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Training Adults Not Children – Exercise | Deliberate Practice

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From the Post: Stop training your staff like children

This one is hard to practice because there are multiple moving parts, six of them. Whether you are coaching, doing one-on-one discussions, performance reviews, or setting annual performance and learning goals or objectives you can use these six learning assumptions as a framework to help yourself and your staff to be set up for success. 

When you are doing annual reviews using a nine-box or a three-squared approach or another evaluation model, you can use these assumptions to evaluate the effectiveness of the staff’s performance. If you have an underperforming staff member you can look at where they are struggling and determine if you can link the performance to any of the six assumptions to help improve their performance. 

You have a high-performing staff member, is their performance linked to any of the assumptions? Have they been able to be self-directed and choose objectives where they find value in improving or expanding their skills?     

In your journal, write down these six assumptions and refer to them when you are coaching, evaluating, developing performance objectives, or giving feedback. Try to link one or more of these six assumptions to every outcome you would like to see staff develop or improve.  

  1. Self-concept. Adult learners have a self-concept. Adults will see themselves in a way that supports their knowledge, skills, and experiences. Empower your staff to be successful. 
  2. Learning from Experience. Experience is a deep source of learning. Can you provide a learning opportunity or develop a performance objective to help deepen their experience? 
  3. Readiness to Learn. Adults tend to gravitate towards learning things that matter to them. Help them see how it matters to them.
  4. Orientation to learning. The orientation of adult learning is for immediate application. How does the learning apply directly to what they are already doing? Will it benefit them in some way? 
  5. Internally Motivated. Adults are more motivated by internal personal factors rather than external factors. What do they deeply care about?
  6. Need to Know. Adult learners need to know the value of what they are learning and know the why behind the need to learn something.

Side note

There are learning and training situations that call for learning approaches that need to be memorized, recalled, explained, and tested like customer service or positions that are highly regulated by internal and external agencies for example. In my experience, I would always have someone ask me why we have to learn to do something this way? I would refer to number 6, the need to know, and explain why it is important to learn to do something a specific way.

Go ahead and try it on yourself first to get a feel for it. Look at your performance objectives, can you link any of the six assumptions to your objectives? The next time you are tasked with something you don’t find any value in, link it to one or more of the assumptions… I dare you to see what happens.

Training development 

As part of my advanced degree in instructional technology, I was challenged to develop three strategies that I would keep in mind when developing, reviewing, or revising training. These three strategies are nothing new. They are a combination of existing learning strategies combined with the six adult learning assumptions.

1. Behavioral-focused strategy – This involves developing assignments, deliberate practice, and projects that assist the learner in developing or improving skills supporting self-efficacy and personal development using their on-the-job experiences as the base of learning. 

Develop assignments that don’t require extra work outside of the staff’s regular office hours if possible. The best research environment is their team or department. Develop practices in real-time that they can apply and observe outcomes during their daily work.

2.  Intrinsic motivation strategy – This approach helps the learner link the learning to their needs either professionally or personally. This helps to encourage learners to take ownership of their learning. 

  If you use the ADDIE, Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate method or any other design method, you need a good understanding of who your audience is. This falls under the analysis phase of development. If you are going to link the learning to the audience’s needs, this helps to understand what motivates your audience. 

You usually get two types of learners, the voluntold, those who were told to go to training, and volunteered, those who want to go to training. If you use some form of intrinsic motivation you can turn a lot of your voluntold people into active learners and improve the learning for those who want to learn.

3. Constructive thought pattern strategy – This strategy focuses on worthwhile challenges from the learner’s perspective involving patterns of thought, dialogue, and application of ideas and concepts as they apply to the learner’s real-world challenges. 

  Link the learning to the WIFM, what’s in it for me, in other words, why is this training important? Your challenge as a curriculum developer is to make that happen.

Space for learning to happen 

When I talk about patterns of thought, dialogue, and application of ideas and concepts this requires space for conversations during the training or learning event. If you have a two-hour training, PLEASE DON’T create two hours of content for a two-hour training. Create one and a half hours of content and at least 30 minutes for dialogue throughout the training.  

If you are creating a one-hour training focus the learning on one of two objectives, present the objectives, and leave space for dialogue. An effective approach to adult learning is the ability to learn within a social environment. Sharing ideas and concerns works better when adults realize others are experiencing the same challenges. Learning does not happen in isolation or silos, so give them the space to talk.  

If you work for an organization that sees learning and development as a liability or is only concerned with the number of staff who have been trained… leave. Training and the development of staff is an asset for any organization. Learning and development ensure healthy growth and continual improvement for the organization.  

Adults learn better when their skills, education, experience, and knowledge are taken into consideration and valued. The learning can be more valuable when done in real-time in an environment that is safe and allows for healthy dialogue.

Your personal leader library

If you don’t have a leadership or personal library, start one. It is easy to forget about something when it is on your computer and you turn it off. However, there is something about a hard copy book staring at you every day as a reminder of what you are learning or would like to change about yourself.

If you are serious about adult learning and training I recommend The Adult Learner by Malcolm S. Knowles, Elwood F. Holton III, et al. 

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