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Training For Dummies
By Elaine Biech
John Wiley & SonsISBN: 0-7645-5985-0
Chapter OneWhy Adults Learn
In This Chapter
* Examining the basic principles of adult learning
* Identifying a trainer's responsibility to ensure adults learn
* Identifying types of learning
* Defining training roles
Think back to the past 60 days. What is one thing you learned? Before reading ahead, try to recall what you learned and why you learned it. Perhaps you learned to play racquetball because you always wanted to learn to play the game. Perhaps you had a flat tire on the way home, and you had to learn to change the tire because you had to do it. You didn't want to, but you had no choice.
If you're like most adults, you learn to do most things as an adult because you want to learn it or you need to learn it.
This chapter explores adult learning theory, how people learn, and how trainers can assist participants to learn in the classroom.
Adult Learning Theory
Trainers are most successful when they understand conditions under which adults learn best. Therefore, it is important to understand the difference between why adults learn and how adults are traditionally taught.
The traditional style of teaching is based on a didactic model, a synonym for lecturing. Generally this model is teacher-led and content-centered. Another word used is pedagogy which literally means the art of teaching children.
In the introductionto this chapter, you discovered that most adults learn things because they want to or need to. Children do, too. However, children's formal learning is usually led by someone else and is based on their learning specific tasks to prepare them to learn additional, more complicated tasks.
For example, you learned to count to 100 in kindergarten, so that you could learn to add and subtract in first grade, so that you could learn to multiply and divide in third grade, so that you could learn algebra in eighth grade, so that you could learn trigonometry in high school, so that you could learn calculus in college.
Most people have experienced the pedagogical model of learning. It has dominated education for centuries and assumes the following:
Does this sound familiar? It should. Unless you had an atypical learning situation, it is most likely how you were taught starting in kindergarten and through college. Some schools are changing however. Although the lecture method is still used, it is frequently enhanced with other learning methods. This suggests that someone has identified a better method for teaching.
Who is Malcolm Knowles?
Malcolm Knowles is considered the father of adult learning theory. Because pedagogy is defined as the art and science of teaching children, European adult educators coined the word andragogy to identify the growing body of knowledge about adult learning. It was Dr. Knowles' highly readable book, The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species, published in 1973, that took the topic from theoretical to practical. Table 2-1 compares the differences between andragogy and pedagogy. Trainers and adult educators began to implement practical applications based on Dr. Knowles' six assumptions.
The following list summarizes Malcolm Knowles' six assumptions and adds a practical application from a trainer's perspective. Although there is some duplication of ideas, I have presented all six assumptions to you as Knowles identified them. Many authors distill the six to five, four, and even three.
Applying adult learning theory to training
I don't know whether Malcolm Knowles had this in mind when he presented his adult learning theory to the world, but it seems that he is talking about responsibility. Furthermore, whether you're the trainer or the learner you have responsibility to ensure that the training is successful, that learning occurs, and that change takes place.
If you're the trainer
If you're the learner
Delivering constructive feedback is a key action expected of all professional trainers. Learners have a right to receive feedback from their trainers.
Trainers beware! Note that I encourage learners to be critical of you if you're not prepared or the session doesn't meet their needs. Why? Professional trainers profess to build on the foundation of adult learning theory. If something is not working, step back, determine why, and fix it. If you're not doing that, you're not practicing good adult learning principles. You may need another trainer to guide you.
How Do People Learn?
The adult learning theory presented in the previous section provides a foundation of principles of adult learning. However, there are additional considerations to enhance results when training adults. In the following sections, I examine them.
Three types of learning: KSAs
Trainers address three types of learning: knowledge (K), skills (S), and influencing attitude (A). Trainers frequently shorten this to the KSA acronym. (If you want the research to support this, it is called Bloom's Taxonomy.)
Knowledge (Bloom called this cognitive) involves the development of intellectual skills. Examples of knowledge include understanding the principles of accounting, knowing the stages of childhood, understanding how interest rates affect the economy, or knowing how to get a book published.
Skills (Bloom called this psychomotor) refers to physical movement, coordination, and the use of the motor-skills area. Examples of skills you may learn include the ability to use a digital camera, operate a backhoe, supervise staff, listen effectively, or kick a soccer ball.
Attitude (Bloom called this affective) refers to how you deal with things emotionally, such as feelings, motivation, and enthusiasm. Although attitude is not "taught," training may affect it. Trainers cannot change attitudes, but they frequently have the opportunity to influence attitudes.
Trainers sometimes discuss whether it is the learner's skill or will that prevents topnotch performance following a training session. This refers to the fact that an employee may have learned the skill but is unwilling to use it. Therefore, the real reason an employee may not be using what was learned may not be skill-based at all. It may be that the employee won't use the skill that was learned.
Knowing that there are three types of learning means that you need to use different methods to address each. I discuss this in more depth in Chapter 5 when I address design.
Other considerations for learning
How do you gain information? Hear? See? Do you also touch? Smell and taste, too? You bet you do! We all gain information through our five senses. The highest percent of information usually comes through seeing and hearing.
NAMES TO KNOW
Many people have theories about how humans learn best. David Kolb, for example, presents four learning styles: the converger, the diverger, the assimilator, and the accommodator. Another theory was developed by W. E. (Ned) Herrmann. His research shows brain specialization in four quadrants and that each quadrant has its own preferred way of learning. Ned's daughter Ann Herrmann-Nehdi continues to enhance her father's work.
Still a third theory, Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP), proposes that everyone takes information in through three modalities: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Most people use a combination of all three modalities. Preferred learning styles determine how your participants assimilate, sort, retain, retrieve, and reproduce new information.
Visual learners, for example, prefer pictures, diagrams, and other visuals. They probably need to "see it" to "know it." They may have artistic ability and a strong sense of color. They may have difficulty following directions or learning from lectures. They may overreact to noise or misinterpret words.
How can you create a learning environment that is conducive for the visual learner? Consider these.
Auditory learners, on the other hand, prefer to get information by listening. They need to "hear it" to "know it." They may have difficulty following written directions or any activity that includes reading.
How can you create a learning environment that is conducive for the auditory learner? Consider these.
Finally, kinesthetic learners prefer hands-on learning. They need to "do it" to "know it." They assemble things without reading directions and usually have good spatial perception. They learn best when they are actively involved.
How can you create a learning environment that is conducive for the kinesthetic learner? Consider these.
You usually encounter all of these learning styles in a training session at one time.
So what does a trainer do? It is not usually possible to address all the learning preferences all the time in a group. Do what all good trainers do.
Helping Adults Learn in the Classroom
You may have a difficult time finding practical advice to ensure that the training room - your workplace - maximizes adult learning. However, in 25 years of experience in classrooms, I've discovered practical tips for applying Malcolm Knowles' principles to ensure that participants learn. I've grouped them in four categories for you.
In the following sections, I examine each of these and help you decide how you can address them.
Create a safe haven for learning
It would be great if everything you did as a trainer went just the way it is supposed to, but it won't. Trust me. Some learners may arrive thinking that training is punishment. Others may arrive with memories of past learning experiences in mind, such as failing tests. Yet others may arrive bringing their daily burdens with them. You can create a safe haven for everyone by using some of these ideas.
I like to use table tents (card stock folded in half length-wise) on which participants write their names. Some trainers prefer to use name badges. Whatever your choice, be sure that you can read them. For example, ask participants to write their first names large enough so that everyone can read them from across the room. If you use preprinted table tents, ensure that the type size is bold and can be read from 40 feet. Also, if water glasses are placed on the tables, bunch them up in one spot so that participants take them as they need them. Otherwise, there will be one sitting in front of each table tent, and you will be unable to read the names.
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