Kickstarting a free/open adult education book

Dan sez, "Most adult education teachers are subject-matter experts but have no experience teaching. This book, 'How to Teach Adults,' contains everything you need to start, well, teaching adults: How to find a job, plan your class, teach your students and change the world. It's short and eminently practical. The Kickstarter campaign for it ends early morning October 10th, and the book will be FREE (and DRM-free!) to download by January 2013. The author (me) has 10+ years teaching experience and has co-written and distributed free 'Know Your Rights' comic books for youth of color and South Asian immigrants. If you never want to sit through another boring lecture, support this book and download it next January!"

"How to Teach Adults": A Free, Beautiful E-Book (Thanks, Dan!)


  1. I’ve been teaching more than ten years, and feel pretty comfortable asserting that I don’t know everything there is to know about teaching adults.

  2. I teach adults!  At two extension programs. I teach home food preservation (canning, dehydrating, jerky-making).  Not to toot my own proverbial horn; I’m good at it.

    My evaluations are consistently high and my classes are popular.  In my experience there are a couple of things I do in a classroom that make me successful. 

    In teaching adults, you have to present yourself as humble and normal expect for the one thing you do well.  I always open up the class saying, “I’ve had extensive training and experience in doing this and I’m very good at this one thing. Just as I’m sure all of you have something, or many things, you’re very good at. This class is for you to learn the basics in a hands-on process so that you can go home and do this. Then you’ll be very good at it too.”

    I find that any whiff of ‘pedagogic’ technique or talking-down to a group is death. (I’m also a bit younger and weirder looking, on average, than the students. So they’re already on guard.)

    Also, materials and reading are good as a back-up or take-home reference item.  Our culture does not like reading manuals, and class instructions are manuals.  We talk and then we do; collectively.

    The last, most important, thing I do is: entertain.  If someone is paying money and giving three hours of their time to learn something, you need to add as much value to that experience as you can.  And that means entertaining them.  I work in stories of failures (usually starring my husband who I refer to ala Phyllis Diller as Fang) and successes…which I always attribute to people in the class. 

    Do you wanna take some of my classes? There’s Lady Marmalade, Jam On It, Do the Jerk… you get the idea.  As soon as they read the title, folks get an idea what to expect in class and sets the tone.

    As an adult teacher, you need to make the environment friendly for an information exchange and build towards a collective goal.  Humor, of course, is the best bridge to that.

  3. Serious question — what does “finding a job” have to do with teaching adults? Is this some kind of job which pays you full-time to teach adults?

    1. Often, with Uni-extension and Recreation programs the classes are teacher generated.  Say you’re a genius Lego builder. Everyone says so. You really feel that there are specific design and build techniques that others would like to learn.

      You put together a proposal. What’s the Outcome for the class? What makes you qualified to teach this? Do you have any specialized training or certifications?  Does this knowledge/skill have benefit to or enrich the community?  Is it cost effective?

      If you can explain all those things in your pitch; you may have just created a job for yourself!  Depending on the system you work with; you might be an employee or an independent contractor.  Each organization does it differently.  Some will give you a flat fee and you’re responsible for providing all the materials. Some will reimburse you for materials and pay you an hourly rate. (In MKE it’s about 18 to 20 bucks an hour…a class is 3 hours and you can claim one hour total for prep per class.)

      It’s no way to get rich but it’s a fun gig. I’m the Master Food Preserver for my county (a large urban one).  And I get the pleasure of teaching people safe food preservation techniques; we get to build our community, and make the world smaller.

      I can be a crabby crab crab about our crappy society.  But every class I teach restores my faith in humanity.  Time and time again, I have groups of 20 people of all socio-economic backgrounds take a class…say on pickling.  

      When they enter the room, you can see that they are wary.  By the end of three hours together, people know each other’s names and stories. They’re laughing. Answering each other’s questions. They all smell like vinegar. They had a good time. They met and worked with people they normally would not have. They took home a couple jars of pickles. And I made $60 (after tax).  Not bad for Wednesday night.

  4. I have, strangely enough, taught adults AND children. I would read this book. Adults and children are actually the same species, but the behaviours that are explicit in children are modulated by social rules in adults: adults are not much more disciplined and certainly no easier to motivate. All children that have not been horribly treated are eager to learn. As our society evolves adult learning will become more important – we cannot afford to discard people as we currently do when technologies change.

  5. Couldn’t agree more: subject matter expertise =/= effective teacher. Expertise is necessary but not even close to sufficient. I’ve both had my time wasted, and wasted the precious time of others. A concise resource on best adult teaching practices is most welcome.

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