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.