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Adult learning — A specialised area

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Adult learning is a field that requires careful attention if it is going to make a meaningful impact due to the fact that the two groups of learners, adults and children are different.

This week we focus on the essential ingredients of dealing with adults.

The first principle that I am going to talk about has to do with the adults’ need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction.

Unlike child learners who have decisions about what they learn determined by the teacher, adult learners will make a meaningful contribution to the learning process only if they are involved in the planning and evaluation process.

This could entail the trainer could conduct a needs assessment to assist in the planning of the course.

Another principle underpinning adult learning has to do with experience. Experience on the part of learners (including mistakes) provides the basis for learning activities.

It is strongly advised that the trainer pays much attention to the experience that learners bring into the learning situation. This will assist in having the learners’ link what they learning with real life situations which will eventually result in meaningful learning.

It has also been observed that adults are more interested in learning about subjects that have immediate relevance to their job or personal life.

Adult learners enroll for professional courses or attend professional workshops so that they can immediately benefit by improving the way they perform their tasks.

So as trainers, it is imperative that we pay attention to that need so that learners realise the benefit of attending the course.

The other principle that relates to adult learning is that adult learning is problem-centred rather than content-oriented.

In this case, it has been observed that adult learners are more concerned with being assisted to make use of the knowledge they acquire in solving particular problems they come across in life rather that mere internalising the content.

So it is incumbent upon the trainer that the training methods employed during training allow for such learning to occur.

Research has also shown that adults need to focus on issues that allow debate and challenge ideas.

This means that the trainer has to ensure that there is room for group activities that stimulate debate on issues related to what is being covered in the course.

Presentations by the learners will also allow learners to do thorough research with aim of delivering thought-provoking presentations.

This will indeed ensure learners see value in what they are learning.
If trainers pay particular attention to these principles of adult learning, there is no doubt that the training they get will translate into meaningful learning that will improve their performance back at the work place.

I conclude this week’s edition with a clarification on the article Unveiling appreciative inquiry where there has been feedback which sought to have the originator of the concept clearly defined.

It is important to note that the originator of the appreciative inquiry is David Cooperrider while Sue Hammond helped with some of the books and promotes themes around appreciative inquiry.

In the article Hammond is cited as if she is the originator, but it is important to give reference to Cooperrider who is credited with coming up with this concept that we all look forward to see being fulfilled.

Paul Nyausaru is training & development practitioner. You can contact him on email pnyausaru@yahoo.co.uk, pnyausaru@gmail.com
Views contained in this article are personal

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