Why is teaching adults more challenging than teaching children?

Why is teaching adults more challenging than teaching children?

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Learning English among the youngest has become popular. It is no less popular among adults, who most often choose it to improve their language skills and thus their qualifications. Can a teacher who works with children on a daily basis cope with this challenge?

What is the difference between teaching children and teaching adults?

They are certainly two separate issues, and the differences do not need to be looked for as long as you might think. You have to look at the biological and environmental background. A child’s brain is formed during the first three years of life, which is why parents more and more often decide that their child should have contact with a foreign language from birth. However, this does not mean that the mind becomes less receptive after this time. On the contrary! A child has a much better ability to learn new information than an adult. This means that learning is possible, but it is more difficult and requires different methods. At this point it is worth mentioning the first mistake teachers make in teaching adult learners. They use the same methods and do not take into account several differences that are caused by environmental factors. This means a separate approach to learning. For children it is a regular part of the day, often a chore and sometimes a time-enrichment. For many children it is also a new challenge that they look forward to. Adults have less time, and tiredness and distraction mean that they often fail to achieve satisfactory results.

The most common difficulties in teaching adults

In order for a teacher to fully implement a teaching plan and select methods, he or she must first be aware of the most common reasons for difficulties, and here are 4 of them:

1. Lack of time and bad time management

This is the most common excuse for skipping lessons and a lack of good results in learning. Adult life means an excess of professional and private responsibilities. The worst thing about it is that learning a language requires time, and the lack of it cannot be helpful. Unfortunately, despite being aware of this problem, adults decide to “push” English lessons into their schedules. Most adult learners choose the evening hours, and after a long day they can be really exhausted…

2. Exhaustion

The result of a lack of time and an excess of responsibilities, as well as the problems that arise, is exhaustion. Both physical and mental exhaustion are not conducive to concentration. An exhausted person is unable to learn a language effectively. Unfortunately, an exhaustion is sometimes associated with a misconception about adult learning: „at a certain age it is no longer possible to learn a language”. This is not true, because age is absolutely not an obstacle, but tiredness is!

3. Inability to accept lack of knowledge

Adult learners often blame their teachers or a bad lesson plan for their failures and criticise teaching methods. The lesson plans prepared by english4tutors.com are created in such a way that adult learners can achieve good learning results. This is the goal of every teacher!

4. Impatience

Impatience can be the result of a lack of time, exhaustion or simply personality traits. Learning a language is a process that is characterised by continuity and also by different phases. Sometimes it is more difficult, other times it is easier. The motivation of adults to learn unfortunately decreases quite quickly. It may even disappear for good if they do not see satisfactory results.

How to teach adult learners?

As you can see there are many reasons for failure, so it is no wonder that teaching adults is difficult… Additionally, many people assume that adult learners learn because they want to. Say goodbye to this stereotypical thinking right from the start and use the following advice:

  • Purpose of learning

Present the results you want to achieve, the range of the material and the methods used to achieve them.

  • Try out new teaching methods

One of them are ESL lesson plans, which have been created especially for adult learners. In addition, discussions, simulation exercises or Oxford debates can be used.

  • Individual approach

Groups should be smaller than those formed in teaching children. This increases the comfort of the work and allows the learners to ask questions. This is very important because an adult learner needs to be heard!


Do not compare lessons with children with those with adults. Do not use the same methods that you use to teach the youngest, but be inspired by them. Remember also about assertiveness! You must be prepared for more excuses, but do not forget the purpose of the lesson and the enforcement of responsibilities.

About Luke
About Luke

Bicycle enthusiast and movie fan.

Always looking to improve something.

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