A Beginner’s Guide to Adult Education Centers

Man and Woman Sitting at the Table
Share the news

Adult education centers are common in the United States, outside of vocational schools and other educational institutions offering classes for adults. Over 265 universities in the US have adult education classes. Outside of college graduates, 3 percent of adults have high school degrees or equivalencies, no doubt earned in an adult education center.

If you plan on getting a job in such a center, perhaps teaching adult literacy or helping adults learn the piano, you should learn everything you can about the job. 

Discover what to expect when teaching in an adult education center.

Who are Adult Learners?

People sitting on a chair
Adult education centers are full of different kinds of people.

There are plenty of reasons people sign up in adult education centers. They could be high school or college dropouts who wish to get a degree for job purposes. Or they can just be perpetually curious people who enjoy taking adult dance classes. 

Below are some of the kinds of adults you will likely encounter while teaching in adult learning systems.

  • Dropouts

Many people don’t get to complete their high school education for a variety of reasons. They may not have been able to afford them or they had to focus on other things. Regardless of the reason they had for dropping out, some want to earn a high school diploma to open new job opportunities. 

Adult education centers sometimes offer courses for earning a general education diploma, an equivalent degree to a high school diploma. 

  • Perpetual Learners

Some people, who have plenty of time and money on their hands, enjoy the learning experience rather than seeing a college diploma or a certificate as a mere stepping-stone to a larger goal. 

For example, there are people who keep taking adult dance classes just because they enjoy the camaraderie and the challenge rather than go pro. 

  • Working Adults

There are jobs and careers that require extensive certificate programs and similar paperwork. 

For example, adults in other countries often have to take ESL classes to get jobs in the US. Someone may need to complete a certificate course as a way to get a promotion or because they need to constantly relearn new skills to keep up with their career landscape. 

Either way, an adult learning system is the best place to learn them.

  • The Curious

Finally, there are people who may not have long-term motivations for signing up in a class. They may simply be interested in learning piano as an adult or have always wanted to learn a second language. Curious adults can sometimes become long-term learners, but more often than not they tend to be one-off students in adult learning centers. 

Signs of a Good Adult Education Center

Two people looking at the paper
Students have high standards for providers of adult education.

Adults are more discerning when it comes to their education and can have extensive criteria when they’re looking for the right adult education center for them. If you work or plan on working in such an organization, you should be aware of what your potential students seek in an adult learning systems provider. 

The following are some of the signs that they want in an adult learning center. 

  • Affordable Services

Many adult learners have to be very careful with their money. Either they need to save the money they make to take care of their families or they live with a fixed income. 

For example, there are lots of retirees who enjoy adult dance classes to make new friends and stay fit. Too high a price can make these classes hard to afford, especially if they only have a pension as income.

  • Flexible Schedules

Adults have jobs that eat up much of their time or families they need to take care of and even vibrant social lives they’re unwilling to leave behind. An adult education center needs to have flexibility, especially in the scheduling of their classes. 

Many adults prefer to take night classes, learning new skills after their workday. Others may prefer weekend classes for their adult education. Flexibility allows them to make room for their learning outside their rigid schedules.

  • Easy Application

No one wants to go through paperwork just to learn how to play the piano as an adult. A center for adult education should make it easy for their students to sign up for classes. 

Adults don’t have time to waste filing paperwork and falling in lines. However, going completely digital isn’t an appropriate response either. Make sure that there are both simply physical and digital application processes to avoid dissuading adults.

  • Quick Completion

Adults require programs and learning systems that don’t take up too much of their time. Even equivalency courses don’t tend to last more than a few months. Adult learning systems need to be concise and abbreviated, especially if they are certificate courses employees need to secure their jobs. This is quite different for the millions of adult college students, who have to stick with the timeframe of their academic curriculums.

  • Support Systems

Just like their younger counterparts, adults need systems that will help them as they go through their course. There are lots of challenges associated with adult learning, even if it’s just a dance class for adults. 

Work to ensure that adults have a safe space where they can discuss their issues with learning and bring up significant hurdles in their classes. You also need to make sure older adults have access to important information and assistance should they require it, whether this assistance is physical or otherwise. 

  • Relevant Classes

Finally, adult learners are looking for institutions that can provide them with relevant or popular classes. For example, they may be looking for centers that provide classes on computer skills such as programming, Photoshop or even basic control over applications. Sometimes they may be looking for more recreational classes such as dance, painting or pottery. 

Tips for Teaching Adult Learners

A person writing using a pen
Adult learning systems are quite different from regular schools.

Teaching adults is not like teaching children. Adults tend to be both shy about their shortcomings and defensive. When starting a career at an adult teaching center, you must readjust your teaching methods to accommodate for the foibles of adults. 

Below are some of the ways you should change your approach to make it more effective in an adult learning system.

  • Be Patient

Remember that adults take longer to learn new skills and behaviors but are just as capable as younger people. This means that you can still teach adults new things, you just have to be patient about them. Be prepared to answer repetitive questions and to show how things are done more than once. 

  • Don’t Assume

Just because someone is an adult does not mean that they know everything you expect them to. 

For example, it may come as a shock but not everyone in the United States is functionally literate. This is why there are still classes for teaching adult literacy. Don’t assume everyone in your class knows a concept or an item. They are there to learn, after all. 

  • Conciseness is Key

Adults prefer it when their classes get straight to the point. Meandering through anecdotes or segueing to other lessons is not only unprofessional, it also distracts your adult students. Adults need to get to the meat of a lesson quickly if they are to digest the information immediately. 

  • Coax Questions

Adults can somehow be even more shy about their lack of knowledge in certain fields and they may not come forward with their questions. Make sure your students know that they can ask you anything, even if they’ve already asked the question before. 

Establishing trust and a safe space for them to ask questions are fundamental to teaching adults effectively. 

  • Focus on their Experiences

Unlike with children, you can use adult students’ life experiences to enhance their learning. If you are teaching adults how to play piano, you can ask your students if they had taken lessons in their youth. Perhaps someone has work experience in a music bar or if they were piano tuners. Use these experiences to make them more comfortable with the lessons and to garner enthusiasm.

An adult education center has many things in common with regular schools. However, you must learn how to hybridize your teaching methods if you plan on becoming an effective adult education professional.

Scroll to Top