Advantages of Teaching Adult Students and Implications on Teacher’s Methodology
2018-12-27 Linda Dunsmore Alumni Experiences
How does teaching adults differ from teaching young learners? To most people, it should be rather obvious that teaching children is very different from teaching adults, due to adults being more mature and having more life experience than children. This article discusses the advantages of teaching adult students and what the implications on a teacher’s methodology are. Adult learners refers to anyone who is above the age of eighteen. Although it is not a perfect definition, we will nevertheless use eighteen as our cut-off age since it is the most common age threshold in many language schools when it comes to deciding whether a student should go to a children’s class (6-17 in many occasions) or an adult’s class (18+).
This post was written by our ITTT graduate Yuwei L.
Three Main Advantages When Teaching Adults
First, their level of maturity is higher, and hence, behavioral problems are minimal. Therefore, teachers do not need to concern themselves with class discipline as much as with young learners.
The second advantage when teaching adults is the fact that adults are often learning the language out of their own volition, leading to a higher level of motivation compared to children. In fact, most adult learners will see the practical application of learning English and how learning a new language, especially the current lingua franca of the world, can open different employment opportunities to them. As a result, adults are more likely to put in the amount of time and effort necessary to successfully learn a new language, in comparison to their younger counterparts.
Finally, the last advantage when teaching adults is the fact that a teacher has an easier time bonding with his adult students, compared to young learners. It is generally easier for adult students to be upfront about their interests, hobbies, backgrounds and aspirations, in comparison to their younger counterparts. This, in turn, will allow the teacher to get to know his students better, which will greatly help the teacher when choosing future course material and discussion topics.
How can these advantages influence one’s teaching methodology?
First, considering that adults have a higher level of maturity, the teacher can start debates and class discussions on various issues to practice the student’s speaking and listening skills in the classroom. At the same time, these types of activities allow students to put all language points they have previously learned in practice. The students’ higher level of maturity will ensure that they can conduct these debates in a respectable and orderly fashion, whereas children will often resort to “words-shouting” and “name-calling” to each other before waiting for their own turn to present their argument. Furthermore, their arguments might end up being illogical and nonsensical, which would make it harder for the other students to follow up with their own arguments.
Adult Students Are Highly Motivated
Secondly, the fact that adult students are more motivated to learn means that they are more likely to put more time and effort into their classwork, which in turn lead to better results. Even if some of the classwork might be boring, the motivation of learning a new language can often be strong enough to overcome the dullness of these tasks, which, although boring, are still crucial to the success of learning a language. In fact, it is not uncommon for adult students to ask the teacher for extra practice sheets and external resource materials to consolidate what they have learned in the classroom, whereas such behavior is almost non-existent among children. As we can attest, the higher motivation allows teachers to implement more worksheets to their course material, which could be harder with a group of young learners who might not be attending the language course out of their own free will.
A Good Rapport Leads To New Ideas
Finally, the fact that teachers can easily bond with their students allows the teacher to understand their students’ interests and aspirations, which can in turn give the teacher some fresh teaching ideas. For instance, if a student says he enjoys travelling to different countries, the teacher can then have a class devoted entirely for the class to learn vocabulary used when travelling around. In contrast, it is hard to use the same method with young learners, since children might not talk about their interests and aspirations as openly as their older counterparts. This in turn, makes it harder for the teacher to calibrate his courses towards the students’ interests. Furthermore, even if children do share their interests with the teacher, it might be hard for the teacher to implement their interests in a language course setting, in comparison to the hobbies and interests of adult students.
Now you are ready to teach English abroad!
Teaching adults is very different from teaching young learners. Adults generally have higher level of maturity and motivation which can make them easier to teach, in comparison with their younger counterparts. Furthermore, the fact that teachers have an easier time bonding with their adult students makes teacher-student interaction much more enjoyable for both parties. However, despite all these advantages, teaching adults also has its downsides. Erratic attendance, often tired coming into the classroom and their personal problems might spill into the classroom. Nevertheless, I still believe teaching adults is an enjoyable and enriching experience for all teachers. Moreover, knowing how to interact with students of all age groups will be a very useful asset for any language teacher.
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