Whether they're called career colleges or workforce developmentsystems, today's continuing-education classrooms have little incommon with the instructor-driven settings typical of so manyhigh schools, especially the high schools of the past. Nowadays,professional instruction--in both traditional and onlinesettings--offers career training to a diversity of students froma broad range of ages. Whether students have been away from theclassroom for a decade or four, they'll find significantdifferences between today's interactive settings and theclassrooms of yore.

The Look and Style of the New Adult Classrooms

Instruction has changed over the past 20 years, asstudent-centered teaching dynamics have taken hold. Thelecture/note-taking format many adults recall with dread hasgiven way to instructor facilitated discussion. Today's studentsfind themselves sitting in a circle, animatedly conversing witheach other in business or humanities classes. They interactthrough a range of professional activities, from individualpresentations to collaborative projects. Adult learners whopursue technical or computer careers will find that the classroomhas been replaced by a lab equipped with a staggering diversityof computers and electronics. Today's "smart" classrooms have allthe "toys," and adult learners can draw on instructors, labassistants, tutors, and fellow students to acquire the skills touse them.

The Students Have Changed, Too

When adults walk into today's classroom, they're pleasantlysurprised to see who's there. Though surveys show that the"average" adult learner is a 35-year-old white, middle-classmarried woman with a family and active community involvements,adult students individually come from a range of backgrounds andhave a variety of reasons for returning. Yet they do share onecore trait: the desire to study for a personally and financiallyrewarding career. Since adult students are serious abouteducation, their contributions to discussion dynamics tend to beprofessional and mature. Moreover, adult students expect to helpeach other, often forming discussion groups outside of class orusing e-mail to keep each other stimulated and involved.

Though adult learners sometimes fear what their instructors willthink of them, instructors know better than most the many reasonswhy people interrupt or delay their educations. After all, onlyone in four Americans has a four-year college degree, whereashalf of American adults have no college experience at all. Bottomline: Instructors like teaching adults because adults aremotivated, eager, disciplined learners who contribute diverselife experiences to the classroom.

Sources

"10 Predictions for the Adult Student Market." Recruitment &Retention in Higher Education 19.7 (Jul 2005).
Adult Learning Initiatives (http://www.kwfdn.org/)
Facing Your Fears as an Adult Returning to College(EzineArticles.com)
"Learning Voices," by Paul Stanistreet. Adults Learning 16.1 (Sep2004).