The “new traditional” student — especially at community colleges — has been out of high school for years and has rusty academic and study skills, writes Rob Jenkins, a Georgia Perimeter College English professor and administrator, in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Many have jobs and family responsibilities. It’s time for instructors to design classes for adult students, he writes. Young students will benefit too.
To start with, instructors should relax “rules aimed at keeping 18-year-olds from ditching class or dragging in late,” Jenkins writes. Adult students need more flexibility.
Older students (and quite a few younger ones) will benefit from “frequent refresher sessions to reinforce basic skills” and tutoring referrals.
“Placing course materials online, creating inexpensive course packs, or taking other steps to lower the cost of books and supplies” benefits all students, but especially those who are supporting themselves, he writes.
Try to regularly establish a clear link between course concepts and “real-world” outcomes. Show them how what they’re learning might apply beyond the classroom, in their professional lives. Take every opportunity to incorporate materials from nonacademic sources, such as newspapers, magazines, and Web sites. Structure your assignments to mimic real-life work situations.
Finally, make sure older students feel valued for their experience and perspective on life. “Choose readings that might be relevant to their situations, and then structure writing and presentation assignments that encourage them to draw upon their experiences,” Jenkins concludes.