Adult Learning

Teaching adults is very different from teaching children. Adults don’t have patience with bad instruction and nine times out of ten; they won’t sit through a boring lecture. After all, this is not college. They don’t have to be there. If you are getting ready to deliver training for the first time, there are a few things that you should keep in mind.

· Adults have a need to know why they should learn something or what’s in it for them. When employees voluntarily attend training, they are typically highly motivated because they have the opportunity to learn something new. If the training topic isn’t relevant and timely, the employee will lose interest. Mandatory training does not equate to learning. Often when adults show up for mandatory training, they are physically there but not mentally ready to learn.

· Adults have a need to be self directed. Adults like to be responsible for their decisions and actions. Adults also like to be held accountable for their actions.

· Adults become ready to learn when they experience in their life situation a need to know or be able to do something more effectively. Adults become willing and ready to learn when the topic or subject is relevant. For example, an adult typically is not interested in learning a new software package if the organization isn’t using the software. Of course, there is always the exception of an adult learning something new because he or she has a personal interest in the subject.

· Adults enter into learning with a task centered orientation. Adults set goals and want to attain them. They want to apply what they learn as soon as possible.

· Adults are motivated by intrinsic & extrinsic motivators. They do things for their reasons, not yours! If an adult does not want to learn a new skill, he or she won’t. It doesn’t matter how much you want them to, they need to want it first.

· Adults bring a great deal of experience to the learning environment and you want to tap into their experience when you can. Always find out the level of expertise people have in a subject area prior to training. This is easy to do by sending an email with specific questions. When I facilitate Train the Trainer sessions, I ask the following questions:

1. Please describe any prior teaching or training experience that you have had?

2. Describe your comfort level with the material?

3. What are your expectations for the program?

4. What language will you be delivering the training in?

The answers to the questions help me customize the class to fit the needs of the learners.

· Adults are kids with big bodies! Adults like to laugh and have fun. The more you can create an atmosphere that is participant centered, NOT instructor centered, the better the training will be. When you get people to laugh, they will listen. When they listen, they will learn.

You need to learn how to facilitate more and lecture less. That’s worth saying again – lecture less! You can use props, video clips, games, music and other creative techniques to keep adults engaged. A few years ago, I encouraged a group of trainees from Johnson & Johnson to write and perform a rap song. On the last day of training, the group dressed in black T-shirts with black sun glasses and performed for the class. I will never forget the class and the fun we had that week. So, your job is to set the stage, be creative, rise to the occasion and have fun! Your participants will love you for it. Happy learning!

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