Adult Learning Basics

"Adult Learning Basics" is an article which discusses methods used for training adult students.

Adult students are generally not passive by nature. They appreciate the opportunity to participate in the learning process. Interaction between trainer and trainee is invaluable in maximizing the amount of information any trainee learns and retains.

An important and basic premise to remember when training mature people is that they are adults who just happen to be students for a short time, which is quite different than when training younger students. Adults like to be treated as peers. They are fully aware that they are there to learn. You must keep in mind that you are there to share the knowledge you possess, not to impose your judgement as the latter is often perceived as being condescending and may cause your students to spend a good deal of time resenting your attitude – time they should be spending absorbing your wisdom.

While methods may vary between individuals, every trainer should strive for simplicity when sharing information; maintain clarity when discussing more difficult subject matter; and most of all, encourage student participation.

Group discussion sessions afford the trainer an opportunity to identify misconceptions or misunderstandings that any of the trainees may have. A group environment also allows you to correct misconceptions or errors on the spot, without singling out any one person. Of course, one-on-one discussions should also be welcomed if a student seeks your help on any particular point.

Regardless of how many trainees are present, you should conduct the session and convey the material in a professional and approachable manner. Do not try to impress students with your vast knowledge, using big words and quoting unnecessary facts and figures. Rambling and verbosity serve no purpose other than to frustrate the listener. Keep your delivery simple; your facts sharp and to the point and your manner open, friendly and always professional.

Never assume that the information you convey is being understood to everyone listening. Trainees have different levels of comprehension that is significantly affected by the nature and complexity of the information they trying to absorb at any particular time. Encourage trainees to ask question and ask a few of your own. The best time to this is after each block of information on a given topic is conveyed to your class. Do not continue to the next part of a training program without checking that your students understand what has been covered by engaging them in interaction that involves this type of two way communication.

When winding down a training session, let the trainees know that you will be around after the class if anyone has anything he or she would like to discuss. Adult or not, some of us are still too shy to speak up in front of our classmates.

After all, adults are just older adolescents.

Rob Vetter
Director of Training
IVES Training Group

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