Friday, December 28, 2012

The Differences Between Adults & Younger Learners

Adult classrooms and young learner classrooms have many similarities and differences and knowing these before teachers start planning is critical. 


  •  Adult learners are independent, self- directed and goal oriented. They come to the classroom knowing what they want to achieve whereas young learners are dependent on the teacher. Some may choose to go to school but parents and government require them to go to school.
  • Adult learners enjoy being involved in the planning and learning process and are often critical of the teaching methods. For young learners, learning is more social and natural and they ultimately trust the teacher and want to learn.
  • Adult learners have a lot more background knowledge and life experiences to build on whereas young learners are blank slates.
  • Adults have definite expectations and patterns of learning.   Young learners are in the process of developing their learning patterns and gauge their expectations from the teacher.
  • Adults are practical and disciplined. Young learners want to have fun while learning and are disciplined by the teacher through well-established classroom rules and guidelines.
  • Adult learners are more nervous of learning than young learners. They have life experiences, successes and failures that they bring in to the classroom.
  • Adult learners have different needs and requirements than young learners and need to be motivated to come to class and participate.
  • Adult learners need to be treated as equals in experience and knowledge and young learners need more hierarchy and boundaries.
  • Adults are focused on form and correctness.


  • The biggest similarity is that both learners can be grouped together by similar learning styles such as VARK; visual, auditory, read/write and kinesthetic. It is important in both groups that the teacher helps them identify their learning styles and then design curriculum appropriately.
  • Both groups are motivated by content that is provided in a real-life context and is relevant to them.
  • Both groups need a safe classroom environment where diversity is respected.
  • Both groups respond and learn through experiential and constructivist strategies:

o   Reflecting

o   Applying learning to real life context

o   Active vs. passive

o   Group or individual activities

o   Addresses all learning styles