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Mike Byrnes and Associates, Inc. Publishers
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The Complete Guide to Tractor-Trailer Operations

Tips for Teachers of Adult Learners

Effective instructors understand how adults learn best.

Teacher and StudentAdult learners have special needs and requirements that are different from children. Adults are autonomous and self-directed. They need to be free to direct themselves. They don't study just because the teacher told them to do so! Their teachers must actively involve them in the learning process and serve as facilitators for them. As a teacher of adults, you should guide learners to their own knowledge rather than merely supplying them with facts. Show how the subject of study will help your students to reach their goals.

Adults are goal-oriented. When they enroll in a course, they usually know what goal they want to attain. Those goals may not always be obvious, though. As the instructor of a truck driving course you may think that your students are in class to obtain a CDL, and they are! But students may also have the unstated goal of getting a bettter job or improving their self-esteem by mastering a difficult skill. You'll be especially effective if you identify those unstated goals and show how the course of study will help your students to achieve them as well.

Adults need relevance. They must see a reason for learning something. To be an effective instructor you will show how even the most obscure topic or skill relates to achieving the main goal. That will help you to overcome resistance to learning something that on the surface doesn't appear relevant.

Adults are practical, focusing on the aspects of a lesson most useful to them in their work. They may not be interested in knowledge for its own sake. Instructors must tell participants explicitly how the lesson will be useful to them on the job.

As do all learners, adults need to be shown respect. Instructors must acknowledge the wealth of experiences that adult participants bring to the classroom. These adults should be treated as equals in experience and knowledge and allowed to voice their opinions freely in class.

Tips for the Adult Learner

Adult learners are usually motivated, with much good experience that will Studentsserve them in the classroom. When you hit a particularly challenging part of the course, remember what motivated you to enter the program in the first place.

Adult learners often have a life- or problem-centered focus to learning and usually are genuinely motivated to learn from within. So use the problem that led you to enroll in the program in the first place to power you through the course.

Adult learners often need to stand back and evaluate the educational process to make sure that it is serving their needs. Don't hesitate to ask for help. You're paying for this and should get as much out of it as you can.


Test SheetAdult learners need to let go of preconceived ideas of higher education and keep an open mind. Forget that you didn't do well in school when you were a kid. You're an adult now and it's a whole different ballgame. This is something you have chosen to do, and that will help you to succeed.

It's true that you may have outside pressures and commitments that are distracting to you. Your instructors are experienced in working with adult learners, and they understand. Make it a point to get to know your instructors and training staff. Ask for help if something outside the program is interferring with your ability to focus.

Understand your learning style. Some people learn well by reading. Others prefer to be shown how to do something rather than read instructions. Talk to your instructors when an aspect of the course proves to be especially difficult. They may be able to suggest alternatives when you can't use your preferred learning style. For example, if you find it hard to follow a demonstration, your instructor may suggest a written checklist that will help you to recall what you observed.