Top 10 Instructional Methods for Adults

Posted by on January 26th, 2016

No learners are the same. As a result, classroom instruction should be just as diverse as the students being served. Adult learners are a more unique group of learners because they bring a lifetime of experiences and perspectives to their educational pursuit. Because their experiences vary along with their motivators, it is important that you choose wide-ranging instructional methods to reach them. Ten examples for effective adult education instruction include:

1) Pretests. Pretests assess what students know prior to beginning instruction. Because adults have a range of experiences behind them, using pretests will allow you to see what information learners have already been exposed to. The pretest data will help you determine how much, if any, time should be devoted to a particular topic based on prior knowledge.

2) Units of Instruction. Thematic units of instruction organize material across subjects around a central theme. The integration of subject matter across curriculum strengthens the learner’s ability to apply knowledge or skills in a variety of contexts.

3) Lecture-Demo. Lecture-demonstration instruction provides examples of what the speaker is discussing. This method can be teacher led or flipped for adult students to lead the discourse.

4) Case Study. Case studies allow students to apply a theory, or concept, to a real-life problem. The outcome can be fact-driven with a specific solution or solved by multiple solution possibilities.

5) Small Group Project. Small group projects require students to work cooperatively. Working together on projects, presentations and other assignments helps to strengthen communication and collaboration skills. Communication and collaboration are among the most sought after skills of employers.

6) Debate. A debate is a discussion presenting opposing views on a topic. Utilizing debates as an instructional method requires student research while building their knowledge, organization and oratory skills. Debates can be formal or informal.

7) Class Discussion. Class discussions move the instructional focus away from the teacher and allow students to become active participants. Students are required to use critical thinking skills to craft their responses and evaluate the contributions of others. The previous experiences of adults help to make connections between concepts.

8) Panel Presentation. Panel presentations assemble individuals with varying perspectives on a particular topic for dialogue. The result is exposure to a wide range of viewpoints. Panels can be formed using outside experts or with students as panelists.

9) Individual Instruction. Individual instruction focuses on providing tailored lessons to learners. This is an effective method for adult learners because of the prior knowledge and experience they bring. You can use their individual knowledge as a starting point when targeting their specific needs.

10) Individual Reports. Individual reports are a way for adult learners to present their knowledge on a given subject. Reports can be oral or written. The research and compilation skills driven through this learning approach translate into many roles that learners may pursue in the workplace.

While numerous instructional methods exist, the most useful approaches for adults involve skills that will build on their prior knowledge and translate into their careers and other life areas. Projects focusing on real-life scenarios offer opportunities for students to see the learned skills at work. Assignments requiring presentations help to strengthen oral and written communication skills that will be useful in the work place, home and community settings.


In addition, discussions and individualized plans help learners increase their confidence as they develop their voice. The combination of these types of activities help to create success for adults both in and outside of the classroom.


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