Adult Learning and Its influence on Learning Development
When it comes to learning adults have a much different perspective of the process than someone in the K-12 environment. This is especially true when one considers adult learning in an organizational or workplace setting. Adult learning is different from how young people learn in that adults need to know why the information you are providing is important to them. You have to show them What’s In It For Me. One technique I have used is at the beginning of the session elicit from the audience what they have as expectations of the event. Write these expectations down and relate them to the course learning objectives. At the end of the session recap by going back over the expectations to ensure the content addressed the key learner expectations.
The method of delivery (ILT, CBT, WBT) has little influence on the principles of adult learning. How do the five principles of self-concept, prior experience, readiness to learn, orientation to learning and motivation to learn influence the manner and methods we use to build the learning content?
Self-concept requires the developer to present the learner with the ability to determine the direction of the learning to meet the learning objective(s). The developer establishes limits and recommends leading questions to help facilitate delivery. This allows the trainer (facilitator) to allow the audience to discuss the topic and arrive at an acceptable conclusion.
Prior experience makes developers consider the life experiences of the learners taking the course (obtained during the audience analysis portion of ADDIE) when formulating the number and types of questions recommended for the trainer. While the audience may not have specific experience in the topic of discussion, they will have life experiences they can analyze, synthesize and apply to the concepts.
Readiness to learn addresses the willingness of the learner to be present in the learning event. Many organizations have mandatory training all employees must attend (or access in the case of e-learning). The developer can accommodate the expected resistance by showing the audience why they should be there and why the content can improve them. Even if organizations force adult learners to attend a training session, they have a strong tendency to want to be successful.
Orientation to learning is either life- or work-centered. Developing content to address both of these focal points of the learner enhances the probability of internalization. At the same time, the content should allow the facilitator to address the two orientations resident in each focal point. We achieve goal orientation by providing the trainer with the necessary information to meet audience expectations and relevance orientation provides the VALUE the training has to the learner on an individual basis.
Motivation to learning involves the “why” the learner is present. This can be:
- External expectations – the organization requires individuals at specific levels to possess professional certifications such as Lean Six Sigma, Program Management Professional, or an advanced degree in the industry such as an MBA.
- Cognitive interest – the learner is just plain interested in the content
- Personal advancement – the learner hopes to obtain a promotion at work or to be more engaging in a personal relationship.
- Social welfare – the learner believes they have a moral obligation and the training will enhance the learner’s ability to meet that obligation.
- Social relationships – the leaner believes the information in the course will enhance their efforts at expanding their social circles.
- Escape – the learner believes the course will be a catalyst in breaking out of a pattern of behavior or psychological funk