5 Ways Adult Learning is Unique and 7 Tips to Apply it to your Corporate Training

It can be easy to assume that the way individuals take in information is fairly consistent. However, have you ever considered how the dynamics of learning change as we age? Consider the strategies used to teach early elementary students, versus someone in high school. How is the classroom laid out? How is information delivered? What are the expectations of the students to help them learn?

This also carries over to how adults learn. It is called andragogy, and it is the study of how adults learn differently from children. We often associate the majority of our structured learning with our younger years. And while this is true, learning is a life long process that changes overtime, so understanding adult learning theory and its styles is crucial to delivering effective corporate training.

Learn more about adult learning and empower yourself to deliver your training accordingly with our guide to adult learning theory below.

MALCOLM KNOWLES’ 5 ASSUMPTIONS OF ADULT LEARNERS

Adult Learners

While the word andragogy can be traced back to the 1800s, the most popular research and theorizing of it can be traced back to Malcolm Knowles in 1968. Malcolm Knowles was an American adult educator who used scientific methods to determine the most effective ways to teach adults. Through this and his experience teaching at the YMCA and working for the Adult Education Association, he developed four assumptions about how adults learn (he added the fifth assumption several years later). They are:

1. SELF-CONCEPT

As an adult, our experiences give us a stronger self-concept. This helps us better understand our learning needs, style, and preferences. Along with this, as we move further into adulthood, we become less dependent on others, and shift to having a strong sense of independence. This can make it more challenging to sit in a classroom and learn from another instructor. This means that adult learners tend to prefer a more self-directed approach to learning, rather than instructor-led. Furthermore, because of this independence, adults tend to prefer to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction.

2. ADULT LEARNER EXPERIENCE

The experience an adult has already gathered before entering a training workshop through previous education, work experience, and life in general is significantly higher than a child entering a learning environment. Adults have hands-on experience, accumulated knowledge, and have learned from making mistakes. This must be considered when teaching adults, as it can help them make meaningful connections that will help them better retain information. As a trainer, being mindful of the things your adult learners have experienced can help you better engage them.

3. READINESS TO LEARN

As adults, our readiness to learn is most prevalent when the topics resonate with our everyday lives, such as growth or advancement in our career. When there is a strong and relevant reason to learn, adults are significantly more interested in learning. If adult learners can’t see how they can apply what they are learning to their life – whether personally or professionally – they will be significantly less engaged in your workshops. If learning can help them better fit into their roles in society, they will be more likely to value the training they take in.

4. ORIENTATION OF LEARNING

The orientation of adult learning is less focused on content, and more focused on practicality. Adult learners want to learn things that will help them solve problems in their lives or careers. This shift in perspective means that adult learners prefer to take in information that they can immediately apply to better hone their skills, increase productivity, and advance their career and organization wherever relevant. This is also referred to as problem-centered learning rather than content-centered learning.

5. MOTIVATION TO LEARN

A child’s motivation to learn generally comes from the guidance of adults, such as parents, teachers, and mentors. Adult learners generally have a desire to learn based on internal factors. This includes personal reasons such as increasing self esteem or progressing in their workplace. An adult building maturity overtime leads to them better understanding what they need to learn to progress in life, and they will be motivated to train based on that.

TIPS TO SUIT YOUR TRAINING TO ADULT LEARNERS

So what does this mean? And how does it impact your corporate training? Below are our tips for providing corporate training to adults based on Knowles’ Assumptions for Adult Learning:

  1. Ensure you can back up your credibility as a trainer to build trust with your learners. This can help you keep your adult learner’s attention despite their increased independence compared to a child.
  2. Provide self-directed learning options if possible. As a trainer, it may feel like you are losing a sense of control in your training by providing self-directing options. However, for adults it can be just as – if not more – effective, as it better aligns with many adults learning preferences. Self-directed learning can be implemented through eLearning for convenient, instructorless training.
  3. Involve your learners. Adult learners like to feel involved in the learning process. As a trainer, sending notes or agendas ahead of time to your learners about what will be covered in your workshop can help your learners prepare any questions or other topics they would like to see covered when they enter the training. Giving your learners an opportunity to evaluate your training can also give you strong feedback that you can implement in the future and give your learners more of a say in their training.
  4. Encourage your learners to draw on their previous experiences. Take opportunities to let your learners share their experiences and relate them to your training. This could be through group conversations or activities that allow them to reflect on their experience. Being able to share this experience and apply it to your workshops will help the content better resonate with all the learners.
  5. Highlight the benefits and focus on the impact. Being strategic on your promotion and opening of your training workshop can set the tone for how engaged your learners are for your entire workshop, especially when it comes to adult learners. Consider your learner’s wants and needs. Career advancements? Increased professional value? General improvement of soft skills? Make sure you have some of these points ready to communicate to your learners so that they can understand the benefits of your training and how it can help them grow personally or professionally.
  6. Focus on training that can solve problems for your learners. This boils down once again to understanding your trainee’s needs. What challenges or obstacles are they facing that would make your training worth their while? Ensuring these solutions are incorporated into your training will make your workshops truly stand out.
  7. Increase motivation by focusing on the internal impact. Understanding your trainee’s motivation and how motivation is unique to adult learners will help you plan your workshops in a way that will keep your trainees engaged. Make sure your training is relevant to the factors that will motivate your trainees such as advancements in their workplace or personal development.

CONCLUSION

As adults develop more skills and knowledge, their learning style and experience impacts how they best take in information. By referring to adult learning theory and applying it to our training, you can ensure you are providing the best possible corporate training to your learners.

 

Posted by Katelyn Roy on 

Icebreaker Cheat Sheet to Kick off Your Corporate Training

How does trust and comfortability allow for more effective corporate training? Ensuring your participants feel safe and comfortable in their training workshops  allows everyone to feel empowered to express their thoughts and ask questions. This helps everyone being trained better their understanding through meaningful conversations. By creating this environment in your training workshops, you will create an enriching learning experience for all of your participants.

Bu how do we do this? Finding ways to get your participants open to discussions requires some strategy. However, by putting this extra effort in, your participants can be reminded of their commonality of objections for the training they are receiving. One of the best way to do this is through incorporating icebreakers into your training sessions.

Icebreakers are exercises used in training workshops as a warm-up and to build trust and comfortability within a group of participants, typically presented as games or exercises that can be done to help gain a better understanding of the topics being discussed, or simply to give your participants an opportunity to get to know each other better. This can help promote collaboration throughout your workshop, increase engagement, or make your training more light hearted and fun.

Looking to facilitate icebreakers in your training but don’t know where to start? We have you covered. Below is our cheat sheet for your corporate training icebreakers.

Icebreaker Benefits

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE?

Great for: Helping your participants get to know each other with zero materials or preparation, making it an ideal online training Icebreaker with the use of breakout room features. It takes about 10-15 minutes.

Instructions: Divide the meeting participants into groups of four or five people by having them number off. Tell the groups that their assignment is to each identify and share their favorite work activity, favorite work goal, etc.

Next, ask group member to share why the selected item is their personal favorite.

Debrief the activity in the large group by asking each individual to share their favorite, but not the “why” with the larger group. This moves quickly.

Lastly, ask participants to share with the larger group what they learned about their fellow group members during the small group discussion.

TEAM TRINKETS

Great for: Getting participants comfortable with conflict resolution in a low-stakes context. This activity will help participants get to know each other while doing a non-conflict laden task. It requires some basic materials such as a flip chart, paper, colored markers, craft supplies, etc.

Instructions:
 Ask participants to number off to create groups of six to eight. Their task is to come up with a team name and slogan, preferably based on something that they all have in common. They should then create two of the following items:

  • Name cards for each participant
  • Team sign
  • Team hats
  • Team work area
  • Team song/poem

Give participants about ten minutes for this task. If conducting training online, put participants into breakout rooms and modify the list to just items that have options that don’t require supplies (just the name, slogan, and song/poem).

After all groups have completed the task, ask each group to present their team name, slogan, and items, and to explain how they arrived at a decision for each. Ask participants if conflicts arose over choices, and how those conflicts were managed.

Encourage groups to work together throughout the day and strengthen their bond.

FIND THE LEADER

Great for: Helping participants get to know each other. Only requires enough chairs for all participants minus one, arranged in a circle. This icebreaker is most ideal for in-person training.

Instructions: Identify the person in the group whose birthday is closest to today’s date. Identify that person as Spot and ask them to leave the room. Then, have the remaining participants choose a leader from the circle. Explain that when Spot returns to the room, they will have three guesses to name the leader. The group’s job is to ensure that their leader stays a secret. Bring Spot back to the room and give him/her three chances to identify the leader. If they succeed, the leader will become the new Spot. If they fail, they will stay as Spot for another round. This activity works best with a group of 10-20 participants, and no one should be Spot for more than three rounds.

Use the following questions to debrief:

  • How did you keep the leader a secret?
  • How did Spot guess the leader?
  • How difficult was it to be Spot?
  • How difficult was it to be the leader?
  • What can we take away from this exercise?

CATEGORIES

Great for: Helping participants get to know each other. Requires no materials. Can be done in person, or modified to be done online with the hand raise feature.

Instructions: Prepare a list of categories, such as:

  • Favorite color
  • Favorite season
  • Number of siblings
  • Astrological sign
  • Shoe size
  • Favorite subject in school

Ask participants to stand. Say that you are going to ask them to arrange themselves by different categories. For example, you might say, “What is your favorite color?” Participants will look for other people who share their favorite color and form groups. Once everyone is in a group, ask the groups to identify themselves. Repeat the activity with four or five different categories.

GETTING ENGAGED

Great for: This activity will help the group to get to know one another, and to connect to each other by working on a common goal that they can refer to throughout the workshop. It requires minimal materials such as flip chart paper and markers, but could easily be modified to suit online training.

Instructions: Have everyone introduce themselves by stating their name, where they are working, how long they have been in their current role, and one thing that they love about the work they do.

Form the group into smaller teams of four to six people. Each group must come up with the name, logo, and motto (if time allows) for their newly formed HR consulting company. They can capture the information on flip chart paper, or simply communicate it verbally if doing the activity online.

BALL TOSS

Great for: Helping participants get to know each other. It requires only a small, lightweight ball that you can easily toss around the room, like a NERF ball.

Instructions: Toss a ball to one of the students who then makes the first introduction and shares one interesting fact about himself or herself. He or she then throws the ball to someone else. Challenge the group to complete the introductions without throwing the ball to the same person twice. If facilitating the icebreaker online, participants can simply choose the person to go next rather than throwing a ball.

FIVE ADJECTIVES

Great for: Helping participants build relationships with each other. Requires no preparation and only paper and pens, and can be modified to online training.

Instructions: Divide the meeting participants into groups of three or four (depending on the number of participants). Breakout rooms can be used if facilitating online. Explain to the groups that each person must write down five adjectives that describe how they view themselves emotionally. Each participant will have a chance to present his / her adjectives to the group.=

Bring the smaller groups together to form the larger group and ask three or four participants to share their adjectives. Note the similarities and differences between how the participants view themselves.

This teambuilding icebreaker takes 10 – 15 minutes, depending on the number of groups.

GROUP RÉSUMÉ

Great for: Getting participants acquainted with each other and promote positive conversation.

Requires little to no materials and can be easily modified for online training using breakout room features.

Instructions: Ask participants to create a composite résumé for their group. They might include such things as:

  • Total years of experience
  • Education
  • Skills
  • Positions held
  • Outside interests

Ask each group to present its résumé to the rest of the participants.

HOUSE OF CARDS

Great for: Helping identify participants’ goals for the training session. Since this icebreaker requires the use of playing cards, it is more appropriate to facilitate this icebreaker at an in-person training session.

Instructions: Pass out one playing card to each participant, face-down. On your cue, ask participants to turn over their playing cards. They are to find others with their suit, but they are not allowed to talk or show their card. For example, if a person had a spade, they may illustrate that by pretending to dig a hole. Once participants are in their groups, they are to introduce themselves and come up with a list of five things that they would like to learn during the workshop. Once groups have created their list, bring participants back together. Have each group present their list and combine topics on the flip chart. Use this as a guide during the workshop. If there are any topics that will not be covered, let participants know where they can find more resources.

CONCLUSION

Icebreakers are an actionable way to meet objectives that will set the ideal tone for the remainder of your training workshops. Our on-line training materials provide everything you need to deliver effective corporate training, including plenty of icebreakers that you can follow to a tee or customize to better suit the context of your organization and your training workshop.

 

Posted by Katelyn Roy on