Teaching and Learning Methods for Adult Learners

By Anthony .M. Wanjohi:
Adult education takes on many forms, ranging from formal class-based learning to self-directed learning and e-learning. This article explores 4 key methods that can be used to teach adults. These include: Lectures and assignments, demonstration, group work and dialogue.

Lectures and assignments.
Lectures that encourage class participation and questions from adult learners have been found to be among the best methods for teaching adult education, particularly if there are a number of real life examples included in the lectures. Lectures combined with assignments work good for adult learners. Problem solving assignments, for example, as well as papers or assignments that require additional research beyond the scope of the class can help to encourage additional learning and give adults the ability to apply concepts in different situations. In class situation, short-time assignments that can be discussed in a class set up is also a good approach. Discussion develops adult learner’s skills in analyzing situations and thinking critically. Their view points may even differ from those of their teachers.

Demonstrations are done in order to provide a mental picture through visual learning tasks. A teacher may use experimentation to demonstrate ideas. A demonstration may be used in the circumstance of proving conclusively a fact. This could be through reasoning or showing evidence. Adults can at times be quite skeptical in teaching and learning process. Thus, teaching with evidence is a powerful tool. If the adults can not only hear but see what is being taught, it is more likely they will believe and fully grasp what is being taught.

Group work.
One of the benefits of group work is increased social integration. Social integration has been shown to have a significant positive effect on retention. Small groups of adult’s learners at the same level of career maturity create a social environment that motivates them to persist in the learning process. Group work allows adults to share and to learn from their very experiences, skills and values. This is an internationally supported tenet of adult education.

This is a two way approach. It helps adult learners to interpret and incorporate facts into their experiences. In using this approach, it is also important to solicit opposing viewpoints and encourage participation among adult learners. Dialogue can be used in classroom situation or in an Internet forum.

Teaching adult learners can either be a quite rewarding experience or a very frustrating one depending on the method(s) one uses. Teachers are hoped to benefit from the brief overview of some of the key approaches to teaching adult learners. It is the duty of each to establish the approach that befits a particular group of adult learners. There are however other methods that can still be used to teach adult learners: Scaffolding which involves empowering learners with their own authority. Praxis involving the idea of doing while learning and constructivism approach in which learners gain deep understanding when they act on new information with their present knowledge and resolve any discrepancies which arise. Teaching adult learners should therefore be symbiotic, where both parties benefit from the learning experiences. A teacher in this case is simply an adjudicator in a choir of learners.