Teaching The Adult Student

By Diane Ruth
Published on Aug 3rd, 2011

Adult learners’ have specific characteristics that need to be considered when planning or delivering any type of lesson. Many adults lack confidence when learning something new. This is different from self-confidence. Many adults have been out of the classroom too long, did not have a good experience there anyway, and may be set in their ways. This brings a general apprehension to learning. They don’t like to take risks that may damage their self-image nor do they want to feel foolish by admitting they don’t know something. Also adults may have physical obstacles to overcome, such as, loss of hearing, vision troubles or moving challenges. As an example, they may be stiff and sore if they are expected to kneel prior to their turn to do their form. Adults respond better to internal motivator’s verses external motivators. They want to know “why” it works, “why” it’s necessary, etc. They want to know “how” this lesson is going to solve their problems.

Last year I had the opportunity to further my education through a training seminar called “Train the Trainer”. This course was all about training adult learners’ in the following areas: procedures, job changes, new information or refreshing the skills they already possess. I knew this would be useful for the martial arts instructor, as well. The trainer in this course gave me this tip: "Adult learners’ listen to one radio station WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?)".

Some significant strategies discussed in this course were:

  • How to control the environment
  • Driving participation through group interactions
  • Methods to deal with un-learning

I found it very interesting that in Kenpo we teach controlling the environment all the time. It so happened that this was the first strategy discussed in the training class. For the purpose of teaching, instructors can control the environment by limiting distractions that come from improper lighting, inadequate temperature, dirt, and things like cell phone use in the studio.

Teachers can drive participation through group interactions, with methods such as role playing, question & answer sessions, small group activities, and peer leadership opportunities. One of the keys to participation is to get the adult learner to think, relating the lesson to their prior experiences. This gives the students an opportunity to share their experiences. However, it is essential to organize this interaction in a timely fashion while keeping the lesson moving along.

Un-learning can be such a challenge to both the Martial Artist student and the Martial Arts instructor. The learner needs to discover alternatives that work for their individual style or around their “obstacles”. This can be done with the teacher’s guidance. The instructor can point out the values or errors in the student’s thinking, share best practices and help them to feel or find the answer. The instructor can also choose to let the “pack” (the student's peers) train them if this helps move a hesitant student along.

Another interesting thing I noticed about this seminar was the many references to the Bloom’s Taxonomy Learning Method. Bloom’s Taxonomy Method takes a piece of information through stages to allow full understanding of the material. The stages are: Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis and Evaluation. This model for learning was the subject of two previous articles, Bloom's Taxonomy And Mr. Parker's Kenpo (Part 1) and Bloom's Taxonomy And Mr. Parker's Kenpo (Part 2)

To illustrate the various stages of Bloom's Taxonomy Learning Method, let’s use the basic Whipping Outward Block as an example.

The student recalls the information or Knowledge they have of the Whipping Outward Block. Maybe we’ll define the lesson to say blocking with the hammer fist. Moving to the Comprehension stage the student reviews this basic by doing a number of reps on each side. Now we want the student to apply what they know.

The Application process is an opportunity to partner students to build interaction within the class. Have the groups do a few reps of the Whipping Outward basic, blocking with the Hammer Fist against a Linear Horizontal Punch to their face.

At this point the lesson can move to the Analysis stage by having the group experiment using Whipping Outward Block to defend against pushes, pulls, kicks, etc. This allows the student to perceive the relationship between the parts of the information or lesson.
Your students will most likely move you into the next stage by showing you something they “discovered” while doing this exercise. They are formulating new ideas (Synthesis), which is just where you want them to be. Asking the class questions, “What else can you do with this basic?” or “What other ways could you use this motion?” will encourage thinking.

Finally, the Evaluation stage begins. The students can determine the effectiveness of this basic. Sample questions to ask in this stage could be, “Would you be able to defend yourself using a Whipping Outward block?” or “How useful is this basic for freestyle, groundwork, etc.?” This is a great time to wrap up your class with everyone’s head full of information. Try this approach the next time you teach adults. It works.

Filed under Instructors and Teaching

Author Bio :: Diane Ruth

Diane started training in the Martial Arts in 1997 and received her Black Belt certification in 2003. For fifteen years Mrs. Ruth has trained in Ed Parker's Kenpo Karate exclusively. She is a professional instructor teaching both children and adults. Mrs. Ruth is a partner in M&D's Modern Martial Arts Club. M&D's Modern Martial Arts Club which is affiliated with The MALC and Kenpo2000. Diane's primary focus is developing a complete teaching strategy which incorporates Principle Based teaching.

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