5 General Principles of Teaching Adult Learners

As a language instructor with 8 years of experience, I feel that I have developed sufficient sense of knowing the needs of my adult students and how to fulfill them by maintaining some general principles in class, be it in IELTS or Business English training. They are not the result of some careful research, mind you. They are simply tips that I have experienced with mostly satisfactory outcome. So here they are:

Source: Penn State for Adult Learners
1. Treat them with respect

As opposed to children classes where you can exercise a degree of control, dealing with adult learners require you to treat them with respect. You may hold the authority in class, but your social position is no different than theirs and all of you have achieved some degree of education in various fields. You may be an expert at what you do, but they are also good at what they do. So there is no need to boss around like some of our old teachers used to do to us. πŸ˜‰

2. Use their source of knowledge & expertise

As I mentioned above, they, too, have gained some knowledge in various fields and you should use it to everybody’s benefit. In this case, a trainer can assume the role of facilitator and he or she can simply moderate the discussions. Of course they will turn to you for final comments or if they need some adjudication, but you will find it more enriching if you can learn from one another.

3. Recall their prior knowledge

This is more into the technical aspect of language teaching. As adult learners, your students may have been exposed to the target language that you are about to teach. Therefore, you really don’t need to start from zero and just try to recall those memories by using a series of elicitation techniques or concept-checking questions.

4. Put extra efforts in correcting old habits

We all know that old habits die hard. The students are so used to making common mistakes that they don’t see anything wrong with them anymore. Try to put some efforts in correcting their old habits such as pronunciation or subject-verb agreement. The best way to correct their pronunciation is by exaggerating every syllable so that they can follow you with relative ease.

Source: Fortress Learning
5. Maintain a good rapport

Finally, teaching adult learners is practically making a connection to a group of people that may potentially become long-lasting friends. Therefore, try your best to know who they are and what they do and take an interest in what they like. You will find out that by connecting to them as equals, you will be rewarded with their respect and friendship, too.


More takes on this theme can be found in Daily Prompt: Teach Your (Bloggers) Well.

6 thoughts on “5 General Principles of Teaching Adult Learners

  1. What a very nice tips. I ever worked also as English instructor, but I guess I wasn’t as good as you. Now, am missing my 24 hours english zone where I could really practice my English like every time. Situation has changed, I resigned, then my english community lost.
    It’s nice to be in your class anyway πŸ™‚


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