Published 14th March 2016

Teaching English as a Foreign Language means that you can find yourself teaching all sorts of learners, from kindergarten to senior citizens. There is a lot of information and advice on teaching Young Learners, teenagers and adults, but little on teaching more mature students – which is surprising considering that there is a big market for learning English as a mature student.

In fact, teaching more mature students is quite different to other age groups and so when dealing with older students there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure a productive and enjoyable learning experience.

Life experience

Your student is coming into the classroom with a lifetime of experience. They are no blank slates, by any means, and this can be used to your advantage. On the plus side, you can be sure they will be opinionated and they will have lots to talk about. Many times our students may struggle to contribute in class because they feel they are not knowledgeable on a particular topic; older students should feel more comfortable speaking on a wide range of subjects.

Mature man telling young boy life stories

Beliefs about education

At the same time, though, they may also bring in with them set ideas about education and learning, so they may not be as open to newer teaching methods as younger students. That’s not to say that they won’t be enthusiastic, but rather that they may be a bit hesitant at first if they are not familiar with your classroom practices. If necessary, you can explain the thought behind the methodology in order to reassure them.

Teacher explaining teaching methods to class

Different pace

More mature students may take a bit longer than younger students to consolidate information. Give them time to think for themselves and process the information as they know how. A lifetime of learning should mean they know what works best for themselves in a learning environment.

Different students will need various amounts of time

Difficulties with technology

Finally, though not to generalise, more mature students may not be as familiar with technology as younger students. While this should not affect your classroom too much, at times it may be necessary to explain certain aspects of technology, if it is necessary for them to deal with it.

Mature man being show how to use laptop

Teaching more mature students can make for a very interesting classroom situation, if you are able to use their age to your advantage. If you welcome them into your classroom with open arms, you will undoubtedly find them an asset to your classroom.