Learn the principles of effective adult learning

I came across the definition that andragogy is “the science and art of helping adults learn.” That’s right – “helping”, not “teaching”. So the assumption is that “learning” is a highly independent and internally motivated process, that the door to knowledge, skills and wisdom always opens from the inside.. Taking this reasoning one step further-in fact, no one can be taught anything, but only supported in this process-and this is especially true for adults.

What about the teacher, then? In the educational processes of adults, the teacher increasingly plays the role of coach, mentor and facilitator. It certainly departs from the position of the traditional “belfra”, which is a directive transfer of knowledge, requires and strictly evaluates.
So what do you need to pay attention to in order for adult education classes to be effective and attractive for participants?

Target group-notice the differences

For the educational process to be effective, you need to start by getting to know the target group. And if the group is made up of adults, then this fact alone implies that it is very diverse. Even if, by virtue of the training theme, it has many common features (e.g. members of the same team in the company), we are still dealing with people with different education profiles, with different experiences, interests and educated on this basis, different character traits and way of being. And this, on the one hand, complicates the educational process, because as teachers we “speak” to a very heterogeneous audience, but on the other hand-this aspect can be used as the greatest advantage of teaching adults! How?

A diverse group is a potentially more attractive activity-it is only necessary to allocate time so that participants can share their knowledge and experience (relevant to the topic of the activity) with others. This will make people more willing to open up and establish relationships. The integration of participants and the opportunity to learn from each other (and not just from a coach or teacher) is a huge value of group educational activities!

Why and for whom? Target orientation and individualization of Education

Adults who have long (or recently.) completed formal education do not sit in pews because they have to or “the system requires it”. If they decide to take a course, training or workshop, it is most often associated with a specific purpose. And this is the goal-from the point of view of the coach-you need to know in order to confront him with the prepared material. Of course, it is not always possible to “fit and modify” the material to all participants of the group-and the purpose of the training should be clearly defined in advance so that the participants know what to expect, so their needs are generally consistent with the program of the educational service. However, you can always-and worth it! – to take even a small step towards the recipient, if we already know what exactly he expects. Traditional question at the beginning of classes ” what do you expect?”it serves not only to “break the ice”, but is a source of valuable information for the teacher, what to pay special attention to when implementing the program of classes (and what to possibly skip). Flexibility and focus on the recipient are the “basis of attitude” of every processional coach..

Practice, practice… and practice again

The general rule is that adults learn more willingly when they see sense in it (which is combined with the goal orientation described above). Children can be “curious about everything”, because this is their nature and they are at the stage of exploring the world, yet without consciously selecting stimuli and content. However, adults and the more established in life-with a lot of daily commitments, competitive tasks and time constraints-usually want to see the practical application of everything they learn (by sacrificing their time and financial resources).

What does this mean for the teacher (coach)?

Again-flexibility and focus on the recipient, but also the appropriate design of the message-referring to examples, informing about practical applications and various ways of using new knowledge. Whatever you teach, don’t recite the textbook and shower your audience with dry facts and theories. In the age of the internet, knowledge is generally available, so the main strengths of the trainer is precisely the ability to select the most valuable content from a given field and effectively show the audience how to apply the theory in practice. Dressing knowledge in a clear structure and transferring it in an attractive way, taking into account the individual needs of the participants, make the coach an indispensable partner in the educational process.

Act as a partner

Well, with regard to the last sentence of point three, another important principle is raised. In the educational process of adults, it is good if the coach, as it was already mentioned at the beginning, enters the role of coach, mentor or facilitation, and gives up the attitude of traditional belfra. Why? Because educational trends are changing, and research in the field of didactics clearly shows that the more activity on the part of students and the possibility of “experiencing” new content (in opposition to passive assimilation of theoretical knowledge), the better the teaching results. You do not even need to track the results of the tests: “tell me, and I’ll forget. Show me and I’ll remember. Let me do, and I will understand, ” said Confucius already a few centuries before our era.

Besides, who in adulthood likes to be treated like an unruly schoolboy who should be reprimanded for not staying silent from doorbell to doorbell? Adults will rarely be satisfied if the coach adopts the attitude of an all-knowing guru. The directive style of teaching goes to the Lamus in favor of a more “friendly” and egalitarian relationship between teacher and student. With children the situation is somewhat different – it is natural that the teacher, for example. early childhood education not only teaches, but also takes part in the process of education, which in itself implies greater decision-making of the teacher and control of the behavior of the group. However, if the same teacher teaches courses for adults, it is good for him to point out that habits in working with children will not necessarily find application and a positive reception when working with adults. It is not, of course, that children’s education should remain in its traditional form, but it is worth emphasising in the context of the debate that, especially for adults, it is of particular importance to recognise their already acquired knowledge, skills and social position as a result of existing life experience.

One coach, multiple roles

As follows from the above points-the crux of the matter is the choice of the method of communication to the audience (in this case, adults with educational and developmental needs). So who should you be as a teacher of adults? That’s right, in your coaching toolbox it is good to have techniques from such interventions as coaching, mentoring and facilitation.

Why coaching? To ask the participants questions and draw conclusions from the answers, be attentive to the individual needs of the group and keep in mind the goals of the educational process. To encourage, appreciate and provide constructive feedback.

Why mentoring?

If you are an expert in a particular field, then it is worth giving practical tips to the audience, sharing your experience, pointing out the ways of effective investigation to the solutions that you already have (and your participants are just embarking on a similar journey).

Why facilitation? Because if the target group is well-chosen and integrated, and the program includes a large number of practical exercises, then sometimes the educational process “happens by itself”. That’s it! Recipients work with commitment, learn from each other and come up with new solutions together-and the role of the coach is limited to observing progress and kindly accompanying the ongoing process.

It is supposed to be soft, but “hard”

What does that mean? That is, – taking into account all of the above rules, you can not forget about the effects. Classes should take into account the integration of participants, sharing experiences, and their style of conduct well, if it is maximally partner, and the coach’s attitude friendly. But in all this, we must remember that if we have a goal, then there must also be an effect. As Karolina mikołajczak, supervisor and trainer of the international Trainers and Facilitators federations, said: “Do soft training hard” – that is, during the entire educational process, do not forget that it is not only about a friendly atmosphere and comfort, but also the specifics with which students come out (of course, here regardless of age). The fact that in informal education tests, examinations and essays are not always carried out, does not mean that the coach should not measure the results of his work (and the work of the participants). It is true that in andragogy, the main responsibility for the educational process lies with the recipient – because no one forces anyone to remember anything, concentrate and use it in practice. However, the role of the coach is to ensure that-assuming the involvement and interest of the audience-the educational process leads to precisely defined goals and changes at three levels: knowledge, skills and attitudes.

It is an ambitious task, but-with the six principles set out above-eminently achievable.. And the more results, the greater the satisfaction from the work of the coach!

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