How part-time untrained teachers of adults learn to be effective teachers

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Education, Health & Human Development


In most communities adult education opportunities are available through local universities or colleges, community colleges, or public school adult education programs. In addition, business and industry, labor unions, government, park and recreation departments, museums, health care facilities, and libraries, to name a few, provide courses and training. Like no other time in history, adults are interested in lifelong learning and make use of these institutions and agencies for providing learning opportunities. As a result, many teachers of adults are needed. Teachers of adults are knowledgeable in their subject field; therefore, that requirement has often been the sole criterion for an agency to hire a particular individual - often without a job interview. Furthermore, many individuals who teach for those agencies and institutions are untrained as teachers of adults. Nevertheless, many of them become effective teachers. The purpose of this qualitative research, using the case study approach, was to discover how untrained, part-time teachers learn to become effective teachers. The data were gathered by surveying the supervisors and students of effective teachers and by surveying and interviewing the effective teachers themselves. First, it was determined that the characteristics and practices encouraged by the adult education field were the same as those stressed by not only the students of these effective teachers, but also the effective teachers themselves. Jointly, the teachers and students spoke of enthusiasm for teaching and for the subject, respect/concern for the students, and patience as outstanding teacher characteristics. The effective teachers displayed a self-assurance that provided a foundation for the outstanding characteristics and practices they utilized as they went about their teaching responsibilities Effective teachers in this study often reflected on their teaching. They thought about their own effective teachers from high school and college and attempted to model after them They reflected on their own experiences in the classroom to determine what techniques or procedures were or were not effective for providing adults with worthwhile learning experiences. This ability to reflect on their own experiences as students and to think and react to their own teaching may be a key to these teachers’ effectiveness.




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