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Effective facilitation of adult learning


Facilitators of adult learning must remember that learning occurs within each individual as a continual process throughout life. People learn at different speeds, so it is natural for them to be anxious or nervous when faced with a learning situation. Positive reinforcement by the instructor can enhance learning, as can proper timing of the instruction.

Report by Paul Nyausaru

Learning results from stimulation of the senses. In some people, one sense is used more than others to learn or recall information. Facilitators of adult learning should present information that stimulates as many senses as possible in order to increase their chances of teaching success.

There are four critical elements of learning that must be addressed to ensure maximum for adult learners. In this article, I am going to focus on the four elements help adult learners during their learning process.

The first element is motivation. If the participant does not recognise the need for the information (or has been offended or intimidated), all of the facilitator’s effort to assist the adult to learn will be in vain. The facilitator must establish rapport with participants and prepare them for learning. This is where motivation comes into play. How then does the facilitator motivate learners to have the desire to learn?

Firstly, the facilitator should set a feeling or tone for the lesson. Facilitators should try to establish a friendly, open atmosphere that shows the participants they will help them learn. This could be in the form of opening the session with an appropriate ice breaker that can bring the learners into the learning situation.

Secondly, as the facilitator should set an appropriate level of concern. The level of tension must be adjusted to meet the level of importance of the objective. If the material has a high level of importance, a higher level of tension/stress should be established in the class. However, people learn best under low to moderate stress; if the stress is too high, it becomes a barrier to learning.

Thirdly, the facilitator should set an appropriate level of difficulty. The degree of difficulty should be set high enough to challenge participants, but not so high that they become frustrated by information overload. The facilitator should predict and reward participation, culminating in success.

The second element is reinforcement. Reinforcement is a necessary part of the adult learning process; through it, facilitators encourage correct modes of behaviour and performance. There are basically two types of reinforcement which are positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement.

Positive reinforcement is normally used by facilitators who are teaching participants new skills. As the name implies, positive reinforcement is “good” and reinforces “good“ (or positive) behaviour. On the other hand negative reinforcement is the contingent removal of a noxious stimulus that tends to increase the behaviour.

The contingent presentation of a noxious stimulus that tends to decrease a behaviour is called punishment. When instructors are trying to change behaviours (old practices), they should apply both positive and negative reinforcement.

Reinforcement should be part of the teaching-learning process to ensure correct behaviour. Facilitators need to use it on a frequent and regular basis early in the process to help the students retain what they have learned. Then, they should use reinforcement only to maintain consistent, positive behaviour.

Retention. Learners must retain information from classes in order to benefit from the learning. The facilitator’s job is not finished until they have assisted the learner in retaining the information.

In order for learners to retain the information taught, they must see a meaning or purpose for that information. The must also understand and be able to interpret and apply the information. This understanding includes their ability to assign the correct degree of importance to the material being learnt.  Transference. Transfer of learning is the result of training. Simply defined, it is the ability to use the information taught in the course but in a new setting.

As with reinforcement, there are two types of transfer: positive and negative.

Positive transference, like positive reinforcement, occurs when the participant uses the behaviour taught in the course.

This occurs when the learner successfully makes use of the skills acquired during the learning process to improve the way he/she performs the job at hand. On the other hand negative transference occurs when the learner does not put to use what they acquired during the learning process.

Paul Nyausaru is a Human Resources Practitioner. You can contact him on email pnyausaru@yahoo.co.uk or pnyausaru@gmail.com . Views contained in this article are personal.

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