[ April 10, 2015 by Bryan Harris 0 Comments ]

Sex Education For Adults

When teaching adult sex education, it is important to remember that many adults feel embarrassed to talk about sex and have many questions. Therefore, creating a safe space is vital. What works with adults is engagement in abstract thinking and conversations that go beyond sound bites. You also can focus on pleasure in addition to or as part of sexual health.

Because no guidelines exist for teaching adults[1], using SMART learning objectives can help you teach them. Use the National Sexuality Education Standards as a starting point. To provide the most valuable and effective experience for adult students, familiarize yourself with learning theories that have been shown to be successful with adults. Here are some tips:[2]

  • Focus on process not content. What do the learners need to do to acquire the desired knowledge and skills. Only include content and activities that get you to your objectives.
  • Tell them your why. Why are you teaching them this? What benefits do they gain?
  • Give them a say in what and how they learn and let them work independently if possible. This gives a sense ownership over the material.
  • Honor their experience. Draw on this experience to meet your learning objectives. Additionally, brainstorm potential biases that may come from their experiences and create a game plan for managing them so you can stay on track.
  • Connect your activities to students’ lived experiences. Identify their existing knowledge and tie your lesson and activities into it.
  • Keep activities active, constructive, and collaborative. We process a lot through our bodies. Movement allows for both muscles memory and cognitive recall.
  • Keep your lesson timely and relevant. Pull in information from current events, the media, and life experiences that are common to your learners.
  • Provide extra direction and support. Make your instructions extremely clear, honor everyone’s responses with a ‘thank you,’ and continually drive the lesson in the direction you need it to go to meet your learning objectives.
  • Focus on tasks and problems. Contextualize your lesson and take students through the experiential learning cycle (experience, observe and reflect, generalize, and apply).
  • Provide motivation to learn. For adults, these motivations tend to be intrinsic (e.g. enjoyment, self-satisfaction, value, etc). Making your lesson fun and engaging helps.

Additional Resources
Adult Learning (journal)
8 Important Characteristics of Adult Learners
17 Tips To Motivate Adult Learners



[1] Our Whole Lives offers an adult education program.

[2] Finlay, J. (2010). Adragogy (Adult learning). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLoPiHUZbEw

AboutBryan Harris