Tips 3 & 4 – Engaging Adult Learners

Continuing from the last post, here are two more tips, or thoughts for engaging your adult learners:

3.  Respect Experience.  Without question, there are individuals in the class that have some understanding of the information you are presenting.  It may be from other training they’ve had or through work experience.  Whenever possible, reach out to the individuals and draw on their current knowledge and experience.  Encourage the sharing of experiences and examples that clarify the information will help the other employees understand and then transfer of knowledge to their work. 

In preparation for the training when you observed and talked with the employees, did anyone provide examples or situations that would be worth sharing?  If so, ask those who had examples for permission to call on them during the training to share their information.  Look for stories.  Can an employee offer a story that relates to the topic?  Stories are great for illustrating important information.  They help the leaner visualize a situation and then relate it to something they may have experienced.  This can greatly increase the transfer of knowledge to their specific work situation.  There is an added benefit for using examples from employees.  You have shown respect for their knowledge and willingness to share.  This respect can increase the likelihood that they may independently coach or mentor others.

4.  Set Individual Goals for Learning.  At the beginning of the class make sure that the learning objectives are clearly stated and that everyone understands what is expected. Next, ask the participants to set a goal for themselves related to the subject of the class.  This goal should be behavior oriented and something that they will be able to demonstrate when the class is finished. 

Individual goal setting helps with knowledge transfer back to the work setting.  If anyone has trouble visualizing a goal, you can provide examples of what you expect or ask others to share the goal they set for themselves.  Give examples that are close to the desired behavior or outcomes.  With concrete examples, goal setting will help the individuals visualize their work and what using the new training information might look like.  Goals that are behavioral and observable will create visual models.  These visual models often lead to specific questions during the training that add clarity and understanding for everyone.