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Andragogy-1
Malcolm Knowles (1980) define the andragogical approach to learning climate as being relaxed, trusting, mutually respectful, informal, warm, collaborative, and supportive, with openness, authenticity, and humanness as key contributing factors. Learning theorists consider all these process elements, defined in Knowles's process model of andragogy, to be crucial to adult learning.

Combined strategies, relevant course materials, suitable facilities, and reliable instructional instruments all contribute to success of the learning experience. Independently, these features may not ensure success, but without their relevance to the work environment, guaranteeing success under any circumstances would be difficult.

I have asked several experienced trainers how they apply adult learning principles in their delivery. The following are a summary of their descriptions to help adults learn classified in four main categories:

Create a safe environment for learning: Some learners may have different experiences from past training sessions and different motivations for attending a training session. A trainer can create a safe haven for everyone by using some of these ideas:

  • Be prepares early enough to greet participants at the door.
  • Share the objectives of the training early, before the session, if possible.
  • Let participant know how they stand to benefit from the training session - the WIIFM ("what's in it for me")
  • Ensure confidentiality- "what's said in the room stays in the room."
  • Explain assessment requirements early in the session.
  • Use training games throughout the training session.

Create a comfortable environment: Trainers should consider arriving in the training room early enough to help set the mood of the room:

  • Turn on the lights. Nothing is more depressing than walking into a room with dim lights. Ask for a room with natural lighting. Even on a sunless day, natural light is more pleasant than artificial lighting.
  • Learn how to adjust the thermostat for the most comfortable level for participants.
  • Ensure that the environment is comfortable. Hide empty boxes and ensure that chairs are straight. Place material neatly and routinely at each seat. This order tells learners that someone went to the trouble of getting ready for them.
  • Ensure can be seen and heard by all learners.
  • Arrange to have the most comfortable chairs available.
  • Ensure the seating arrange is conductive to learning.
  • Have extra supplies, pens, and paper available.

Encourage participation: Creating active and ample participation is the most important thing a trainer can do to enhance training. These are some examples:

  • Provide name tags
  • Use small break-out groups to overcome any reluctance to share ideas or concerns.
  • Use participant's names as often as possible.
  • Use body language to encourage participation; positive nods, smiles, and eye contact show interest in other's ideas.
  • Share some personal information to begin a trusting exchanged of ideas.
  • Learn and apply techniques to get learners to open up.

Facilitate more than lecture: At times, straight lecture is requires such as when the training content is declarative knowledge. For the most part, however, experiential learning activities are how adults learn best. Consider the following:

  • Create discussion by facilitating conversation not only between trainer and learners, but also among learners.
  • Get opinions and ideas out in the open before delivering the message.
  • Share personal experiences to build rapport and trust.
  • Provide opportunities to participants to evaluate their own throughout the session.
  • Create experiential learning activities in which learner discovers the learning on their own.
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Have you ever completed a course of study that truly inspired you? One in which you really got a lot out of the learning experience? You left feeling more competent, at least understanding how you could become more competent, and confident that you could do it!

Have you ever taken a course or participated in a learning session that left you very disappointed? Did you tune out and turn off early in the session? Although you had some interest to learn and grow in the instruction are when you arrived, you left with a negative attitude and with very little you could use.

In this article we will look at what turns adult leaners on or off, and what helps or disrupts their willingness to learn.

Good Classes and Bad Classes

What makes for a great learning experience? A report published by the ASTD based on empiric evidence gathered over thousands of working adults, from managers operating in executive offices to workers out on the frontline, from highly sophisticated knowledge professionals to routine-task physical workers. The report shows a consistent trend across all work levels and types and all worker groups. The questions asked during the research were: 

  1. Think of the great course, class, or learning session you attended. What made it great for you?
  2. Think of a rotten course, class, or learning session you attended. For you what made it rotten?

Table 1 and Table 2 list some of the most common responses received. 

Table 1. Examples of what makes for great training

It responded to my needs

I could see how it applied to me

There was a lot of participation

I was drawn in quickly

The explanations were clear and concise

I could relate to my job

I could ask questions at any time

I didn’t fell stupid

I understood where I was going

There were lots of takeaways I could use

It helped my do my work better

The session was interactive

I could try out what was taught

I got feedback on how I did

I learned a lot from the other participants

The material were clear and useful

I felt respected

There was a lot of two-way communication 

The instructor “spoke my language”

Table 2. Examples of what makes for poor training

It was too far removed from my interests

I couldn’t see how I would use it

It was a one-way transmissions of information

I soon was in information overload

There was little to no discussion

There was little to no practice

There was little to no feedback to me personally on what I did

The materials were poorly designed

A lot of time was wasted

There was little I could take back to my job

The content was OK but the methods for communicating were poor

I was a passive listener most of the time

I couldn’t understand what was being taught

There were very few, if any, examples that I understood

It was dull, monotonous, and boring

I didn’t learn much

I couldn’t ask questions when I wanted

How it works?

Good Classes. Somebody, the instructor/trainer, a course designer, or a decision-maker of some sort, made an effort to create a learning experience that was relevant to you from a personal perspective (work and/or life); structured it so that you knew where it where going; provided the content in a way that was meaningful to you; gave you opportunities to get involved meaningfully; and provided you with tools and/or a sense of direction for applying what you learned to your work, your life, or both. Bravo!

Bad Classes. Somebody, perhaps even the instructor/trainer, decided this was useful for you; figured out not only what you need, but at what level and in what format and sequence it made sense to deliver it; made sure that it was full of the right content that he or she believed you should have; and dumped it into you. You were an empty vessel into which the instructor poured the contents.

The proper care and handling of adult leaners is extremely important when building terrific training sessions, regardless of the means of delivery. ASTD research confirms that most of the training conducted is reminiscent of our school and college days. Although we were bored or confused by our teachers and professors when we were students, as instructors and trainers we tend to repeat the practices we hated in others.

How can we break out this pattern? The cues are the items in tables 1 and 2 that describe good and bad training. We can break away from boring, unproductive practices by focusing on our learners as adults with the same sorts of needs, concerns, desires, fears, frustrations, quirks, ambitions, capabilities, and personal priorities that we have.

Our job as trainers, instructors, and educators, is to help our adult learners learn. Their success s our success. That sounds simple, but it’s challenging. We can do it by understanding how adult learners learn and by applying that insight to our practices.

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spotlightIf you want to spark active learning in your training sessions, there are eight strategies that I have used with consistent success. You don’t need to heed all eight, but I have found that most of them are critical for any trainer, at any level.

Each training situation has its own unique context. For example, you might conduct some of your training in short, single sessions (from one to three hours in total length). In such brief periods, you might have time for only one short opening or closing activity. Therefore, limit yourself to a single technique and keep it quick. When your training involves a multisession format, there is time for more openers, closers, and nontraditional methods, such as team learning. In that case, make use of more techniques. 

Engage your participants from the start. Use activities at the beginning of an entire course or at the beginning of any single training session to develop climate for active learning, promote peer interaction, and build immediate involvement in the learning topic.

Be a brain-friendly presenter. Present information and concepts that maximize understanding and retention through techniques that stimulate participants’ brains to be mentally alert and receptive to new data.

Encourage lively and focused discussions. Structure discussions so that participants are motivated to participate and pursue the topic in depth.

Urge participants to ask questions. Motivate participants to ask thoughtful questions and seek information that will answer them.

Let participants learn from each other. Set up effective group learning and peer teaching activities that requires peer collaboration.

Enhance learning by experiencing and doing. Design and facilitate games, practice exercises, role-plays, and other experiential activities to enhance the learning of information, skills, and values.

Blend in technology wisely. Effectively integrate synchronous and asynchronous e-learning tools with classroom learning activity.

Make the end unforgettable. Close a learning experience so that participants review what they have learned, reflect on its importance, consider future steps, and celebrate their accomplishments.

Focus on Outcomes, Not Content

All too often, training is designed around the information, concepts, or skills that appear to be central to the topic at hand. For example if the topic is teamwork, a training design might cover subtopics, such as the team concept, goal setting, roles and responsibilities, managing conflict, problem solving, and decision making. As a result, separate modules might be developed for each topic. On paper, it seems that the design covers the topic of teamwork well, but what happens in the actual experience of the participants? Most will find that they “toured” the topic. They went from subtopic to subtopic, much like a sightseer goes from city to city, or country to country, taking in the tour guide’s patter but often forgetting where they were a few days ago. At best, participants walk away feeling “been there, done that.”

Competency-based training should focus on outcomes rather than content. The training is must be designed to achieve a result instead of covering a topic. Thus, training on teamwork will be concerned with the outcomes:

  • Participants will assess how they contribute, as individuals, to their team’s success and determine what they can do to make a strong contribution.
  • Participants will experience a variety of team problem-solving approaches and decide how to apply them to their own team situation.
  • Participants will identify arenas of collaboration within their organization that are not currently happening and strategise how to make those initiatives.

My suggestion is to look at your current training session and ask yourself if they are focused on content or outcomes. If it’s the former, start asking yourself this question: What do I want participants to do with the training they are getting? When you make this shift in focus, you will really appreciate the eight strategies mentioned above, and start to use them consistently. For example, you will want to involve your participants from the beginning (with icebreakers) to the end (with closing activities) of the training program because they are the key of your success. What you tell and show your participants ultimately doesn’t count. What they take away is paramount. It makes no difference how eloquent you are or how elegant your presentation slides appear. What’s vital is how well they understand what you’ve taught and how motivated they are to apply it. When the training is focused on specific targets, the participants must take more active responsibility for the outcome.

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