The Difference Between Teaching Children and Adults

I was once asked in an interview what I thought the difference was between teaching adults and teaching children.

There is of course the obvious factor that adults are in a classroom because they want to be there and because, for the most part, they have chosen to study the subject you are teaching. Children on the other hand are in the classroom because the law states that they have to be. You would think therefore that the adults would be more motivated.

However, children have learnt to learn, whereas adults have forgotten how. Children come to school each day expecting to learn, and they know that they will be required to put in some effort and take responsibility for their own learning. Adults arrive at their evening class tired after a full day at work and think that sitting in a lesson and just listening is the same as learning. Children are prepared to practise a new skill for a longer period of time because they know they need to. Adults tend to try one or two examples and decide that’s enough, so they don’t complete the embedding process. I’m not criticising. I’m often guilty of this myself.

So much for the difference in learning between adults and children. What about teaching methods? When I first started out I thought that teaching adults and children would be very different. I imagined that teaching adults would be a lot more serious, but this turned out not to be the case. I discovered that the more games I introduced, the more the adults engaged with the lesson and the better they learnt. Songs and video clips proved equally popular. After talking to other teachers of adults I have come to the conclusion that there really is no difference in methods that work.

So, back to the original question: What is the difference between teaching adults and children? I think the main difference is the content and context rather than style. Depending on the subject adults may require content to be more in-depth than children, or they may wish to focus on a smaller area such as handling money and paying household bills. I wouldn’t teach children how to order a beer in a foreign language, whereas this is a favourite for adults! Context for children will focus on their limited life experiences, and relate to school, playground games, holidays. Adults will be less interested in school and playtime, but will relate to the context of work, home and holidays.

What do you think the main differences are?

For language, maths or English tuition in the north Birmingham, Sandwell and Walsall area visit www.sjbteaching.com.  For links to other interesting education-related articles, please like my facebook page.

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