There are several principles involved in adult-learning. The application of these principles is the same whether the training is directed towards the executives (from the middle managers to the top bosses) of a large manufacturing company, a medium-size marketing firm, or a service-oriented entity.
In a recent “Training the Trainer” seminar conducted for the executives of a transport and logistics company in Seattle, Washington, the following principles were applied:
1. Recency: The things that are learned last are those that are best remembered.
– Each session must be kept to a relatively short period of time.
– Recap often, especially if sessions are long. This divides the larger sessions into smaller ones with lots of conclusions so that recapping is made easier.
– The conclusion of every session is important. Summarize the entire session, giving emphasis on the key points or key messages.
– Keep the participants fully aware of the direction and advancement of their learning.
2. Appropriateness: All the training information and training aids or materials must be appropriate to the learners’ requirements.
– Clearly identify a need for the learners to be taking part in the training. Subsequently, make sure that everything related to the session is appropriate to that need.
– Use descriptions, instances or illustrations that the learners are well acquainted with.
3. Motivation: The learners must want to learn, must be inclined to learn, and must have some reason to learn.
– The material must be significant and worthwhile to both the learner and the trainer.
– Not only must the participants be motivated, so must the trainer be as well. Learning probably won’t take place at all if the trainer isn’t as much motivated.
– The trainer should identify a need for the learners to be in the training. He/she can cause motivation by letting the participants know that the training can satisfy that need.
– Start from the known and proceed to the unknown. Begin the session at a point the learners are familiar with. Gradually build up and connect points so that everyone understands where they are heading to in the learning process. Always create fresh information from those that are already known.
4. Primacy: The saying, “First impressions last.” applies fittingly to this principle. The things learned first are usually learned best. Therefore, the first impressions or pieces of information which the participants get from the trainer are absolutely essential.
– The beginning of the session must be made very interesting with lots of vital information in it.
– The participants must be kept fully aware of the direction and progress of their learning.
– This one is a real challenge: Ensure that the participants get things correctly the first time you (as the trainer) require them to do an activity.
5. Two-way Communication: The training process requires the trainer to convey knowledge or transmit information to the learners, with the latter providing inputs thereon. The trainer must be ready to receive these inputs and be able to acknowledge each one for its value or worth to the session.
– The trainer’s gestures say a lot about this principle. The trainer’s body language must match whatever he/she is saying.
– The training must include interactions with the participants that are specifically designed by the trainer for each of the sessions.
6. Feedback: The trainer and the learners need information from each other. While the trainer needs to know that the learners are following and keeping pace, the learners on the other hand require feedback on the standard of their performance (or on how they are doing so far in the training).
– Learners must be tested frequently. This will enable the trainer to provide feedbacks on a very regular basis during the course of the training.
– A good test is to throw back a question to the participants which they themselves earlier posed. It will be interesting to the trainer to find out how they will reply to the question in relation to what has just been learned.
– Feedbacks may either be positive or negative. The trainer must be able to address every one of these feedbacks to the satisfaction of the learners.
– When giving a feedback, the trainer must provide reinforcement as well. If the participants are rewarded (positive reinforcement) for doing things correctly, the chances of getting them to transform their behavior to the desired outcome become greater.
– A good feat from a learner must not go unacknowledged by the trainer. The appreciation should be made right in front of the group.
– The trainer should look for those learners who do things correctly as well as he/she should always watch out for those who do things differently (or incorrectly).
7. Active Learning: “We learn by doing.”, so goes the saying. Learners learn more when they are actively involved in the training process.
– Practical exercises should be used when providing instructions.
– Bombard the participants with questions that are relevant to the current topic being discussed.
– The trainer should get the participants to actually do what they are being instructed in.
– The trainer should maintain the participants’ interest in the session by keeping them involved in the entire process. Participants sitting for long periods without any actual participation tend to merely nod off or lose interest in the session altogether.