PowerPoints and Teaching Adults

Inspired by @smirthnut I taught adult learners in colleges, universities, and hospital for more than 20 years total. My first master's degree was in health education. These are some of my thoughts and suggestions about using PowerPoint and teaching adult learners.
  1. Before you prepare your session determine the objectives of the session. What do you want people to know or do after the session?
    Plan the structure of your session to follow a logical progression to accomplish your objectives.
  2. Arrange the group(s) around a table or in a circle for more participation
    Ideally groups of 5-6 work well, no more than 8-9 and no less than 3.
  3. Plan how your session will end.
    Build time into your plan for summarizing important points, answering questions, etc. One technique I liked to use was to go around the room and ask each participant to share one thing they learned.
  4. Get people involved quickly. Use an ice-breaker to gain their participation and engagement early.
  5. Adults don't have to be there. Even if it's a mandatory session at work, only physical presence is required. You need to engage them.
    Make sure your participants know how they will benefit from the session. How is it relevant to them?
  6. Active learning is much more effective with adult learners.
    People don't want someone to stand up and talk at them, the talking head. That need to be involved. Activities are so much more effective. They don't have to be hands on. They just need the opportunity to reflect on the subject after a period of working alone or with others to clarify the information, ask and answer questions, and apply the new information to simulated real-life situations.
  7. The person teaching or presenting must manage the classroom.
    A lot of adults act just like kids in a classroom. You have high achievers who sometimes monopolize the session, people acting out, people zoning out or using their phones, and sarcastic people. You have to manage any of these behaviors or your participants will lose respect for you. A useful technique is to start the session (after a brief ice-breaker) by asking the group to help you create ground rules. You write them on a whiteboard or Flipchart to refer to if needed during class.
  8. PowerPoint slides are not notes that you read to adult learners.
    They are visual aids that enhance teaching or presentations , clarify relationships among topics, and emphasize important areas. If you are going to present data and lecture notes, please just create a handout for people to read on their own. If you don't know the subject well enough to teach or speak about it without reading your slides, then you are not sufficiently prepared.
  9. Techniques for active learning include structured group discussions, games, quiz questions built into the PowerPoint, problem-solving activities participants complete on paper or in groups, simulations of real-life situations, and role-playing.
  10. Adults have short attention spans, too, just like kids.
    If you are going to use lecture then make sure you include an active learning strategy every 10-15 minutes.
  11. Adults need to move around. Have them sort into groups randomly, such as counting off to avoid cliques.
    Use flip charts, change tables, have stretch breaks, and provide things on the table for fidgety people. The fidget spinner is the teacher's friend. I used a lot of pipe cleaners for this purpose and people made some awesome creations while they learned. I also played a variety of upbeat songs during breaks. The break was over when the music stopped.
  12. Adults have a wealth of knowledge and experience they bring with them to the classroom.
    Acknowledge their expertise. Sometimes they know more about something than you do. This is great, not challenging. Encourage them to use that to help others in their group or during activities.
  13. So the PowerPoint is just there to enhance your session, not to be the centerpiece.
    If you have a large amount of information you want to provide for the participants, then create an engaging handout with this information. Alternatively, they can learn the information through a classroom workbook. They can work in groups to complete the workbook activities.
  14. Please don't read a 40 slide PowerPoint to a group of adults. In fact, please don't read any PowerPoint slides to a group of adults.
  15. Thank you so much if you actually read this. It was fun for me to remember when I used to teach. That was of course, before I became brain-damaged! Ha ha.😂😂😂