How to Teach Adults: Get a Job; Plan Your Class; Teach Your Students; Change the World


Activist training?

Author of HTTA here. I’ve facilitated “Know Your Rights” trainings around the country for audiences ranging from middle school students, to activists about to protest in the street, to law students, lawyers & law professors who want to learn how to better communicate with clients. I write about it in How to Teach Adults in regards to using techniques (like role plays and case studies) that work well with multi-level classes.


It would seem, at lease in Toronto where I live, that people encouraged to
protest end up kettled, water-cannoned and then charged with crimes.

Where is the cost-benefit on that?

This seems like an interesting work, so thanks for writing it… I’m a Phd candidate so I do (and will in the future) teach college level history courses, and given the job market for Americanists it’s entirely possible i’ll land at a community college. My department has recently incorporated a pedagogy class into our course work but few things help better than talking to those who have gone before and have thought about these more practical things, like classroom management and your persona, etc. It’s all well and good to “complicate a narrative” for them, or to have them engage critically with what they are reading, but the HOW is the tricky part.

I’ll be sure to forward this on to the faculty who teach this course, as they might find it a good adoption.


I need this book for a number of reasons. Most important among them is learning how to impart complex scientific summaries to people who aren’t numerically or mathematically literate. Then there’s the guy who’s thirty years older than me and wants to learn how to use a computer so he can stop worrying about doing everything for his business in hardcopy. (It blew my mind that a person could operate a successful business without knowing how to use a mouse.)


Excellent! I just spoke with a class that used my book as a textbook - it was a course for new college grads teaching English abroad. My book was intended to add some super-practical skills to complement the (important) academic stuff that often dominates pedagogy classes.

Good luck teaching, wherever you do it. (Though if you do teach at a community college, a bunch of the material in my book will be particularly useful for you. Hint: Your first three priorities are teaching, teaching, teaching.) And if you ever want a guest speaker, let me know!

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I’m a research psychologist and work in teacher education so I found this very interesting. I love the design of the book and the manner in which the topics are presented.

That said, I found the list of endnotes a bit sparse, considering that there has been decades of fascinating research into modern forms of teaching (and teaching adults). To be sincere, it actually felt like a bit of an affront to all the dedicated researchers who have discovered these principles and actually provide the empirical bases for them (or disprove long held assupmtions!) to not refer to them more explicitly.

One aspect of teacher training I often struggle with is that learners often feel that research (or what they prefer to call it: “theory”) has no clear relation to their practice. In my view, writing a guidebook like this without giving credit to educational psychology, instructional science, etc. aggravates this problem.

Disclaimer: I haven’t read the book in full yet but I will. I hope this shows that it is only one specific aspect of the book which has bothered me.

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Thanks @teachrdan for sharing this resource! I’m an ex-PhD candidate looking to transition from teaching adults to teaching high schoolers, but I’m going to cover-to-cover on this one. I wish I had had somebody or something to guide me through this during my first (oh so awful) semester of teaching back in the day.

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Thank you for your good work in the service of teaching! I believe your criticism is completely legitimate. It sounds like you’ve only seen the free PDF. It’s based on the first edition of the book, which I Kickstarted and self-published, leaving valuable material out in the process. For what it’s worth, the second edition has more comprehensive endnotes and explicitly references to research and theory from chapter one. That was one of the main reasons I wanted to publish a second edition.

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This book was written for people like you: subject matter experts who are new to teaching. I hope you love the book! FWIW, the free PDF is great, but the second edition on Amazon has more content that teachers specifically asked for, including a long section on dealing with difficult students. I hope it helps!

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Thanks for the reply! You’re right, I looked at the pdf that Cory had linked to. Those editions sound great and I’ll definitely have a look!

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I received my masters degree in adult ed. because I wanted to teach basic subjects while building learner confidence and making better citizens, not better workers. However, when I traveled to the UK, I found that these basic subjects were taught with a test in mind, a test that made very little practical sense to the students. I decided to change my career direction at that point and go into librarianship. Here I can at least assist adults to learn what they want to learn rather than teach them test-taking skills.

It still bothers me though and it isn’t really enough. I mostly sit behind a desk wishing that I could engage with the learners and I become angry when I listen to the descriptions people give me of their classes. Teachers worry too much about themselves, too much about the grades, and too little about the lives that are being affected in the classroom. One thing I would say over and over again to learners is that it’s not about me, it’s about you. I feel there is no place for teachers like myself who want to bring self-advocacy to the disenfranchised. I love the idea of this book, but I fear most people won’t listen because it is a truth that they do not want to hear.


That’s like Protesting 101. If you believe strongly in the cause, those are some of the things you are expecting to happen.

Spalding is teaching them their rights. Are you suggesting that’s somewhat unethical?


I’m suggesting it is manipulative.

My boys are university bound, and if one of their professors began
suggesting they commit crimes I would have issue.

Children are highly suggestible, and can be led down any path a charismatic
adult wishes.

Did you miss the word “adult” in the title?!

Also … I think you have some … weird ideas about what teaching someone their rights entails.

Also … charismatic adults?! Really? Dead Poets Society and To Sir, With Love aren’t really a true reflection on how actual teaching works.


I have participated in protests wherein getting arrested was often expected or even desired.

My boys are university bound, and if one of their professors began suggesting they commit crimes I would have issue.

Nearly all university students are 18 (or very close to it) as freshman. From sophomore year on, they are basically ALL 18 or older.

Children are highly suggestible, and can be led down any path a charismatic adult wishes.

University students are not children. Do you even know what college education entails?

Additionally, teaching a subject on the rights of activists and related material IN NO WAY IMPLIES that the professor is trying to convince his or her students to “commit crimes”. That is nothing but a straw man, based on an entirely made up scenario that ignores the actual reality of what university teaching generally entails.

Are you sending them to a private, very strict Christian or other religious university? If not, you are in for a rude awakening. College is far more than just rote motorization and regurgitation of facts. It should also encourage critical thinking, and a big part of that is to learn about stuff from several different angles.

A good education about activism and all that it entails would also include discussion on ethics, as well as consequences. And, it would include examples from the past of things that worked, and why, and things that didn’t work, and why. I’d imagine that Martin Luther King, Jr., would at least be mentioned in such a course – wouldn’t you?

Also, could you provide some information to back up your claim that university students (who are not children)are “highly suggestible” and that teaching a course on Activism will therefore “lead them to crime”? Additionally, could you expand on your statement: “and can be led down any path a charismatic adult wishes.” What does that even mean? Especially in the context of a college education?

You have no idea what college actually entails and that’s pretty frightening. “WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?!” is basically what your baseless opinion comes down to, and the kicker is that this is about teaching ADULT STUDENTS.

Like, seriously, RTFA.

That said, I believe high school students deserve more than rote memorization and regurgitation. They ALSO should be challenged intellectually and taught about stuff like this.

I think you don’t understand how smart and aware children can actually be.


Since when are protests illegal? And what about when laws are unjust and unethical? Is acceptance of authority for its own sake moral?

Also, little bitty kids might be highly suggestible… older kids tend to have minds of their own. If you’re so worried about them being led astray, why send them to a university, where the entire goal is to engage in critical thinking?


It’s not? I’ve been doing it wrong! :wink:


Yeah. Those are totally bogus.

Tough Lovetm still works though: