Last week we discussed how adult learners are goal oriented. This week, we are going to take a look at how adult learners come into our schools with past experiences.
They walk into our school with a history of how they have performed in school. A history of how school made them feel. It may have been positive or negative and will shape your student’s present perception of education, their self-esteem, and their conduct in class.
Some students may have been poor performers in high school or previous college classes resulting in a lack of confidence or dislike of the classroom and often test anxiety.
They come to our classrooms with established conceptions of education. The impressions that they have gathered over their lifetimes can impact their perceptions of your class.
Understanding these perceptions and working with them can contribute to a more effective relationship with your students.
Consider the following strategies for gaining insight into your students’ past educational experiences.
Learn about your students’ past educational experiences
As you get to know your students, try to understand the kinds of past educational experiences they have had. Did they succeed in previous education? Did they graduate from high school or get a GED? Did they hate school or have a good experience? What subjects did they enjoy? What subjects did they struggle with?
Teach students effective learning and study strategies
Many adult learners will not come to your class well prepared for learning. They may not know how to study, take notes, participate in discussions, or study for exams. Consider taking time at the beginning of your class to provide brief tips on how to take effective notes, study effectively and even participant in classroom discussion.
Sometimes the sheer volume of material in the textbook can be overwhelming, create handouts or study guides that help to zone in on specific information that is the most important.
Provide students with tips on how to study for exams before the first exam you give. If students have a fear of test taking, consider starting with a practice exam to boost students’ confidence. You might even change the name from test to quiz. That will often help relax the student.
Encourage and praise students at every opportunity
You have probably heard me say what gets noticed gets repeated. That is why it is so important to notice when students do things correctly and praise and encourage them for those actions. What gets praised gets repeated. Consider forming the habit of starting each interaction with a positive statement about the student. Negative past educational experiences may significantly damage a person’s self-esteem when it comes to learning. By providing sincere praise and positive feedback at every opportunity, you might be able to increase the self-esteem of your students, which may be reflected in their academic success.
Provide opportunities for success
Try to provide many opportunities for your students to succeed in a safe and nonthreatening environment. For example, give practice tests that you don’t grade or conduct group activities where the risk of failure is limited.
Join us next week for part 3 of Understanding the Adult Learner where we will discuss how adult learners have different learning styles.