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 

Your Guide to Trainee Feedback Surveys

IMPROVE FUTURE TRAINING SESSIONS WITH OUR FEEDBACK GUIDE

There’s no doubt that accepting and collecting feedback is important when providing any product or service, and corporate training is no exception.

And while any feedback is crucial, being strategic with how you ask for it can allow you to get the most useful information you can from your participants.

Ask the right questions and get effective feedback from your trainees with our training workshop feedback survey guide below. Copy and paste the most relevant questions into an experience management software like Survey Monkey or simply incorporate it into a feedback request email. Get more email templates for your trainees from one of our recent blog posts.

Remember, research has shown that to get optimal data, you need to consider how long you make your survey. Studies have shown that the longer the survey, the less amount of time your participants spend on answering each individual question. This means it is important to balance your survey to make sure there is enough questions to get all the information you are looking for, while still ensuring that there is a good amount of thought going into how each question is answered. While there is no magic number for how many questions you include in your feedback survey, 5-10 questions is a good rule of thumb.

FEEDBACK: WHY YOUR PARTICIPANTS’ OPINION MATTERS

The opinion of your participants experience in your training programs is highly valuable. Feedback is great for learning purposes, for suggesting improvements, and for inspiring creativity in your training programs. It will also help to determine which ideas are most valued for the company. There are a few different levels of feedback you should be seeking post-training.

Feedback

LEVEL ONE: REACTIONS

The most basic level of evaluation is the participants’ reactions to the training. To gauge this, you should be asking questions such as the following:

  • How did you like the training?
  • How did you like the trainer?
  • How did you feel about the training environment?
  • Did you think the training was useful?
  • Did you feel comfortable?
  • Did you feel as though you had ample opportunities to participate?

Level one questions can be asked in post-training surveys or even in the form of verbal feedback before or after the training session.

Reaction feedback is fairly easy to gather and measure. It should be gathered as close as possible to the desired time period. (For example, if you wanted to measure reactions to the first day of a workshop, you should gather reactionary feedback at the end of the first day).

LEVEL TWO: LEARNING

The next level of evaluation assesses how much the participant actually learned in the training session. It looks at two basic areas which are if trainees learned what we (the trainer) wanted them to learn, and if the training session was the experience participants wanted it to be.

This level is typically measured via tests immediately before and immediately after the training. It is important that these assessments are tied closely to the learning objectives.

Note that this level can be measured on an individual or group level. For example, you could have a verbal group-style quiz, or you could have individual assessments. When assessing group performance, however, make sure that each individual can be evaluated.

Since this level of feedback is very specific to the topic you are training in, we can’t generally tell you what you need to ask. However, with our Soft Skills Library, we provide post tests for each of our Soft Skills courses. This allows you to assess your trainees prior knowledge and what they have learned quickly and easily.

LEVEL THREE: BEHAVIOR

This level of question evaluates how trainees could see themselves applying the learning they took in and how it may have changed their behavior towards the training topic. Key questions for this level may include:

  • How quickly do you feel you can put your knowledge from the training into effect when you go back on the job?
  • Were the skills presented today relevant?
  • How confident do you feel you could correctly implement the skills you learned in the training?
  • Do you feel the training you received today will contribute to positive sustainable change in your workplace?
  • Has your outlook on the training topics discussed today changed?
  • Do you feel that you could confidently share the knowledge you learned in the training session with others?

It can be challenging to evaluate changes at this level, particularly with soft topics like communication and leadership. This is why it is important to develop a well-rounded, accurate evaluation system before training begins. This may need to be evaluated on an ongoing basis in a way that is not intrusive on their daily duties. It may take time for the skills learned in the training to be implemented and impacting their results.

LEVEL FOUR: RESULTS

The final level of evaluation is quantifiable results. This assesses the effect of the training on the person’s environment (their workplace, home, etc.). These questions (like the behaviour questions) may be better to ask a period of time after the training was conducted. Alternatively, you can ask questions that can help you gauge if the trainees can visualize themselves using what they learned in the training to help achieve quantifiable results in their organization.

Consider asking if your trainees can use what they learned to better their metrics in regards to:

  • Number of sales
  • Percentage of customer complaints
  • Timeliness
  • Absenteeism
  • Quality ratings and failures
  • Third-party inspection ratings (such as food and safety)

This is an important level of evaluation, as it is often what high-level executives look for when evaluating the training. They want to know numbers and figures, with proof to back the data up, also known as key performance indicators. This ensures that the goals of the business are being tied into the training.

These evaluation processes should tie in with day-to-day business procedures and not cause a lot of extra work. It is important, however, that the trainee knows what measurements are tied to the training before the training begins. This will help them apply context to the training and achieve better results.

As a final note, be careful of outside factors that can cloud ratings in your quantifiable data. For example, let’s say that you send your salespeople on training and you expect their sales to increase by 5% per month as a result. If the economy crashes two months after the training, your results will be clouded by outside circumstances.

ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:

Your goals as a trainer will impact the questions you will ask your trainees. This could be in regards to quantifying success, training logistics, knowledge retention or something completely different. Here are some other questions you may want to consider asking when gathering feedback on your training:

  • What is your main goal for taking this training?
  • What was the most useful part of the training?
  • What was your least favorite part of the training? Why was it your least favorite?
  • What are your biggest challenges in your role/organization?
  • Where did you first hear about us?
  • How would you rate the training space?
  • How would you rate the trainer’s delivery of the session?
  • How would you describe your experience of booking/registering for your training?
  • Is there any way we can improve to make our future training sessions better?

CONCLUSION:

We hope that this blog post sparked some inspiration for your next training session. Don’t forget to check out our Soft Skills Library for post-test quizzes on 140 training topics, and let us know of any feedback questions we forgot in the comments below!

Posted by Katelyn Roy on