New Issue! Students Older than Teachers


studentsGenerational issues in our field took another turn this month as lifelong learning programs are now reporting a new issue:  when students in a class are older than the teacher.

Gen Y instructors are now teaching Boomers and Gen X, adults as many as 25 years older than the instructor and with much more life experience than the youthful instructor.

It’s clearly an issue now for learners, young instructors and lifelong learning program administrators working with young instructors.

The breaking new issue has been identified only in the last month.  First, participants in LERN’s online courses raised the issue. Then it was a hot topic in our latest survey of trends by participants at the Third Annual Faculty Development Conference in Savannah in March. Photo: spring comes to Savannah in early March, the site of the LERN Annual Institutes April 13-16, 2015.

The new generational issue is in addition to other generational issues for the field, including generational learning styles, managing people in different generations, and the emerging issue of Gen Y managing workers older than they are.

“In my job, I deal with a lot of professionals and experts in their fields,” notes Tiffany Spencer of Spokane, Washington, in a LERN course on Teaching Adults. “I have observed that these intelligent and highly educated individuals can be particularly resistant to new ideas, methods, and technology when these things are presented by a younger or less experienced teacher.”

Gen Y teacher Melissa Wright commented on her experience as a younger adult teaching older people in the workforce, suggesting that one technique is to gain respect of the older class members you share your real life scanning experiences.  “Once they realized I had a lot of knowledge to share they would constantly come to me for advance and guidance,” she reports.

“Training Younger Teachers to Teach Adults Older Than They Are,” a how-to practical 10-20 page Guidebook with lots more techniques for training younger teachers, will soon be available exclusively in the new LERN Digital Library. It is just one of hundreds of articles available in the Digital Library for one low annual subscription price.  For info on the Digital Library, email info@lern.org

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