Types of Instructors in Adult Studies Programs

I’ve been working in Adult Studies for a long time, almost all of it dedicated to administration and faculty development.  Along the way I’ve conducted numerous classroom observations, read stacks of student end of course evaluations, and had the pleasure of being the assigned instructor in a number of courses.  All of that has prepared me to share with you the top 5 types of Instructors you are most likely to see in an Adult Studies classroom.  Do you see yourself in any of the descriptions below?

The Jolly Rancher – this Instructor seems to be always in a good mood and you can tell students love the classes she teaches because they are so much fun, not to mention the fact that almost everyone always gets an ‘A’ for the course. Often the Jolly Rancher’s devotion to the subject matter is tempered by personal stories and digressions – but everyone has a good time.  While being well liked, the Jolly Rancher is not deeply committed to academic rigor or pushing student too hard for fear of rejection or poor evaluations.

The Muskateer – This Instructor is extremely competent, and somewhat arrogant.  He knows his subject thoroughly and clearly indicates that he is the smartest person in the room, by actions and attitude, if not verbally.  Often disdainful of student attempts or the curriculum, the Muskateer primarily uses lecture to teach, because of course, there is very little he could learn from mere students.  He is the embodiment of the saying “the sage on the stage.”

The PayDay – This Instructor is primarily motivated by getting paid to teach.  The passion for teaching, if it ever existed, has faded away leaving a jaded and mediocre teacher who wants nothing more than to get through the course with as little drama as possible.  Creativity and concern for student learning is not part of the PayDay Instructor’s mindset.  Doing as little as possible is more her style.

The Almond Joy – This Instructor is ENGAGED.  Everything about them points to their passion for teaching AND for student learning.  They use a variety of methods to get their content across.  They demonstrate real caring and concern for students.  The Almond Joy never stopped learning and the joy of their life is to pass that learning along to their students.  The Almond Joy holds students accountable for their work and challenges them to become more.  They are considered to be “hard” teachers, but in retrospect, these are the teachers which students cite when they think about who has influenced their life.



  1. Andre Samuel

    This post is rather interesting, however I believe that a combination of styles could be used here. I agree with being an Almond Joy, but I’ve witnessed some Jolly Ranchers who apply academic rigor in their teaching styles and hold students responsible for their grades and learning.

    • Rick Upchurch

      Andre, I agree with you. I also know some Jolly Ranchers who do a great job with holding to standards and appropriate academic rigor. When this is the case, this type of Instructor joins the Almond Joy as being the preferred styles.

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