How You Can Engage and Inspire Adult Learners This Year
Children in K-12 may be expected to passively accept whatever pedagogy is offered, but Higher Education and corporate training operate under quite a different paradigm.
Adult learners should be viewed as consumers, having voluntarily invested their time and money to improve their skills or knowledge base. And they want to be actively involved in the learning process and expect to be able to apply the material learned toward achieving career success. Here are approaches you may find helpful in engaging and inspiring adult learners in 2016.
- Make it relevant. Adult learners may have a variety of goals, such as earning a college degree, preparing for advancement in their careers, or maintaining and upgrading their skills. The trend toward competency-based education recognizes that students want to use what they’re learning now, not at some unspecified time in the future. They expect hands-on training, simulations and case studies that provide the insights and approaches needed for the workplace.
- Collaboration and exploration. Perhaps the best way of ensuring that college and corporate students will be able to effectively apply what they are learning is to provide opportunities for them to begin doing so during the course of instruction. Concepts are often most effectively conveyed when students convene in groups to pick apart thorny fact patterns, explore issues and discover solutions on their own. Indeed, becoming skillful at collaborative problem solving is itself an enormous asset in the workplace.
- Give credit where credit is due. Certain styles of teaching “start at zero,” assuming that participants come into the learning environment knowing nothing about the subject to be studied. Adult learners, however, typically bring a vast array of educational and life experiences with them, many of which can be leveraged in the classroom. Many employers now assist employees in obtaining college credit for previous training and work experience. Students appreciate when their time is not wasted in rehashing material with which they are thoroughly familiar.
- Provide feedback now rather than later. Breaking up the material into manageable modules and conducting frequent quizzes or other checks for understanding helps instructors to identify participant deficiencies in time to correct them. Confirming student progress or lack thereof allows instructors to prevent more advanced participants from losing interest, while providing opportunities for review or practice for those who need it. Don’t underestimate the value of participants providing feedback and correction to each other during the course of collaborative exercises.
- Consider emotional connections. Adult learners often find it easier to understand and apply what they are learning when they are able to make a personal connection to the material. Techniques of achieving this include the use of real-world examples, incorporating powerful images, including graphics and videos, and considering visual elements such as color and presentation.
You can engage and inspire your students by encouraging them to be active participants in their own learning, by providing feedback and creating connections to the material, and by opening up opportunities for students to connect with each other.