The learning style of young learners, although has similarities to Adult Learners, also has many distinct differences.
Young learners are usually in a learning environment because they are directed to learn by their parents or other adults. They learn as they are told it will benefit them in the future. Young adults usually learn what is presented to them by the teacher, like to be challenged, and are open to new ideas. They see an adult teacher as a role model and depend on them for the material they are to learn.
It is important to keep classes interesting to keep the students stimulated and excited about what they are learning. If they like what they are being taught they will absorb it quickly. Young learners usually have a fairly short attention span, are curious and are full of energy; therefore, it is important to keep the class active - changing activities often and using interactive fun activities.
Keeping young learners motivated can also be a challenge. Children are often very demanding, needing the teacher’s attention. They love praise and recognition for their ideas and their good grades. It is important for the teacher to get to know the students and to draw on each student’s ideas, strengths and interests. If the teacher can build on the skills the students have already developed, it will make them feel important and increase their self-confidence.
If young adults act out, disciplinary action may have to take place. It is important to clearly state that the action is inappropriate; but often students are acting out because their needs are not being met. If the teacher looks for ways to involve the student and to recognize what he/she does well, the unacceptable behavior will usually be replaced with a more positive attitude.
Adult learners on the other hand are more self-directed and will take learning seriously, as they are investing in their own education. Adults usually have a purpose in learning and need to see the personal value or reward in taking the classes. Attendance problems are not usually a problem with adults as they are usually there because they want to be. Learning is their Choice.
Adults like to be in control of their lives and feel responsible for themselves; therefore it is important to listen to their needs and ideas and to integrate them into your lesson plans. Although adults learn slower than young learners, they bring many years of life experiences to classes. These experiences and the knowledge they bring can be drawn on to make classes very interesting and interactive. Adults love to share their experiences and can gain in confidence by being listened to and given recognition.
Contrary to young learners, adults can learn through lectures, but they also require a lot of interaction and group activities to keep their attention.
Keeping adults motivated is crucial in their learning process. Giving them recognition for their ideas, and giving them praise for their accomplishments can accomplish this. Some adults have not been to school for many years and are lacking in confidence, it is important to keep them interested and motivated to help them raise their confidence and self esteem.
Other challenges, a teacher may have with an adult class is factors of aging, such as hearing loss, vision problems, mobility and memory. Depending on the demographics, the teacher will have to make concessions.
We can see that there are quite a number of differences in teaching young learners and adults, but there are also similarities. Both groups will require clear instructions from their teachers, and will learn more when being challenged and given praise for what they do well. All people need a climate of Respect, Trust, Support and Fun to be successful in learning. The teacher is there to guide the learning through well-planned and appropriate lessons and to set a comfortable learning environment for the growth of the students.
Thanks to Kathy Hookham