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Three Best Practices for Engaging Adult Learners at All Levels

Three Best Practices for Engaging Adult Learners at All Levels

As educators of adult students know, this diverse group of learners brings a unique set of challenges and opportunities into the classroom. Most adult learners have made a personal decision to revisit their education, for a variety of reasons: to improve their career prospects, earn a high school equivalency credential, or simply acquire new skills and competencies. Because adult learners can be so diverse in age, background, and motivating factors, educators need a large toolkit of strategies to keep everyone engaged.

Accommodate Varying Goals and Need Levels with Differentiated Instruction

Some adult learners may enter your classroom with severe deficiencies in basic academic skills, while others might just need to complete a few final courses and test prep before taking a GED® exam. Some might be seeking to fill career skill gaps; others might be taking this step to re-engage with the world of academia. Using differentiated instruction is one way to address the wide range of goals and abilities that adult learners bring to the same program or classroom.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Literacy Information and Communication System (LINCS) defines differentiated instruction as “the planning and delivery of classroom instruction that considers the varied levels of readiness, learning needs, and interests of each learner in the class.” LINCS suggests several differentiated instruction methods like mixing up whole-class, group, and individual instruction; using performance and portfolio-based assessment in addition to traditional tests; and requiring each student to keep a written journal of goals and progress, regardless of their level of writing skill.

Use a Diagnostic Assessment to Understand Learner Proficiency

The best way to make sure that each adult learner receives instruction and practice on relevant skills and competencies (neither discouraging them with material that is too difficult nor boring them with skills they’ve already mastered) is to use a diagnostic assessment upon the student’s entry to the program. The resulting data will pinpoint precise skill gaps across all competencies expected to be mastered over a traditional K12 education and create a personalized path toward improvement. Moreover, sharing the results candidly with each individual learner creates the opportunity for a transparent conversation about goals, needs, and the biggest areas of opportunity.

Focus on Soft Skills for Every Adult Learner

Regardless of goals, background, or level of proficiency, soft skills are an incredibly important (but often overlooked) part of adult education. Many adult learners are returning to the classroom with the intention of beginning or enhancing their careers—and soft skills are vital in the world of work. In fact, according to Deloitte’s 2016 Global Human Capital Trends report as cited by Forbes, 92 percent of the executives surveyed rated soft skills as a critical priority for their workforces.

Just as important as the academic lessons that traditional secondary school imparts are the social ones—which can put individuals who did not finish high school at an additional disadvantage in the workplace. With that in mind, it is critical that adult education programs utilize group work and classroom cooperation to foster soft skills. This blog post details five of the top soft skills for adult learner success, along with strategies for developing each individual skill in your classroom.

Want to learn more about how Edmentum can help support your diagnostic assessment and career preparation goals for adult learners? Check out Exact Path, Edmentum’s assessment-driven personalized learning program for closing skill gaps and propelling learning forward, or learn more about our robust career and technical education (CTE) courses and pathways offered through Courseware and EdOptions Academy.

carmen.palmer@edmentum.com's picture

Carmen Palmer lives in the Minneapolis area and serves as a Marketing Manager on the Edmentum team. She graduated from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida with a degree in creative writing and literature. Carmen loves to read and is passionate about literacy and education.

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