Adult Teaching: Theory and Application

The current educational and academic environment is characterized by the increasing number of adult people who are willing to learn something new. Therefore, adults may apply for college in order to acquire a new specialization. The ability of adults to learn has been a comprehensive discussion among educators worldwide. One thing they agree on is that the theories and practices of teaching adults are drastically different from teaching K-12 or college students. There are several reasons for this, which include memory, attention span, and the ability to self-study. Currently, it is even more challenging, concerning the online teaching aspect, which affects the learning process in various ways that have different implications.

As a professional educator, an individual must consider that different people have various learning requirements, especially among adults. The process of teaching adult people, as mentioned by Bidabadi et al. (2016), is called Andragogy. Research emphasizes that to teach adults, educators must follow several main principles. In particular, the initial point that a teacher has to explain to a grownup learner is autonomy which represents taking control and responsibility for a person’s learning. As Black et al. (2017) explains, adult people have a significant number of their own beliefs, values, and opinions. Thus, to teach a mature person effectively, a teacher has to explain every detail of the teaching method. Moreover, a teacher has to clarify why one requires to learn the phenomena being presented. Unless an adult learner can fully grasp the value of the material, they would not be completely engaged in the learning.

Similar to children, adults exceed at learning by doing, therefore, to understand the material, they need to practice. As mentioned by Kolinsky et al. (2019), who was teaching mature people literacy, he preferred to give practical lessons rather than theoretical ones. That is because grownups tend to learn better through experience rather than mundane theory. As proven by Giorgdze & Dgebuadze (2017), some children also have the tendency to learn better through practical sessions. Interactive teaching methods which include teaching through practice must consist of comprehensive sessions and methodologies, which are aimed at improving one’s performance.

Moreover, another successful teaching method is the relevance of the training program. Adults need to understand that the content of their learning program is meaningful and relates to their personal opinion as well (Black et al., 2017). Nonetheless, younger students are different in this perspective because they tend to listen to teachers and ask questions less frequently compared to adults. While grownups expect to apply the acquired knowledge and skills in their lives, students do not have such a requirement, especially in school programs.

Furthermore, adult learners rely on their life experiences during learning. Whether they apply past occurrences to topics being learned or speak in foreign languages, the educational material should incorporate the knowledge that they already have. On the contrary, young learners do not need to rely on their existing skills because they are able to learn independently from their backgrounds. Besides, because of their ability to study the material not relying on their previous knowledge, young students assimilate the content much faster than adult learners. For this reason, an educator has to tie the learning process with the past experiences of an older person to create an environment for further learning.

Speaking about current tendencies and distance learning, adults demonstrate a tendency to reduce their productivity due to low computer literacy. Their productivity depends on physical contact with the teacher, and to learn more quickly, they have to be in the same room as their educators (Ciobanu, 2018). On the contrary, young people are not as dependent on the physical presence of a teacher, because they can learn by themselves via technology. In addition, adults need effective delivery techniques, such as audio, reading, writing, and visual learning to ensure that they truly understand the material provided.

Moreover, practice is another crucial aspect of mastering the material. It should be used for both young and adult learners, although younger people are also capable of understanding theory. If an educator wants to engage their student (whether grownups or not) in the learning, he or she expects to present a problem that needs to be solved. Practical issues in an educational setting allow them to develop self-efficacy skills in future tasks, and they prepare mature learners to learn by themselves outside the class (Office of Educational Technology, 2017). The more an individual is able to practice their skills, the greater this knowledge would have on multiple areas of personal development. The same pattern can be attributed to younger students because they also tend to learn more effectively via practice.

Furthermore, adult learners want to see their personal development as soon as possible which means that it is essential that they are learning quickly. However, the educational ambitions that learners have may be ambitious and unachievable and may result in failure. Therefore, an educator must ensure that there is at least some progress to boost the learner’s ego and motivation to learn more. This factor should also be considered in the teaching programs because, as learners grow old, their desire to participate in different programs deteriorates if they cannot reach the desired sense of achievement (Cudney & Ezzell, 2017). This can include some promotion or other external drivers like verbal praise. Speaking about the younger generation, they also need encouragement, although in their case, an incentive can be a sticker, a good grade, or verbal praise from a teacher (Nold, 2017). It is essential to reward every generation to boost their motivation. If one does not receive any reward from an educator, one’s interest can vastly deteriorate.

In addition, a vast majority of corporate training for adults is based on school models of education. One thing that can be considered different is the lack of homework for adults which is why some information can be forgotten (Tennant, 2019). To have a better performance at corporate training, adult learners need to complete their homework. In that matter, the learned content would be better remembered, because homework can be considered a form of independent practice. However, this model can also show an opposite effect on the people who lack internal motivation to learn particular subjects (Tennant, 2019). An educator has to possess a skill with the help of which they can determine the type of motive a person needs.

Moreover, for an adult to learn more efficiently with the use of new technological advances, an educator must create a program based on the individual expectations of a person by using all the adult learning theories. This includes starting a course that will be appealing to the particular population with specific educational expectations. The methods and teaching styles should meet the specific requirements of the client. Mature learners have to know every aspect of the particular program to motivate themselves. The online programs should include clear explanations from the educator, aiming for practical use (King, 2017). Adult learners may use the knowledge presented to them outside the class, that is why it is required to include homework. As described earlier, this peculiar teaching method is called Andragogy. Thus, it is essential to use this method when teaching an adult person online. More practical work and more simple explanations are the appropriate way to teach a grownup.

To conclude, there are many methods concerning teaching and learning, and they can differentiate from one person to another depending on their preparation levels and educational goals. Adults and younger people indeed tend to learn in contrasting ways, and there is a specific requirement for an educator to appeal to each person and meet his or her needs. However, to appeal to the adult segment of learners, the educator must deliver his or her program as simple as possible to facilitate engagement in the process. Moreover, one should intend to make the program focused on self-studying more which is also aimed at developing practical skills. Focusing on possible problems allows adult students to develop self-efficacy skills in future tasks, and it prepares mature learners to act independently outside the class. In addition, the achievements of mature learners must be encouraged to boost their motivation significantly. Combined with practical homework tasks, it can be an effective method of teaching grownups.


Bidabadi, N.S., Isfahani, A.N., Rouhollahi, A., & Khalili, R. (2016). Effective teaching methods in higher education: Requirements and barriers. Journal of Advances in Medical Education and Professionalism, 4(4), 170-178.

Black, L., Christensen, N., Furze, J., Huhn, K., Vendrely, A. & Wainwright, S. (2017). Clinical reasoning: Survey of teaching methods, integration, and assessment in entry-level physical therapist academic education. Physical Therapy, 97(2), 175-186. Web.

Ciobanu, N.R. (2018). Active and participatory teaching methods. European Journal of Education, 1(2), 69-72. Web.

Cudney, E.A., & Ezzell, J.M. (2017). Evaluating the impact of teaching methods on student motivation. Journal of STEM education innovations and research18(1). Web.

Giorgdze, M. & Dgebuadze, M. (2017). Interactive teaching methods: Challenges and perspectives. International E-Journal of Advances in Education, 3(9). Web.

King, K.P. (2017). Technology and innovation in adult learning. John Wiley & Sons.

Kolinsky, R. et al. (2019). The Wiley handbook of adult literacy. John Wiley & Sons.

Nold, H. (2017). Using critical thinking teaching methods to increase student success: An action research project. International Society for Exploring Teaching and Learning29(1), 17-32. Web.

Office of Educational Technology. (2017). Reimagining the role of technology in education. Web.

Tennant, M. (2019). Psychology and adult learning: The role of theory in informing practice. Routledge.

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