Tips for Teaching Adult Students

Learning is a lifelong process. At any age, the classroom can be an inspirational place of learning where students feel a sense of pride and accomplishment.

  • As children and teenagers, we are required to go to school to gain a higher education that will assist us in navigating the adult world.
  • As adults, we are not required to go to school; however, for a variety of reasons we choose to return to the classroom.

It is important for adult educators to understand that there are several different methodologies involved in successfully training or teaching adult students.

Below are a few tips for teaching adult learners:

Relationship Building

Trust is an important element of adult learning especially when the participant is learning a brand new skill. Many times a participant in the training room or classroom finds it an intimidating place to be and as such becomes nervous and potentially closed off to the learning experience.

You can start building a trusting on the first day of a course by introducing yourself to your class. Provide them with some information about your background, why you are an adult educator and what you will be training etc.

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Once you have introduced yourself have the participants introduce themselves. Provide yourself with the opportunity to learn and gain an understanding about the participants are, why they are taking the course and what they want to learn.

Life Experience

Adult learners are self-directed individuals who bring to the classroom a wealth of knowledge and a unique life experience.

This knowledge and life experience shape an individual’s thoughts, ideas, concepts and opinions and creates a foundation from which they will base all of their learning.


When facilitating a class with adults it is important to make the material relevant to each individual in the class. Have participants know and understand how the information being presented will influence their lives.

For example, are they learning a new skill that they can apply at work, at home or in their everyday life? How will this new skill or knowledge benefit them? If they don’t already know what’s in it for them you can help them find out!

Ultimate Goal

Adult learners like to begin their learning with a goal in mind. What is it that they are going to accomplish and how will this accomplishment be measured?

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At the start of any training session, it is important to discuss or display the specific objectives of the course.

For example, if you are teaching a class on computer skills for beginners the course objectives could include: learning the basic elements of a computer as well as how to turn a computer on, how to navigate the Internet and how to save information to a disk.

By presenting objectives, learners will understand what the end goal of the course will be. They will have a clear understanding of what they will be expected to accomplish or demonstrate at the end of the training.

Learning Styles

Successfully learning occurs when a facilitator utilizes a variety of training methods that will incorporate the learning style(s) of the individuals in the classroom. Visual, auditory, and hands-on learning are three ways in which an individual can take in information.

Some examples of training methods that incorporate various learning styles include:

  1. Lecture: auditory learning
  2. Class Discussion: auditory learning
  3. Reading: visual learning
  4. Video: visual learning
  5. Practice: hands-on learning
  6. Role Play: visual, hands on and auditory learning
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Using a variety of training methods for each topic will help participants successfully learn and understand the topic or skill being taught.

Patience and Understanding

It is critical to demonstrate a wealth of patience and understanding at all times.

If you embarrass a member of your class or show impatience with their pace of learning or with the questions they are asking you will negatively impact their self-esteem, confidence, trust and ability to learn.

Participants will quickly pick up on your tone, expression and body language and respond accordingly.

If your actions are interpreted as condescending or closed-off you risk losing members of your class as well as your credibility.