Creating Courses for Adults: Design for Learning
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More About This Title Creating Courses for Adults: Design for Learning


Become an effective adult educator by approaching teaching systematically

As the author describes at the beginning of Creating Courses for Adults, "The big idea of this book is that education for adults has to be designed." Whether in basic skills training, English language classes, professional development workshops, personal interest courses, or formal degree programs, good teaching tends to conceal all the planning and decisions which had to be made in order to present participants with a seamless and coherent process for learning. The author posits that nobody is a completely intuitive teacher and that everybody has to make a series of choices as they put courses together. The decisions they make are important and far-reaching, and deserve to be considered carefully.

Starting with the three core factors which must be taken into account when creating courses, Creating Courses for Adults walks readers through a manageable process for addressing the key decisions which must be made in order to design effective learning.

  • Instructor factors are what the teacher brings to the teaching and learning process, such as experience and preferences.
  • Learner factors are the influences that students bring with them, including their past experiences and expectations for the class.
  • Context factors include the educational setting, whether in-person or online, as well as the subject matter.

Readers of Creating Courses for Adults will learn a systematic approach to lesson and course design based on research into the ways adults learn and the best ways to reach them, along with pointers and tips for teaching adults in any setting.


RALF St. CLAIR is professor and dean in the Faculty of Education at the University of Victoria in British Columbia.


Preface xi

Why Design? xv

Perspective on Learning xix

Further Information xx

Acknowledgments xxi

About the Author xxiii

PART ONE Core Factors in Teaching ONE All About You 3

Why Who You Are and What You’ve Done Matters 4

Reflecting on Your Approach 7

What Are We Doing It For? 11

Why Identity Matters 16

Going Further 18

Conclusion: Pulling It Together 21

TWO Engaged and Involved Learners 23

How Do People Learn? 24

Engagement in Learning 30

Learner Diversity 36

Responding to Diversity 47

Conclusion: Making Difference Matter 52

THREE Context Drives Design 53

Why Context Matters 54

Ball Gown or Boots: Formality 56

Wired Learning 59

Organizational Context 62

The Aims of the Course 65

Time, or the Lack Thereof 67

Somewhere to Sit: Physical Resources 69

Conclusion 72

PART TWO The Key Decisions

FOUR Knowing Where You Are Going 77

Objectives—And Some Objections 80

The Educator 86

The Learners 88

The Context 90

Conclusion 92

FIVE Content and Resources for Learning 95

Information and Objects 98

Resources and Materials 101

The Educator 103

The Learners 105

The Context 107

Conclusion 109

SIX Ways of Working Together 111

The Range of Methods 114

The Educator 121

The Learners 123

The Context 125

Conclusion 127

SEVEN What Do the Learners Say? 131

Designing Evaluation 134

The Educator 138

The Learners 140

The Context 142

Conclusion 145

EIGHT Making Learning Visible 147

Counting What Counts 150

The Educator 157

The Learners 159

The Context 162

Conclusion 164

NINE You Can Take It with You! 167

Moving Learning beyond the Course 170

The Educator 174

The Learners 176

The Context 178

Conclusion 180

TEN Design Frames Practice 183

The Book in a Box 183

An Example of a Program Design 186

For New Educators of Adults 187

Conclusion 191

References 193

Appendix A: A Blank Design Framework 199

Appendix B: Where to Find Further Resources 201

Index 203