Huh? There’s a SCIENCE of adult learning? YES, it’s true! There is a whole body of literature that deals with how adults learn best. And guess what, it’s not the same as how children learn best. Children learn best through “pedagogy”, learning the arithmetic tables, discovering facts about geography, and the rules of grammar. It’s a lot of rote memory work. Adults don’t work that way, they are turned off just by information delivery and rote memory. To reach adults we have to use “andragogy”, or adult learning principles. Yes, you CAN teach an old dog new tricks, it just takes a different method!
I am sure that many of you reading this page are thinking, hey, I know about learning, I went to school for a lot of years and so have this experience to be able to replicate how I was taught.
To that, I say…NOT!
Unfortunately today, even in universities, adult learning methodology is not fully utilized.
So, if you are on your way to a novel destination, and intend to deliver some training related to animal health, you will likely be working with people who are older than 18, and you will want to use ANDRAGOGY rather than PEDAGOGY. Read more below to see how this works….
Adults are self-directed, not dependent– This is a key distinction from pedagogy! Adults have to WANT to be engaged in the material, and they need to feel they are part of a team, and that there is mutual respect between participant and facilitator.
If they are approached pedagogically, as in, “here is what you need to know, A through Z, now remember it…..”, they may just “turn off”. In all likelihood, they will be very polite, and you might not even gather that their brains are not engaged.
But look carefully, and if you perceive “screen saver faces” in your audience, you will know that you are not hitting the mark, the material you are presenting is probably not creating any new neuronal connections.
Sure, you have ideas about what you think people need to know, but is it really in line with what is most useful for them?
Find out what their needs are – you can send a questionnaire ahead of time, or even do this on the fly when you arrive. If you do work on training that is relevant, and help them in their daily work, you will be much more successful.
Adults will NOT participate in a learning exercise which has no relevance to them - so choose your topics carefully!
Learn names (or have nametags with big letters on them so you can call on people individually); ensure all introductions are done properly; and, move out from behind the podium to allow maximal interactions and participations. And, don’t be afraid to say you don’t know the answer to a particular question, emphasize that the whole group is learning, including you!
Facilitators who are not actively presenting should sit with the participants and be engaged, not sitting at the back of the room on their computers. Because if the facilitators show that they are not interested in their colleagues’ presentations, why should the participants pay attention?
Sit with participants during coffee/tea breaks and lunches. (There are way too many workshops where the facilitators hunker down together during the breaks and don’t “mix” with the participants – this creates a damaging we-them mindset).
Keep the atmosphere warm and fun! Laughter and warm emotions are proven promoters of adult learning. Please don’t be the uptight American who can’t smile and laugh... make friends, enjoy the moment(s) in this interesting and foreign land!
Adult learning is problem-centered. Adults learn best when they “play” with the presented information, manipulate it, put it in context of situations. Also, the brain does a better job of filing in long-term memory if a question is asked first, somehow the memory process works to file more efficiently.
There is often a tendency for facilitators to jump too quickly to answers. Instead, give the participants time to puzzle through.
A good way to approach this in animal health training is through case scenarios, given to a group of participants, using a real-life animal disease situation.
For example: Present the participant with a real-life animal disease situation, e.g., the cows on the next farm are drooling and lame, and all of them are off feed. Then, you can deliver a set of questions designed to help the participants work through all aspects – possible disease; pathogenesis; biosecurity required; impact to the farmer; impact to the national economy; control measures; prevention measures.
Adults learn very well from each other, often more so than they learn from their teachers. By putting participants into groups for the problem-solving work, you are markedly enhancing the amount of learning that will take place.
Encourage group work as much as possible. Yes, we know you are the expert, and you have prepared so much material that you have to get through, so you want to do most of the talking. FORGET IT! Try to be a facilitator of learning rather than a teaching teacher.
A wise person once told me, “Don’t be a sage on the stage, instead be a guide on the side”. So, rather than standing at the front and spewing your pearls of wisdom, be a guide for the group learning and let it happen from within.
Guided group learning, using scenarios or some other activity, is especially helpful in delivering training where there is a language barrier.
In these cases, the groups have a chance to banter back and forth about many issues in a relaxed and comfortable manner.
Also, there are not many more boring things than delivering, or listening to, a presentation that has to be translated. So if you do group work, you avoid the problem of having to rely on translation for EVERYTHING. You can skip over many points you wanted to deliver because the groups are coming to the same realizations, in their own language!
VERY IMPORTANT!!!! Short term memory is finite and can only hold 7 plus or minus 2 chunks of information, which is usually received in a 10-12 minute period. If it is not then incorporated into long-term memory, it is quickly forgotten. Long-term memory has an infinite capacity, so the information is stored forever. In order to move short-term memory into long-term memory, it requires rehearsing the material very briefly and allowing 1-2 minutes for “filing.”
Oh, you say, really? Because when you were in veterinary school, lectures were all 50’ and that is how you learned. Well, guess what, studies have been on how much students retain immediately after a 50’ lecture, and it is only 5%! That’s why you had to study every night. But when you go to deliver training in some new place, there will be no studying every night, so everything that is learned is right there in the classroom. Make the most of it!
Throw away the jump drive with all your powerpoints. WHAT????, you say? YES!!!!, I say. In a cross-cultural situation, there are already lots of barriers you have to overcome, using PowerPoint creates just one more barrier. I know, we’re all used to using PowerPoints, but instead, try flipcharts or a whiteboard. If you MUST use PowerPoints, be sure they are loaded with quiz slides, or other activities to break it up and get participation.
Don’t count on being able to deliver a PowerPoint, because there may be no electricity! So, be prepared to deliver your materials and information using flip charts.
Also, when you use flip charts, it automatically takes you away from the podium, which is GOOD! Standing behind the podium creates one more barrier between you and the learners. It’s a relic from the Middle Ages. Uncomfortable at first? Yes! But after a while, it will feel natural and you will be so much more effective!!!!!
Use multiple learning channels – We all learn best through different modalities, which are: VERBAL, AUDITORY, GRAPHIC, KINESTHETIC.
We all have a combination of these, with one channel predominating. If you deliver everything over one channel, you will miss many of the participants. So try to ensure that the information utilizes all the channels. In general, we use the predominant channel that is our own when we construct presentations.
For instance, a graphic learner might use all pictures, but that presenter would lose the people who learn predominantly by reading or listening. Similarly, a verbal learner might create page after page of words and sentences, but that leaves the graphic learner struggling and probably daydreaming instead.
Engaging the emotional part of the brain promotes learning. Telling stories, engaging people in the audience, revealing part of your own personality – all of these involve “warm” language and will facilitate attention and retention.
In every class there are some people who volunteer many answers and others who don’t say peep. As you see this happening, rather than asking for volunteers to answer a question, tell the class that “the person with the most children” or “anyone wearing blue socks” or “the youngest person” at each table will provide the answer.
This personalizes and includes many more. Also, a no-no is asking “Do you understand”? Because the few who really don’t get it are probably the last ones to stand up and say yes. Instead, frame the issue as, “I would like each table to provide a one sentence synopsis of this concept” or something like that.
Ask for a “teach back” – participants must take the concept just delivered and “teach back” to the group, in an effective and engaging manner. This measures not only the learning, but also the abilities to disseminate learning downstream.
AND REMEMBER, TEACHING WITHOUT LEARNING IS JUST TALKING.
ALSO, LEARNING WITHOUT BEHAVIORAL CHANGE SUBSEQUENT TO THE LEARNING RENDERS NO IMPROVEMENT.
Throughout your training, it is important to emphasize that some sort of ACTION has to follow the training, or it just becomes a group of people who got together and learned something. There has to be a POSITIVE CHANGE, what will that be? Encourage your group to create a PATH FORWARD, for how this training will improve X, Y or Z…..
Write down at least 3 of the tenets of Adult Learning, and how you would implement that tenet in a training session, in Zingo!
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