Reflections on teaching adult learners at WKMT
Adult learners are fundamentally different than their younger counterparts in many ways. Adult learners learners come to each lesson with an entirely different set of challenges, demands and expectations, and at a wholly different level of maturity to that of their younger counterparts.
The first fundamental difference I have noticed between adult learners and younger students is that while younger students are more tethered to technology, adult learners tend not to be – which is why they have longer attention spans and traditional approaches appeal to them more than they do to younger students. Younger students who are more tech-savvy are used to the many shortcuts technology provides them with, while adult learners – who more often than not are not the same – welcome the hard work one has to put into learning an instrument, which is a discipline they are more willing to take on board than their younger counterparts, who more often than not have issues understanding the concept of discipline in the first place.
I’ve also noticed that with adult learners, one has to be more efficient with lessons and activities. This is because adult students usually have jobs, sometimes children, and tonnes of responsibilities in general – which is why I usually pack every lesson with as much information and useful technical exercises as possible. Although I understand that most of my adult learners have busier lives than their younger counterparts – and that they have priorities that sometimes take precedence over practise-time – I allow only a limited number of excuses in terms of not putting the work into practising piano and completing theory assignments, and explain to them that we must always cover new ground from week to week, otherwise there is little to no progress from lesson to lesson.
It is also very important to be creative with adult learners, and to use the unique vibe or personality of each individual to teach and to choose activities that engage, and even entertain to some degree – while making sure they develop technically and musically in general. At the end of the day, one must realise that the fundamental difference between adult learners and their younger counterparts is that while younger students are encouraged to do well in exams, adult learners are more concerned with challenging themselves – which is why personal growth in ability and skills as part of an actual grade is so important with adult learners.