Effective ways to motivate adult students

Adult learners can be motivated if appropriate strategies are applied. Unlike young students who respond well to immediate reinforcement like candy, loud praise, stickers, or high fives, adult learners have different types of things that can help them stay focused on their task. There are different strategies that teachers can use to motivate their adult students. The strategies used will depend on whether the adult students are of low to high ability, or working adults. The following are some effective strategies to encourage and inspire adult students to keep them motivated during the lessons.

Find their interests

One way to motivate adult students is to appeal to their interests. This is also a great way of engaging a student of any age. Experienced teachers use this approach in every class they teach. They get to know their students through introductory activities and focusing on names, occupations and hobbies.

Structure your class

It is a good idea to set expectations right from beginning and let all students know that they are accountable for their actions. Do not make any exceptions for the first initial meetings, too. Be in control of your class and lead the way and you will find that your students will choose to stay or to leave. Since they are adults, you don’t have to tolerate their displeasure. They have to act appropriately, or they can leave.

Find the right activity mix

Build on what students know. Adult students have already acquired a lot of knowledgeable on a wide variety of subjects, so don’t present them with tedious or redundant material. Teaching below a student’s level is not advisable and can have a negative effect. Strive to work with adult students in a way that they are challenged. Giving adult students an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of the subject or topic is a good practice. So present a lesson that can assess the students’ current knowledge and allow them to step in where appropriate.

Group activities

Use group work to keep students engaged and challenged. Set up tasks, projects or quizzes where the students work and interact with each other, delegate roles and solve problems in groups. This is an effective way of making the lessons more interesting.

Facilitate exploration

Provide an opportunity for adult students to construct knowledge using a process that is meaningful to them. To accomplish this, you should give them access to all sorts of materials, lectures, infographics, short videos, references, podcasts and free resources available. Create an environment that students are more likely to appreciate and get inspired to learn more.


Motivation is a powerful force that compels people, including students, to fulfill a need. As a teacher or instructor, you can find ways to help a student perform well. Finding ways to motivate adult students is not a difficult endeavor. Be the kind of leader that is interesting and fun, and your students would like to follow and learn from you. If you have high expectations, your students will naturally work to achieve highly. Be fair and honest in evaluating and giving grades. Assist those who need your help, identify their weak points and provide resources that can help them to improve their skills.

About the Author:

Jesse L. is a content writer and blogger at Prestige Tracker. Jesse earned a perfect 800 on the Math S.A.T. and is currently studying Computer Science at Stanford University.

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