I have taught pottery for almost 5 years now at a local art center. Hand-building and wheel throwingI started teaching when I was 23 so the adult classes were always intimidating. It didn't help that I look(ed) much younger
So when structuring the class and writing up the syllabus I created the class that I would have wanted when first began. Our terms are broken up into 10 week sessions (2 hrs once a week) so like many of the other responses here I asked what the students goals were the first day and always adjust accordingly.
90% of the time the first 2 weeks I cover basic techniques - wedging, scoring, pinch pots, slabs, coils, etc and do wheel demos.
I (try) to incorporate as many techniques into 2 or 3 loosely structured projects to let students understand what clay allows and what it doesn't - this also helps get the ball rolling
one of my favorite projects is a "monster pot" that starts as a pinch pot and uses coils/slabs/slip trailing.
After that I have the students bring in drawings or picture cutout of things they are interested in and build from there
- I do the same thing as Pres and when showing a technique let everyone know so if they are interested they can watch.
I keep a binder of projects (some are actual tutorials/instructions most are pictures of pottery) for students to browse if they are uninspired or want to try something different.
Most of my student have had little experience with clay and I encourage the hell out of them.
Some want tangible objects to take home while others are fine with only learning the process. I encourage quality over quantity but allow the student standards to dictate this (this is the hardest to stick with since I am a throw it out person)
When I have more experienced potters I like to push them and often give them homework - look this or that artist/technique up and give much more extensive critiques.
I encourage all my students to watch me load the kiln and give them a taste the non building aspect of ceramics as well.
My husband recently built me a stovepipe barrel kiln so i am sure my students will be over at my house soon learning with me about that!
The classes are never more than 6 students so I have the luxury of adjusting to the students.