosphere that is open and affirmative, and employ personal and flexible responsiveness. With each class, your conscientiousness, resilience, and genuine interest builds trust and respect among your students. If you, the instructor, show you are ready to learn, the students will follow – the surest sign of leadership.

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