"The whole movement of life is learning" (Krishnamurti). "To be an act of knowing, then, the adult literacy process must engage the learners in the constant problematizing of their existential situations" (Freire). "Once you learn to read, you will be forever free" (Douglass). "I can learn anything I have the desire to learn" (White, S.G.).

Monday, February 11, 2013

Working with Adults

I teach adults; working with adults is, in my opinion, more difficult than working with children or adolescents. I have taught Sunday School, coached sports, and led Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts. When you work with children (I will use this word to cover both children and adolescents), there is a definite distinction between the leader of the class and the students. When working with adults, there's a different dynamic. The students know they need to be there, but they're not in the habit of taking instruction from a stranger. People are sometimes better computer learners because there's not the interaction between adults requiring social skills. I have to balance what I need to teach them against getting them to accept me as a teacher. I have five minutes at 8:00 a.m. to make these people trust me. I have to give them confidence that they can learn and make them comfortable enough to take instruction from me. When reading Belfiore, I was struck by how the researchers interacted with the employees. In most cases, the researchers learned, rather than taught. Teaching software requires the ability to teach software, not a redundant statement. I know teachers who couldn't teach software, and software users who couldn't teach it. This class is reminding me of why I enjoy my job.


  1. I LOVED the Belfiore book and their research methodology. That may be the difference - their work with adults was research, ours is instruction, and those have very different connotations. BUT - what if we looked at teaching as participatory research? Challenge, with our learners, the meaning and context of their work (learning in this case). Identify together what would make it most relevant. A win-win in that learners are encouraged to take responsibility for their own learning (which serves them when they leave us and in their every day lives), and we get to simultaneously build and improve our practice. Over time, this trust and this co-participation in learning (which, is just good application of adult learning theory) could result in adult learners that feel empowered, allowing deeper learning to take place. Learning IS participatory research.

  2. I enjoyed this post cpscat (love that by the way)! I too teach computer classes when called for, I actually started off with this topic when I started in my current roll. While I also teach personal effectiveness classes (communication, relationships, team building, etc) I enjoyed the differing style of the learner when it came to computer instruction. While the context of what we teach does not necessarily require the in depth research perhaps that the softer skills may require in order to best meet the needs of the learner; one could easily argue that some probing questions and getting to know the learner's fears and biases can still assist with meeting their needs for computer skills. I completely agree that this class is redefining how I look at what I do and the perceptions/experiences that the learner may bring to the classroom.

  3. Holly - I agree that there are fears and biases in computer classes. I see more apprehension in older students; my introduction to Microsoft Office classes always need breathing space. That's what I tell my students: This is where you make mistakes. If I'm talking too fast, tell me. If I'm too slow, tell me. If you're stuck, say "Can we do that again?" or "I didn't get that." I try to recognize that my students are trying to decipher code. I've been fortunate that most software makes sense to me. This class is helping me see how I might better teach my students, using some of the material I've read about.


Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this post. Diverse opinions are welcomed.