Teach an Adult Education Class

We're always looking for new instructors for our adult education program.

About the Program

Adult education classes revel in the depth, complexity, and joyfulness of the humanities. Each class is a community of curious, non-specialist learners who expand their horizons through conversation, collaboration, creativity, and an open exchange of ideas.

Every year, adult learners take dozens of courses at the Newberry, ranging in size, duration, cost, and format. We welcome proposals for classes that explore the humanities in dynamic and accessible ways.

The calendar of classes is divided into three terms:

Fall: September - December

Winter/Spring: February - May

Summer: June - August

Classes take place in the afternoons and evenings from Tuesday through Thursday and during the day on Saturdays.

A minimum of seven registrants are needed to run a class. If a class doesn't have at least seven students, it will be canceled.

Registration fees are determined by the duration of a class. Instructors receive fifty percent of total registration fees collected. Therefore, instructor compensation is based on the number of participants enrolled in a class. Payment is made after the last class session of the term.

Developing a Proposal

Instructors are not required to hold an advanced degree. We encourage not only academics, but also artists, writers, filmmakers, musicians, performers, directors, and other arts and humanities practitioners to propose classes or workshops.

Read our tips for developing a proposal before starting your application.

We evaluate proposals based on the following criteria:

  • Applicants must demonstrate knowledge of the subject and relevant teaching experience.
  • Successful classes approach their subject matter in a critical way that explores the ideas, assumptions, and impact of a literary or cultural object; interrogates the narratives of historical moments; or places texts, events, art, or material objects in context.
  • Classes should appeal to a general audience and demonstrate the value of humanistic inquiry.

While we accept proposals for topics across the humanities, we're especially interested in proposals in the following areas:​

  • Chicago, including the city's history, arts, music, literature, and social movements
  • Black, Latino/a/x, and Indigenous studies
  • Writing workshops, including fiction, nonfiction, short stories, poetry, memoir, etc.
  • Experiential learning, including design workshops, walking tours, how-to classes in genealogy or oral history, and follow-along creative demonstrations
  • Topics relating to current or upcoming exhibitions at the Newberry

Fall term: mid-May

Winter/Spring term: mid-September

Summer term: mid-February

Application Requirements

Titles should be concise, accessible, and compelling to a general audience. Descriptions should briefly convey the topics and ideas your class will cover and what participants can expect to learn. We will use these in marketing materials and may edit them for length and style.

This is the bulk of your proposal. We want to know what ideas and themes you want to discuss, what interests or excites you about your topic, and why you want to share this with people. We look for clear organization of lesson plan and materials as well as appealing and engaging content for our audience.

The overview should explicitly include:

  • Your approach to the topic
  • A detailed outline or syllabus, including weekly assignments, classroom activities, and discussion topics
  • An explanation of how your class relates to the Newberry’s mission and collection

Classes meet one day a week. Our most successful classes range in length from one-day sessions to six weeks. Classes longer than six weeks are accepted only in special circumstances.

Class proposals from new instructors are only considered if they are six weeks or fewer.

We may ask you to revise the number of sessions to meet the needs of the program.

Your CV or résumé should highlight relevant experience (particularly teaching experience), research, publications, and other relevant activities.

We also want to understand your teaching style and approach to working with students. We ask for a description of how you conduct your classes. For example, are your classes mostly lecture-based, or do you prefer to lead class discussions?

Many but not all instructors ask participants to complete voluntary reading assignments outside of class. In general, we ask that you assign no more than about 75 pages of academic reading or 200 pages of narrative reading per week. Our classes generally do not have assignments other than reading, unless the class is a workshop.

  • Books: You may ask participants to read one or more books or suggest books for optional further reading. The Newberry Bookshop will stock available required books at the bookshop manager’s discretion.
  • Digital Course Packet: Adult Education staff can compile articles or other digital readings into one PDF that is shared with participants when they register. Upon proposal acceptance, we will ask you for these materials.
  • Instructor-Distributed Materials: You may also share reading materials directly with class participants.
  • Other: Any additional supplies for a hands-on workshop, digital or physical media (film, music, etc.), notebook or journal for a writing workshop, group tickets for a concert, performance, tour, etc.

Ensure that books you assign are reasonably priced, written to be accessible to non-specialist readers, in print, and widely available. Ideally, required books cost a maximum of $40. Note that commercial textbooks are usually not appropriate for adult education classes.

Scholarly articles should have accessible language and should not be centered around highly theoretical or field-specific academic discussions.

List all materials you intend to assign. All books listed must include the author, title, publisher, year, and ISBN. Specify any reading assignments you'd like participants to complete before the first session of the proposed class.

Classrooms come equipped with a projector screen that can connect to a laptop. Classrooms also have free wi-fi available. We have additional equipment, such as laptops and cord adapters, available by request. Please indicate any additional equipment you would like to request in the application form.

The Newberry Library houses a vast and diverse collection. Use these guidelines to decide whether to request a collection presentation for your class:

  • Newberry Reading Rooms are open 10 am to 4 pm Tuesdays through Saturdays. Collection presentations are only available during those hours.
  • Instructors may request one collection presentation per class.
  • A collection presentation may feature up to ten collection items.
  • Instructors and class participants must follow reading room policies during collection presentations. Food, beverages, and personal items are not allowed during collection presentations; participants may store them in lockers on the first floor or basement.
  • While instructors are responsible for researching and selecting collection items, Adult Education staff can connect you with Reference Librarians who are happy to consult.

While we do not provide online presentations, we encourage instructors, especially of virtual classes, to explore and use our digital collections website for class material.

Submit a Proposal

We accept proposals three times a year, once for each of our terms. You can submit up to three class proposals through the Newberry's SlideRoom application portal when our acceptance period is open.

Get Started

Have Questions?

Get in Touch

Contact us at (312) 255-3700 or via email at adulteducation@newberry.org


Our office hours are Tuesday through Thursday, 

10:00 am – 6:00 pm Central Time.