Differences of Young, Adolescent and Adult Learners

The age of students is a large factor for teachers consider in making decisions about how and what to teach. Teachers must take into account students’ learning needs, expectations, cognitive abilities, and skills. For instance, when teaching language, teachers respect children's need to learn languages through play which is different from adolescents who are in need of activities to trigger their cognitive abilities to understand abstract notions.

Some researchers say that children can learn languages faster than adults. Children can more easily pick up new vocabulary and assimilate new language patterns. Researchers also think that children are more motivated and more cooperative than adults who have psychological barriers to learning from past experiences with language learning. In this article, I will consider the characteristics of students at different ages examining young children, adolescents and adult learners in terms of learning differences and motivations.

Young children:

  • They can learn through talking about themselves, families and their lives.
  • They are curious to learn and discover new concepts on their own.
  • They like to use their imagination and to discover things.
  • They naturally need to touch, see, hear and interact to learn.
  • Because their attention span is limited, they need engaging and entertaining activities in order to not lose interest.
  • They like to cooperate and work in groups.
  • They need support and encouragement while learning.
  • Teachers need to work their students individually because they need to be guided.


Adult learners:


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