How to Improve Training Effectiveness in Adult Learners

Here is an excerpt from http://www.strengtheningnonprofits.org on Tips to improve Training Effectiveness in Adult Learners.

Incorporate adults’ prior learning and experience

It’s important to capitalize on the rich prior experience that adult learners have when they enter the training by incorporating that experience into the session. Also, inaccurate information that people think is correct can be a significant impediment to new learning. By drawing out prior experience, you can correct learners’ misinformation.

Here are a few strategies for incorporating prior knowledge and experience into your training session:

  • Conduct a needs assessment to uncover group members’ experiences and expectations.
  • Ask for input on the lesson plan.
  • Ask participants to share relevant experiences throughout the training session.
  • Do a “K-W-L” chart on flipchart paper, asking participants to list what they Know and Want to know at the beginning of the session, and what they Learned following the session.
  • Create peer sharing opportunities by facilitating small group discussions.
  • Carefully prepare guiding questions to draw out prior knowledge and pique interest about new information.
  • Poll participants at key points about experience and level of knowledge. Polling can be done by a show of hands, hearing from selected participants, or using flipchart paper or Post-it notes.

Include structured activities in your training.

There are three aspects involved in learning: ideas (cognitive), feelings (affective), and actions (behavioral). Adults learn best when training moves beyond ideas and feelings to incorporate actions as well. That is, training that provides opportunities to practice new skills will increase the likelihood that learners will apply the new knowledge and behaviors in their own environments. Also, participants are more likely to believe and retain the information they’ve learned if they arrive at the ideas themselves. Structured activities can foster the exploration that learners need in order to make their own connections and conclusions.

Here are a few strategies to incorporate activities into your training session:

  • Once every 10 minutes or so, give participants two minutes to discuss with a partner the concepts you presented.
  • Ask guiding questions and facilitate discussions.
  • Facilitate an activity that allows participants to practice the skills or techniques you’re teaching.
  • Use case studies, videos, or stories. Invite learners to describe, analyze, apply, or implement what they’ve learned.
  • Play a game that slowly presents new information and allows participants to interact with the new information.
  • Ask participants to record their new learning and create action steps to take after the training. Ask them to share these with others to increase the likelihood that they follow up on their action plans.

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