Martial arts are not just for kids. Adults can enjoy and benefit greatly from participation too, but teaching adults is in many ways a different game than teaching children. Following is an excerpt from an excellent guidebook on principles of adult education based on Malcom Knowles pioneering work on the topic.
- Adults are autonomous and self-directed. They need to be free to direct themselves. Their teachers must ... get participants' perspectives about what topics to cover and let them work on projects that reflect their interests. They should allow the participants to assume responsibility for presentations and group leadership. They have to be sure to act as facilitators, guiding participants to their own knowledge rather than supplying them with facts. Finally, they must show participants how the class will help them reach their goals...
- Adults have ... life experiences and knowledge that may include work-related activities, family responsibilities, and previous education. They need to connect learning to this knowledge/experience base. To help them do so, they should draw out participants' experience and knowledge which is relevant to the topic. They must relate theories and concepts to the participants and recognize the value of experience in learning.
- Adults are goal-oriented. Upon enrolling in a course, they usually know what goal they want to attain. They, therefore, appreciate an educational program that is organized and has clearly defined elements. Instructors must show participants how this class will help them attain their goals. This classification of goals and course objectives must be done early in the course.
- Adults are relevancy-oriented. They must see a reason for learning something. Learning has to be applicable to their work or other responsibilities to be of value to them. Therefore, instructors must identify objectives for adult participants before the course begins. This means, also, that theories and concepts must be related to a setting familiar to participants. This need can be fulfilled by letting participants choose projects that reflect their own interests.
- 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.
I think most of my adult students will probably agree that we do pretty good at following these principles - BUT - I sure would like for y'all to tell me how you think I could do better. I value my adult students and want to do better for y'all, so let me know.
Even if you are not my student and don't know me, I bet you have a story about how you or your instructor have done a good job at this - or maybe you have an example of something in your practice that could be better, so let me know.