Motivating Adult Learners
Teaching and motivating adult learners imply a different approach from the usual practice of teaching young learners - Motivating Adult Learners introduction. Malcolm Knowles (1980, 1984) argues that adult learners are truly different from pre-adult learners, therefore teacher approach should be andragogical and not pedagogical.
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This paper presents the roles of the teacher in motivating adult learners. In the introduction, the author differentiates adult learners from young or pre-adult learners, in what ways they are different, and what strategy should be used to motivate them. The main part discusses the roles of the teacher in motivating adult learners, and finally the conclusion suggests possible alternatives and research recommendations.
An adult learner is different in many aspects from a young learner. As adult learners are more mature and have a wider learning background than young learners, they can be expected to learn more independently and critically. Malcolm Knowles (1980, 1984) suggests that since adult learners are different from pre-adults, teacher approach should be andragogical and not pedagogical. In one study, Beder and Darkenwald (1982), and Gorham (1984, 1985) found out that generally, adult learners are more self-directed and motivated to learn, and are more concerned about the practical applications of learning.
Based on these viewpoints, the way a teacher designs her lesson and assessment tools should be distinctively directed toward adult learning. Factors to be considered to ensure motivation include teacher preparedness, assessment tools, and communication with learners. Generally, to ensure that the learners are motivated well, the teacher should consider their level of understanding and skills on a particular subject. Some details pertaining to their status, location, educational attainment, work, etc. could help when established at the beginning during self-introduction. In addition, drawing out from the expertise of some individuals in the class to create variety and encourage cooperation can also provide positive results. Moreover, encouraging open-line communication would help establish rapport and make the teaching and learning process more productive.
Roles of the Teacher in Motivating Adult Learners
1. Be Prepared.
The learning process is dependent on two things: teacher’s capability and student’s motivation. The capability of the teacher involves his preparedness to teach the lesson. Since adult learners do not need very close supervision, the teacher takes the role of a facilitator instead of an information source. The learners take more part in the activities as actively as possible. This way, the learners feel their valuable role in the class. Apart from academic preparedness, the teacher should also prepare the activities and materials needed to make learning effective.
a. Plan activities.
Making an outline of class activities guides the teacher to attain course goals, and ensures that learner skills are utilized to facilitate learning. In the same way, it provides an advanced view of difficulties in execution, thus allowing adjustments if necessary. As practiced by most teachers nowadays, it is also advisable to inform learners of activities set for the lesson so as to give them an idea of what will transpire, what they can expect to achieve. This way, the learners can gauge for themselves how well they responded to the activities, and how much they have achieved.
b. Photocopy handouts.
If textbooks are not available, photocopying handouts in advance is necessary. Remember that while adult learners have a rich experience, they likewise require more sources to weigh truthfulness of information. As such, the teacher should vary sources and as much as possible, provide up-to-date and relevant information on the topic.
c. Use multi-media presentation.
To sustain learners’ interest, the teacher should make use of powerful presentation techniques such as multi-media presentations. For instance, a Powerpoint presentation will help identify general ideas from specific ones. Also, it creates some elements of surprise as each information pops out the screen during discussion.
2. Assess learner progress.
Regular assessment of learner progress is a must. Adult learners are interested in keeping a record of their achievements and being advised of actions they should take to perform well.
Vary test constructions according to the skills being measured. For instance, multiple choice questions assess learners’ ability for recall, essay questions elicit opinions or understanding of a certain issue, while analogies measure learners’ ability to recognize similarity in qualities.
Asking students to do homework provides follow up exercises to strengthen mastery of skills and knowledge. This further measures students’ responsibility in learning, and also serves as a valuable tool for evaluation.
Oral class presentations can be done individually or by group. Reporting, dramatizing, or demonstrating have been proven as effective ways to motivate learners and to assess creativity.
3. Respond to feedback from learners.
To help evaluate effectiveness of one’s strategies, the teacher may elicit feedback from learners and encourage them to participate. Adult learners appreciate a facilitator who is open to suggestions from the class.
a. Answer questions.
Importantly, the teacher should make it a point to obtain mastery of his/her subject matter, and be able to answer questions from the class. However, there is limit to what the teacher knows, and there are times when the teacher is confronted with a question that is beyond his/her knowledge. In this circumstance, it would be good to tell the learners to allow some time for him/her to find out the answer to the question (probably give the answer next session) or gather other learners’ ideas to answer the question. After all, it is not a sin to admit that teachers themselves have limitations.
b. Clarify expectations.
Adult learners have goals they want to achieve when attending a class. Most often, these goals are the very reasons why they feel motivated to participate in class discussions. At the beginning, the teacher should draw out students’ expectations and identify as early as possible if their expectations could be met. This way, the learners will sustain interest because they are assured that their goals will be met.
c. Implement suggestions.
Telling students that the class is open to suggestions imply an open-line communication. As mentioned above, learners appreciate it if the teacher is also interested in what they think. Moreover, learners should feel the responsibility of being active participants in the class, and give applicable suggestions to make learning more effective.
The role of a teacher in motivating learner behavior is very crucial to the learning process. Evaluating teacher approaches to motivate adult learners should be done regularly to ensure their effectiveness. Also, varying approaches according to learning style and cultural background may prove effective for adult learners. While the teacher’s role is important, the the learning environment also plays a pivotal aspect in the motivation of learners. Truly, no one can learn in a place with too much distractions. Although much has been written regarding motivation of adult learners, research on applicable learning environment for adults seems to be inadequate.
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