Youth Vs. Adult Learning Styles

Hello again from the Fall ’17 JMBS semester. This week was supposed to be spent on the trail, but due to inclement weather, we’ve pushed it back. So I figured I’d share an observation I’ve had over the “course” of the -heh- course.

I spent the spring and most of the summer running youth programs, and so when I came up to T.A. the fall semester, that teaching style was what I hit the ground running with. Seeing the differences in how information is presented to different age groups was a worthwhile thing to notice. I’ll do my best to lay them out here.

Firstly, as an instructor for kids, you’re in a constant state of almost hyper awareness. They have constant questions, you’re always on the lookout for potential injuries with some of the more challenging projects (fire lighting, carving, etc) and all of those aspects play into giving these young people a rewarding experience that hopefully ignites an interest in what you’re teaching them. So you try to manage the experience so it’s challenging, while at the same time not so tough that they sour on the subject. It’s a hard, but (I believe) necessary approach to this style of education.

Adults, especially adults that have signed up for a nine-week residential course, are a different ball of wax. They want to be here, and they already have varying levels of that initial spark of interest mentioned previously. So whats a youth instructor to do? In most cases so far, I’ve found that constant warnings of upcoming hazards to projects and tasks is something that has to be allowed to reach its conclusion. For example; someone is burning a spoon bowl, and you see that they’re not slowing down even though they’re on the cusp of burning through the bottom. If I was running a youth program I’d step in, and explain what was happening. For some reason with adults, that’s not necessarily the right move. If we stepped in every time something like that reared its head it would become white noise. However if we step back, and let the spoon be ruined, there’s a greater chance that experience will stick.

It’s a strange dichotomy, and I’m still not sure I’ve wrapped my head around it completely. Regardless, it’s a good thing to think about whether you’re an instructor or a potential student.

I’m going to get back to reading books and waiting out the rain.

Take it easy everyone.


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