As an instructor working with adults, it's important to know that your presentation will need to vary from what it would be if you were working with small children or young adults. Adults have other things on their minds including family, work, health issues, and a plethora of circumstances that can make staying focused on learning difficult. Couple that with the fact that their educational and technology skills vary and their expectations are high, teaching them can become a tough task. Keep the following things in mind when working with adults.
Most adult students didn't grow up using computers or other forms of technology the way younger students did. Many adults are intimidated by technology while others are simply uneducated on some technology terms, making it difficult to understand what is being taught. To combat this issue, make it clear what technology skills are required to be in the class, if any, and try to create class assignments for the middle level user. Don't make it too advanced or too beginner. Keep your speech during your lecture at the same level. Also, consider creating a handout that defines basic technology terms that you will be using in class. Finally, when determining what types of technology to use when presenting your topic, try to stick to the basics such as a computer and a PowerPoint presentation. If you ask your students to use more advance technology such as forums that they might not understand, you may loose them right from the beginning.
Meet Their Basic Needs
According to the Learning Resources Network (LERN), adults have a difficult time focusing on the topic being taught if their basic needs are not met. To resolve this issue, make sure the temperature where your class is being conducted is appropriate for the season. Don't make it too cold or too hot. Check the lighting before starting class to make sure that all bulbs are operational. Learning will be impeded if your students can't see. Try to provide comfortable chairs and adjust them as necessary. Make the the seat higher or lower, tilt the back forward, and move the arm rests up or down to make sitting in them more comfortable.
Kick Inferiority Complexes
The majority of adult students have not been in class for 20 or 30 years, or more. The idea of going back to the classroom without the knowledge they learned years ago fresh in their minds can be intimidating. Add to that that many students in the room may be twentysomethings and adult learners may feel even more out of place. As a teacher, try not to present yourself as a know-it-all. Use basic, clear language that doesn't come off as arrogant or superior. Talk to your students, not down to them. And never insult them for not knowing the correct answer or for asking a question you feel has an obvious answer.
Each student will bring to the classroom a very varied level of education. Some will have high school diplomas, others will have a PhD, while some will not even have finished any type of formal education. That being said, use easy to understand words and choose textbooks that reach all levels of students. Choosing a book that talks over their heads will only discourage them.
Joseph S. Levine, a professor at Michigan State University, states that adult students would like to take what they are learning and directly apply it to their lives or their jobs. Generic information, in their eyes, is not relevant to their lives. Students in grades K-12 learn things that they may use in the future, while adults want things they can use right away. Keep this in mind when creating your lesson. Try to make it specific to your audience and don't talk in generalities.
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