5 Effective Teaching Strategies to Engage Adult Learners

Effective Teaching Strategies

Teaching adult learners is often considered a daunting task compared to young learners for various reasons. While young learners are enthusiastic and curious to learn, adult learners have full-time jobs to juggle and rarely display eagerness. Moreover, young learners are carefree and open-minded, whereas adult learners mostly have fixed mindsets and are challenging to satisfy.  Nonetheless, adult learners are more disciplined and don’t get bored quickly with the course content. There are numerous reasons why adult learners behave in specific ways. Adult learners have to deal with multiple problems while juggling work and academic commitments. Some of the most glaring problems include lack of time, financial constraints, and the absence of motivation. Therefore, teaching adult learners requires additional thinking and planning and some Effective Teaching Strategies. Educators must devise strategies to overcome the obstacles and challenges that prevent adult learners from pursuing education. 

Let’s look at some effective teaching strategies that effectively engage adult learners.

Flexibility of Time

Time constraints are considered the most significant challenge adults face while continuing their education. They shoulder many responsibilities ranging from looking after their families, doing jobs, and maintaining their social lives, all of which leave them with less time to study. Therefore, teachers should devise lesson plans and coursework that cover more content in less time. They can also offer online learning to students facing geographical issues or those who can’t attend physical classes due to their job or family commitments. Fortunately, educational institutes these days offer online learning programs to help students tackle time issues and complete their coursework from home. Given today’s hectic work environment, adult learners can conveniently manage studies and work simultaneously, thanks to eLearning

For instance, students interested in social work may enroll in social work masters programs online from anywhere in the world. Since online learning is flexible, professionals can gain field exposure relevant to social work alongside pursuing higher education. What’s more, online programs are gaining widespread recognition, given the skills and expertise they instill in students. 

Make Learning Relevant

Adult learners are incredibly particular about their academic endeavors. They only learn when they know that the material is meaningful and beneficial. They’re interested in content that directly applies to their field, especially their current occupation. Likewise, they want to see instantly how the course content is relevant to their existing circumstances. Therefore, educators should design up-to-date and evidence-based strategies to create relevance in the course material and make learners feel connected with the content to ensure engagement. For this purpose, instructors can implement the case study teaching methodology for students to learn from real-life examples. The case study teaching method is known to boost student engagement as working students are able to relate it with their occupational experiences. This way, the learners will find the learning relevant and meaningful. 

When students understand the utility of the content and realize how it directly applies to their life experiences, they quickly accept and learn it. 

Develop Strong Relationships

Another effective strategy to engage adult learners is establishing solid and collaborative relationships. When students feel that their teachers respect and appreciate them and try to know them, they realize their presence matters. For adult learners, learning doesn’t happen without relationships. Teachers who seek to build relationships with their students don’t only identify their learning abilities and progression levels. They go all out to learn about their students’ interests, personalities, and backgrounds. Teachers and students should talk, share experiences, and participate in activities together. To create engaging learning experiences, teachers must build an environment where students feel comfortable and respected. 

Moreover, teachers can create informal conversations, discussions, and opportunities to share life experiences to boost a friendly classroom environment. Teachers must present themselves as approachable and flexible. Adult learners cherish teachers who are lively and amusing. When students know that their teachers care for them, they take more interest in their learning; as a result, it leads to increased classroom engagement. 

Empower Learners 

When learners are empowered, they get motivated to learn and improve their academic performance. Adult learners become more engaged in learning when they’re in charge of their learning. Empowering the learners requires giving them choices and a voice to express their thoughts and ideas. When teachers give their students the power to choose, it creates a sense of ownership over the learning process. Providing students with the freedom to decide on learning material, how they want to learn, and when they want to learn gives them autonomy and independence.

For this reason, teachers take on the role of a facilitator. By providing learners the ability to choose and take responsibility for their learning, teachers empower them. This empowerment engages them further in learning, offering a more autonomous learning experience. So, teachers must give the decision-making power to their students to effectively engage them in their learning process and empower them to become self-directed learners.

Incorporate Stimulating Activities in Your Lessons

Last but not least, teachers must focus on teaching and learning activities that provide learners with a stimulating experience. Nobody enjoys learning when the teacher is the giver and the student is the receiver. Passive learning discourages adult learners and leads to demotivation. Adult learners find lecture-based teaching dull as a result, they quickly get disengaged. Implementing activities that compel learners to ask questions and engage in discussion is an excellent way of helping cement content in their minds. Teachers can opt for learning content that is visually stimulating to attract learners’ attention and effectively engage them. 

Adult learners also enjoy learning activities based on experiential learning models like role-plays and problem-solving. It enables them to partake in interactive social experiences leading to increased engagement. Besides, adult learners are more motivated to learn through experiential and practical methods.


In short, engaging adult learners is challenging but not impossible with Effective Teaching Strategies. There are specific and effective teaching strategies that effectively engage adult learners. Teachers must foster a safe, welcoming learning environment and ensure the practicality of all learning activities. They must offer content that learners are interested in and see its meaning and significance. By establishing strong relationships and offering content in a meaningful and stimulating fashion, teachers can ensure deeper student engagement. 


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