Module 1: Creating a Community of Learners

Diversity and Classroom Management:

Accomodating Adult Learners


For some important considerations when dealing with adult learners, read the following excerpts from Stephen Lieb's essay "Adults as Learners."

  • "Adults are autonomous and self-directed. They need to be free to direct themselves. Their teachers must actively involve them in the learning process and serve as their facilitators. Specifically, teachers must get participants' perspectives about what topics to cover and let them work on projects that reflect their interests. Teachers should allow the participants to assume responsibility for presentations and group leadership. They have to be sure to act as facilitators, guiding participants to their own knowledge rather than supplying them with facts. "
  • "Adults have accumulated a foundation of life experiences and knowledge that may include work-related activities, family responsibilities, and previous education. They need to connect learning to this knowledge/experience base. To help them do so, teachers should draw out participants' experience and knowledge that is relevant to the topic. They must relate theories and concepts to their students' prior experiences and recognize the value of experience in learning. "
  • "Adults are goal-oriented. Upon enrolling in a course, they usually know what goal they want to attain. Therefore, they appreciate an educational program that is organized and has clearly defined elements. Instructors must show participants how this class will help them attain their goals."
  • "Adults are relevancy-oriented. They must see a reason for learning something. Learning has to be applicable to their work or other responsibilities to be of value to them. Therefore, instructors must identify objectives for adult participants before the course begins, and try to relate theories and concepts to a setting familiar to participants. Letting participants choose projects that reflect their own interests can fulfill this need."
  • "Adults are practical, focusing on the aspects of a lesson most useful to them in their work. They may not be interested in knowledge for its own sake. Instructors must tell participants explicitly how the lesson will be useful to them on the job."
  • "Adults need to be shown respect. Instructors must acknowledge the wealth of experiences that adult participants bring to the classroom. These adults should be treated as equals in experience and knowledge and allowed to voice their opinions freely in class."