Classroom Practices for Learners of All Ages

As you look out over your classroom this semester, there will be a variety of learners from ages 16 to 64-plus staring back at you. While it may seem like there is a vast difference in their learning preferences and backgrounds, the reality is they have a lot in common.

If we compare the schedule and habits of a traditional freshmen with that of working adult students, planning our classes becomes easier. Each group needs structure, including a course calendar with firm deadlines and guidelines for assignments. Traditional freshmen often need to learn to take responsibility for their academic progress and meet deadlines. Adult learners who are often balancing work, family, and school need these items to manage their time. Both groups study chunks of material in smaller blocks of time, often fitting them in around other activities. They will also be comfortable emailing you at all hours of the day or evening with questions. As instructors, we can help students by designing our material into chuncks that can be studied in 30 minute blocks of time. If we also provide our students with a predetermined and well-communicated set of times when we will check our email and respond to questions, we establish a study, question, and response time pattern. Establishing that routine can ease student anxiety and help you manage your overflowing inbox.

Lastly, students of all ages search for relevancy. Why do they need your course? What will they learn? Will they use that information later in life? Is this course merely a hoop to jump through on the road to an academic degree? If we as instructors can relate to students and provide them with a connection to current events, business trends, and workplace skills, we automatically increase the value of the course. So, as you look out over your classroom this semester, look for the similiarities between your students. The connections you make today will improve your classroom tomorrow.

Sherri Singer
Adjunct Institute Coordinator and Department Head
Alamance Community College