Starting a new job soon, I will be designing a lot of solutions for adults in the Vocational Sector here in Australia. From experience, when you create any learning solutions for adults, you need to consider the following;
It goes without saying, try and use previous experience in the delivery. New learning should be linked to (and build upon) the experiences of the learner.
Check the entry level of the participants. Remind yourself that all adults bring a variety of rich experiences to the training session. Design activities to ensure easy adjustments to fit different entry levels and to incorporate relevant experiences. Sure, this can be tricky at times, but hopefully if you gradually introduce things (without patronizing them of course)
Make it relevant to the learner. Effective learning is relevant to the learner’s life and work. It has been shown that by using simulations and role plays, it will increase the link between the learning situation and the real world. Also, a good tip is that after an activity, debrief the learner and discuss strategies for applying what they learned in the game/simulation to their real-world context.
Most adults are self-directed learners. So, try not to force everyone to participate in every activity. Identify training objectives and let participants select among different resources and activities to learn at their own pace and according to their personal preferences. Involve participants in setting training goals and selecting appropriate types of learning activities.
The learners’ reaction to a training session is shaped by their expectations related to the content area, training format, other participants, and the trainer/facilitator.
Even with doing an LLN test before starting the course, some learners still get anxious about mathematical concepts and skills. So, encourage them with intriguing puzzles and short-cut techniques and possibly games instead. Other learners may feel uncomfortable about making fools of themselves in public while playing games/roleplays. So establish some ground rules that reward risk-taking among participants. And of course, show and demonstrate non-judgmental behavior by applauding all the participants for their effort.
Adult learners have definite notions about what type of learners they are, so self wealth/awareness/knowledge can be important. These notions interfere with or enhance their learning. Try re-assure the learners about their ability to learn new concepts and skills. Try motivate them to attempt challenging tasks. Ensure frequent and early successes by making initial tasks simple and by progressing in small steps. Of course, avoid patronizing participants with simple, trivial tasks. Incorporate learning tasks at different levels of difficulty in your activities.
Adult learners require the training objectives, content, activities, and assessment techniques all to be aligned and related to each other. A good trick I found that works is to create a training situation that closely resembles the job situation at hand. Teach and test for the same content, using similar strategies then the scoring system used in your training activities rewards the mastery of the training objectives.
Employ regular and consistent practice and feedback. Adult learners cannot master skills without repeated practice and relevant feedback.
Don’t confuse understanding a procedure with ability to perform it. Invest ample time in conducting activities that provide repeated practice and feedback. Make sure that the training activities incorporate immediate and useful feedback from peers and experts. Use rating scales, checklists, and other devices to ensure that the feedback is objective and useful.
Ebrace individual differences. Obviously, different people learn in different ways. Use training activities that accommodate a variety of learning styles. Make sure that participants can respond by writing, speaking, drawing, or acting out. Encourage and permit participants to learn individually, in pairs, and in teams.
Make sure that training activities provide several opportunities for earning rewards. Get your participants/learners to make frequent decisions and responses. During the initial stages of training, it is important to reward even partially-correct answers.
I have noticed that events which are accompanied by use of emotions result in longer-lasting learning when it comes to adults. By using games, simulations, and role plays that add emotional element (whether it be funny or serious) to learning will enhance their enjoyment. Although, don’t become too intense and let it interfere with the core learning.