This morning I was not able to attend a session on using iPod touches in the classroom because it was cancelled, and then I missed an opportunity to learn more about Smartboards because the session was full. I was upset but sat down and looked through the program and tried to find an alternative. Finally I settled on a session about learning about how adults learn differently than children.
I ended up being glad I attended this session largely because I managed to find some relevance in it toward my expanded professional development role next year. My reasoning for attending this session in the first place was that I could use some training in teaching adults.
Essentially what I learned that in terms of HOW you teach adults, pretty much the best practices that work with kids work with adults as well. The presenter listed the top things that adults need to be able to learn properly, as she went through the list I recognized it as a list of things that work really well when teaching students. The big things on the list that I saw were that adult learners want to be comfortable when learning, may need learning accommodations, they have relevant outside experience, and that they need to be shown respect.
What I learned that was a reinforcement of something I knew, is that adults have much different motivation for being in your class or professional development session than do students. For kids, they pretty much all have to be in your classroom for some reason and often lack much choice about which courses they take. As a result, we spend a lot of time as educators trying to motivate students as to the relevance of our material. While this is true to a lesser degree for adults, often even when they are forced into your session they have both extrinsic and intrinsic reasons for being in your class.
So the lesson is, focus on the way you teach, and not on the adult motivation to me, since you really lack control over motivation. You can generally assume that the adults will participate and belong, as long as you focus on making the instruction appropriate. You should differentiate your instruction, provide alternative assessments, be flexible, adjust your instruction for your differently abled learners, and all of the other things that we consider to be best practices in teaching.