Depending on what type of teaching role you might expect to find yourself in or if you are researching a career in education, it is important to know the difference between teaching adults and children.
Whether you are teaching a large class of children or a small group of adults, there are different approaches you need to take that are suitable to your students.
Here are some of the some of the main differences between teaching adults and children:
If you have ever taught children or even just one single child then you know how difficult it can be to keep their concentration for the full duration of a lesson. Children can be filled with energy and get distracted easily or the opposite, tired and sleepy and looking like they’re about to drift off at any second. The more children in a class, the more variations you have to deal with on a daily basis which can be exhausting.
Generally, adults are easier to manage in a class due to the fact that they have made the decision to take the class and are actively trying to learn. However, there still is classroom management involved with adults. Adults are more opinionated and argumentative than children so the teacher needs to be able to control the class and make sure that no discussions become too heated. This can lead to problems within the class along with taking away from whatever class plan you might be following.
Content of the class
The content in classes is very different. Children need to be given a wide variety of topics throughout the day that appeal to all of their senses. They are usually fairly simple content wise and made specifically for the classes age or grade. Each topic gets a shorter amount of time than adults would have with it, in order to keep the kids’ attention.
Content for adult classes is more complex and usually related to the students’ lives. Adult students stay interested in a topic if they can talk about their own experiences. This is also easier to talk about than a fixed subject that they might have no interest in. Instead of lessons being tailored to their grades, adult classes are usually made to focus more on their learning goals, for example, a conversation focused English class.
When it comes to children and what they are expecting to get from your class, as long as they have fun doing what they are doing, they’ll be happy. The kids’ parents are who you have to please when it comes to learning. If the parents feel as thought their children are not learning at a fast enough pace they will be quick to have a word with you about it. Part of a child’s education is their participation in activities with other students and while the parents might want constant drilling exercises, I’m sure the children won’t be doing much complaining.
Adults, on the other hand, are usually paying for their own education and are doing it for a purpose, normally something work related. Therefore, they have high expectations and expect to leave the classroom satisfied every time. It only takes one class they feel is sub-par to have doubts about your teaching capabilities and probably will voice their opinion to you or the people who employ you.
Enthusiasm and participation
As long as there is a fun aspect to learning, children have no problem participating. They are more willing to partake in activities with other students and don’t have a problem getting along with others if that means they don’t have to learn something from the board or do some sort of written exercise. Children are also not afraid to make mistakes and are more willing to speak up.
As I’ve already said, adults take classes because they want and expect to learn but it can be harder for a teacher to encourage adults to speak up and participate in class. Adults are more scared than children of making mistakes and fear embarrassment in a group of their peers. Also, in adult classes there are often much larger age gaps between students, the youngest could be around 20, whereas the oldest could be any age really. It is important to make sure all students feel comfortable talking in front of others because some might feel as if they don’t belong, if they are much older or younger than the rest of their classmates.
Relationship with students
In a class of children, the teacher is the authority figure and has to ensure that nobody in the class crosses the line in terms of their behaviour. While a teacher must remain the authority figure, they can become someone the children admire and for the teacher, they can be very protective of their students because of the bond they form together.
In a class of adults, a teacher can be roughly the same age as their students or in some cases they can be a lot younger. In these classes, a teacher can feel intimidated by their students, especially if the students are well-established professionals. On the other hand, they can be quite interesting for all involved. Conversations are more fulfilling and friendships can be formed between the teacher and their students.
There are many differences between teaching a class of adults and children. Both types of classes have their own challenges but both can be highly rewarding. Any teacher can find themselves feeling under pressure but always remember that the students are there to learn and all you can do is give them the best education you can.