The Art of facilitating adult learning- Part 2


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.

By Paul Nyausaru

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-centered 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.

It is also crucial for the facilitator to pay attention to the fact that adult learning usually takes place in the work environment.

This calls for consideration of the following aspects. In addition to applying the various learning styles, trainers/facilitators need to have a working skill set to meet the demands of fast-paced, changing environments.

New trends involve instructional designers and facilitators becoming long-term assets to training departments. Expectations are for trainers to arrive not only with delivery skills, but also with design experience and application of learning theories in a variety of settings (Meyer, 2003).

The most significant trend that continues to make an impact on facilitators is the demand for the incorporation of technology into the content and delivery of professional development (King, 2003).

The professional development toolkit for trainers should include:

  • The basics of design and delivery – needs assessment, developing objectives, creating an agenda, selecting appropriate activities, providing for transfer, and designing and conducting evaluation activities
  • An understanding of diverse clients and their different learning styles
  • The ability to read the context, assess needs, and select or create appropriate mini-learning sessions that are often delivered as just in time learning
  • The use of reflective practice skills to make sense of their situation, tailoring learning solutions to their own and other local learning needs, developing and nurturing collaborative communities of practice
  • The ability to coordinate university-based, certificate, and in-service programs designed as learning laboratories
  • The ability to develop activities that increasingly involve active experiential learning and debriefings
  • The ability to use more than one delivery system, particularly online and eLearning
  • The use of learner-centered instruction, especially self-directed learning, means trainers will need to create better ways to include opportunities for reflection, clarification, and guidance

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.

Paul Nyausaru is training & development practitioner. You can contact him on email, Views contained in this article are personal views.