Why is Adult Learning Theory Important in Training?


I have spent years writing and delivering training across many different mediums. I also taught others how to be effective in the classroom. To be a good trainer, it is important to understand the difference between traditional vs. adult learning theory because it can make a difference in what students will take away from the experience. It looks something like this:

Traditional Learning Model (think elementary school)

  1. One way information flow
  2. Every aspect of the learning process belongs to the instructor
  3. Learning is focused on content and logic
  4. Motivation is external

Adult Learning Theory – six assumptions tell us that adults:

  1. Need to know the goal – why they should learn something prior to investing time
  2. Want to be responsible for their own learning
  3. Want to build on personal experiences in the learning process
  4. Have a strong desire for self-directed learning
  5. Are willing to put energy into things they believe will help solve a problem
  6. Are motivated internally and have a natural desire to learn

Having knowledge of the information above can make a difference in how we write and deliver training. I have learned it isn’t always about giving answers, but about asking questions so that your audience comes to the conclusions that you are seeking. It becomes their ideas and that is where the real education takes place.

How to make training more engaging:

  1. Ask what the audience knows about the topic. What do they hope to get out of the session? The value here is it allows you to tailor the presentation so everyone gets what they need
  2. Engage learners throughout the process, it ought to be a conversation, not a preaching session
  3. Ask random questions to each person to get individual experiences and insight. Sharing personal stories makes the learning relevant to learner’s personal situations and how they make connections.
  4. In the classroom, use different mediums (Writing on a board, having others tally a number or write examples down, small group activity etc.)
  5. For Web-Ex sessions: have participants write on the screen, or give them control of the session so you can talk them through how to use a new website or system. Let them write their answers on the screen. When waiting for people to answer a question, tell them to “raise their hands” when done
  6. Have fun with it, begin or end with trivia questions, the word of the day, fun facts or interesting photos.

Adult learning theory is important because as we lead people through change, it is imperative to remember that individuals process information differently. Using various blended methods to include those above will reinforce the learning, which will lead to increased end-user adoption. Reinforcement and sustaining the new change.

Please share more thoughts below! Thank you for visiting my blog, I look forward to hearing from you.

More about Kakie Fitzsimmons

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About KakieF
To learn more about Kakie Fitzsimmons, please select "A NOTE FROM KAKIE" tab at the top left of this page. Thanks for visiting my blog!

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