Methods to teach adults are very different from those of teaching children. Having different life experiences and different sets of background knowledge, Adult educators can make assumptions of their adult students that they would not make of children.
Malcolm Knowles’ Five Principles of Andragogy or the practice of teaching adults
Pioneer in the study of adult learning, Malcolm Knowles gave five principles that should be practiced while teaching adults.
He told that under the following circumstances, adults learn the best:
- When the learning is self-directed.
- When the learning utilizes background knowledge and is experiential.
- When the learning is relevant to current roles.
- When the instruction is problem-centered.
- When the students are motivated.
By using these five principles, both adult educators and learners will achieve greater success in the classroom.
Self-directed learning is the first principle to teach adults which is not used when teaching young children. Adult learners are independent of their teachers to provide opportunities and to guide them; however, young learners are dependent on the teachers for the same. Adult learners know their areas of interest, being self-confident and mature enough they know how to learn the best. Adult learners do not require help in developing goals or acquiring resources; instead, they require plenty of space and support of adult educators.
Students can choose their preferred learning style (visual, auditory or kinesthetic) to design their studies which are another advantage of self-directed learning. Visual learners benefit from the use of diagrams, illustrations, and graphs. They rely entirely on pictures, as they learn only when shown what to do and how to do. Auditory learners learn the best when told how something should be done, and through their ears, they draw the new knowledge by listening carefully. Kinesthetic learners experience the most success by performing things through a degree of trial and error.
Using Experiences as a Resource
Adult educators can make the most from the experiences of adult learners, no matter what their age is and what kind of life they have lived so far. Theses experiences or background knowledge can be utilized in the classroom as a resource.
Adult educators should use irregular stores of background knowledge to enrich instructions. Different students coming from different walks of life have life experiences of unfamiliar things; some are experts in an area from which others can gain benefits while learning. Authenticity and spontaneity are the most powerful moments that come from sharing.
Relevance of Material
Those subjects which give immediate pay-offs are usually preferred by the adult students when they choose to learn. They should be allowed to design their curriculum as the material they have is of little use and is not relevant to the roles they occupy.
The job of adult educators is to fulfill the needs of their students and should be able to teach to their roles. Adults always have something to accomplish; probably they have busy lives which Educators should always keep in mind. They, therefore, identify an area of need for themselves, now the educators must ask and listen to them about the experiences and their desires.
Adult learners, unlike young learners, are very knowledgeable and flexible and do not take much time to learn unfamiliar subjects. This is due to their daily practice of problem-solving and thus learning and improving each time. Adults don’t want to learn anything not related to their life or about abstract things.
Rather than approaching their teaching one subject at a time, adult educators should tailor their instructions to the specific problems faced by the students. The quality of instruction is more important than topic coverage, and it is important to spend more time doing than learning.
Motivation to Learn
“Learning only begins when the student is ready”, no matter how hard a teacher tries. It is a challenge to get past the uneasiness of adult learners. A certain degree of apprehension is expected in them, as it can be intimidating for some of them to return to schools after several years.
Those adults are already motivated who have chosen to go back to school and are eager to grow their knowledge. Encouraging this motivation and helping students to maintain their positivity towards learning is the ultimate goal of the adult educators.
It is important to show to your students that their interests are valued by being flexible and discussing the topic initiated by them. Also, it is the role of the teacher to listen carefully and take advantage of the teaching moments. Sometimes there are adult students even in the international high school and are treated equally as other students.