Baby boomers come from a much different background as compared to the average student today. The average student in college today is fresh out of high school and comes from a life with much less of the life experiences that boomers have under their belts. Living through the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam war, and the time of women’s liberation has shaped the boomer generation into a unique class. As the number of older students enrolled in classes increases every year, their educational needs must be taken into account. The best methods for teaching baby boomers may not be the same as those for teaching younger students. In fact, they may be very different.
Many adult learners benefit from a discovery-oriented classroom setting. This is, essentially, the kind of class in which the instructor acts largely as a facilitator for group discussion rather than simply giving a lecture. Students bring their own knowledge and experience into play in order to solve problems and reach conclusions about complicated issues. This approach is beneficial for everyone in the classroom, including the professor, and can be especially enriching with boomers in the mix. The unique perspective and experience of the older generations brings a whole new dimension to classroom discussion and enhances the educational experience for all.
One thing that must be taken into account in this case, as with any other, is the student’s particular learning style. Educators teaching students from preschool on up to college have been starting to appreciate the significance of learning styles in education over the past several years. Some students learn best by listening, having things explained to them verbally. Others gain a better understanding of concepts when they are presented with visual aids. Still other students get the most out of a lesson from reading, or any number of other ways.
Identifying these particular learning styles is beneficial for both instructors of adult students, and for the boomers themselves. By figuring out your own learning style, you expand your ability to take in and comprehend new material. On the flip side, instructors who understand their students’ learning styles will be able to incorporate new elements into their lessons to better illuminate the concepts being taught. They will also be better equipped to answer their students’ questions in ways that will be understood. The best liberal arts colleges and preschools alike are all realizing the importance of identifying and catering to a variety of learning styles, and an integrated approach is often the best way to reach the boomer audience.
Overall, the best methods for teaching baby boomers are those that incorporate an interactive approach to learning. The boomer audience doesn’t want to be lectured, and they shouldn’t be expected to remain silent at all times. Baby boomers in the classroom have interesting life experience and knowledge to share, and the most successful instructors are those who recognize the value of these traits. The boomers have come to learn, just like any other students, but their motivations and backgrounds are different. This should always be taken into account.