Step 1: Educate yourself on how adults learn. Part 1
“The learner should be actively involved in the learning process.” Malcolm Knowles
Remember that workshop where you were lectured at for a few hours and you left more confused than when you entered? I am sure you do, and it’s not because you didn’t want to learn. Most likely, it’s because it wasn’t designed with the learner in mind.
Designing learning experiences is hard. Designing a learning experience that is transformative is even harder. To design focused and impactful training requires a solid understanding of adult learning theory.
Andragogy is adult learning theory. It is similar in some ways to pedagogy, yet it is also uniquely different. For example, adults need more time to process than kids. Why? Adults have far more experiences and knowledge. Any new information presented to an adult needs to pass a litmus test before it is integrated. New information or methods need to be grappled with before they are going to be put into use.
When designing learning experiences for adults, consider the following to aid a successful experience for the learner.
Invite them as the learner they are: How people approach learning matters. In order to address those that need to know the central concept of why they are going to be learning something, try the 4MAT model for them. This approach is great at the start of a session. It lets all learners know there is a place for them in the learning experience no matter their angle of approach.
Relevance: Adult learners need to know the value of the learning experience they are in. They need to see why it matters to their context or will improve their performance. For example, talking about soft-skills and why they matter won’t translate into a behavior change. A learning experience needs to show why it matters and then allow for practice in the context of those present.
Immediate application and practice: Don't just have participants see the new knowledge of skill in action. Have them try it out. This approach isn’t new. Incorporate the I do, We do, You do model. Make the process clear. State you are modeling it and that they will be executing the practice in a moment. Interest will heighten as people will know what the expectation is of them.
If you try these options, don’t throw the towel in on something you only tried once and didn’t reflect on. After all, we wouldn’t want our learners to do this. These might be new to you. You need to wrestle with them and practice. The nuances of learning design will show up as you get more experience.
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Ross Herdina, Co-Founder, Agile Ideas Leadership