Teaching Kids Online vs Teaching Adults

Teaching teenager online vs teaching adults online

Teaching is teaching right? Whoever you are teaching whether it is adults or children, experienced professionals or novices, face to face or online; it’s all kind of the same isn’t it?

There are differences between teaching adults and teaching teenagers online, but there is also an overlap

As an online and Face2Face teacher of both adults and teenagers I see that there is an overlap but also some key differences, not in how the participants learn or even in the materials shared but in my role as the ‘teacher’. I agree with Thomas Carruthers when he said: “A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary.” – the trick here is to work out what your students need you to be to begin with and how your role will evolve through the learning journey.

Getting to know our students, their motivation for joining our courses, their prior experiences, level of expertise, what they want to achieve and their current ‘fear’ level is essential. We need to share some of ourselves with them too so the two way relationship can build. Having private spaces where one to one conversations can occur as well as public spaces where common concerns can be addressed are useful for all.

“The secret of teaching is to appear to have known all your life what you learned this afternoon.” 

Tips for teaching onlineWhoever we are teaching, we all know that there will be students who know more than we do about certain things, (did I hear anyone say ‘technology’?!). The anonymous quote: “The secret of teaching is to appear to have known all your life what you learned this afternoon.” sometimes seems painfully true in my online teaching journey! We are all continuing to learn as people who happen to be teachers and I think this on-going education is something we should share with our students whether they are adults or teenagers. I always tell my classes that I don’t know everything but I know how to find out the things I do not know. Isn’t that what we are trying to teach our students?

So once we have got to ‘know’ our students we then need to start to adapt our approaches to meet their specific needs.

The teenagers we teach generally want us to take on the role of ‘teacher’ in the more traditional sense: tell me what to do, how to do it, answer my questions and I’ll do it…They are working toward the shared goal of achieving in the IB subject we are teaching them, they expect to have the pace of the course dictated to them by their teacher and often have timetabled sessions to address the content.

In my experience adults want to achieve a much more diverse set of goals and we have to facilitate our courses in a way which allows each individual to shine. Most adults I teach are participating in courses on top of their other responsibilities which can compete with their desire to learn. Adults generally enjoy self-direction and are ‘impatient’ learners who like to set their own pace and will often forge their own path if we are not quick to respond to their needs. The role of the ‘teacher’ then shifts from instructor to facilitator and we need to be aware that we are working with experienced learners who are more willing to take responsibility for their learning.

I believe that our challenge is to make all of our classes learner-centred rather than teacher-centred and help our teenage students develop into the self-motivated, self-directed, adaptable and driven learners I see in my adult students.


Further reading:

  1. The difference between adult education teaching and teaching children
  2. Adults and children: the differences every teacher should know
  3. The differences between adult learners and children



This post was written by Pamoja Education Economics and Business & Management teacher Ruth West  

Ruth W



Image Credit – Flickr Commons




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *