Teaching Adult Learners

The majority of us who teach family history research are teaching adults. Adult learners are a special, highly diverse group. There is a huge amount of research and information about characteristics of adult learners available–a Google search today for the phrase “adult learners” brought up 11.9 million results! A second search for “teaching adults” had 443,000 results.

It’s a great idea, especially for those of us who do not work in the education field, to periodically sample the available literature.

For example, today’s searches brought up this article on eight characteristics of adult learners. [1. Christopher Pappas, “8 Important Characteristics of Adult Learners,” eLearning Industry (http://elearningindustry.com/8-important-characteristics-of-adult-learners : accessed 29 October 2015).]

Another resource from the Journal of Extension discusses the needs of the adult learner, along with an overview of six teaching and learning strategies that best satisfy those needs: lecture, problem-based learning, case studies, educational games, role play, and discussion. [2. Carrie Ota, Cynthia F. DiCarlo, Diane C. Burts, Robert Laird, and Cheri Gioe, “Training and the Needs of Adult Learners,” Journal of Extension 44 (December 2006); Journal of Extension (www.joe.org/joe/2006december/tt5.php : accessed 29 October 2015).]

A third article explained five principles for teaching adults: make sure the students understand “why,” respect that they have different learning styles, allow them to experience what they’re learning, listen for teaching moments and take advantage, encourage your students. [3. Deb Peterson, “5 Principles for the Teacher of Adults,” About.com (adulted.about.com/od/teachers/a/teachingadults.htm : accessed 29 October 2015).]

This one offers tips for teaching adult students–treat them like adults, be aware their classroom skills may be rusty, acknowledge the technology gap, be efficient, and be creative. [4. Brooks Doherty, “Tips for Teaching Adult Students,” Faculty Focus (http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/effective-teaching-strategies/tips-for-teaching-adult-students/ : accessed 29 October 2015).]

There are lots of other great resources in those search results–take advantage of the information quickly accessible on the web to ensure that your genealogy classes and courses are on target for your audience.