With the emphasis on life-long learning, a teaching career may involve teaching adults. Working with adult students is very different from teaching children. Some experts say there are five principles that are true about how adults learn.
It’s interesting that many adults decide to go back to school following a life-changing event such as marriage, divorce, being fired, retiring, or moving to a new location. Learning can be a coping mechanism. They also may seek out learning opportunities before or during these events take place as a way to help transition. Most adults seek knowledge they can immediately use, and apply what they have learned to their work or life.
Adult learners bring with them their life experiences, and learn best through discussion. A good teacher will use open-ended questions to draw out knowledge in discussion groups. This is very important since studies have shown that adult learners need to actively participate in order to learn. They also prefer self-directed learning more than group experiences so they can control the pace of a project.
Classroom teachers who work with adults need to make sure the learning environment is comfortable. To remain engaged, an adult student needs to feel physically comfortable as well as safe in the learning process – long periods of sitting, negative interaction with other students and feelings of inferiority can impact an adult student’s classroom experience. Structured activities are a more effective way to present information than lecturing. The adult learner sees the teacher as a facilitator. They want to feel in control of their learning pace, and look to a teacher to organize the environment.
With so many adults going back to school, the need for teachers in adult classrooms is expected to grow in the next decade. Universities have begun offering classes in adult education and certificates in Teaching Adult Learners.