We recently discussed how adult learners are directed, goal-oriented folks. Here are a few tips for responding positively to this state of affairs:
Be open. Shift your own awareness from your content to their needs. Know your material well enough that you can pay attention to your learners. What are they asking for? Do you need to shift emphasis and spend more time on certain points in the material?
Listen. Take notice of their comments and questions. They speak up about what interests them most, especially if you ask.
Observe. You can see immediately if they’re engaged and interested. Scan faces and body language. If they’re bored or indifferent, you’ll see it very clearly in glazed stares and lifeless posture.
Prioritize. You can’t please all of the people all of time. Guide the discussion toward the majority’s interests. Don’t let one person’s special concern dominate if it’s taking too much time and gets everyone else off topic.
Ask better questions. The way you frame your questions can keep the group on topic and prompt them to go deeper. Instead of the general “Any questions?” you could ask “What else about [your current topic] do you have questions about?”
What clues do you use to tune in to your learners? When and how have you reworked something in the moment to adapt to your learners' needs?