Making the most of Adult Learning Opportunities

It doesn’t matter what you know,

it’s how you teach it. Herm Edwards

Nobody wants to sit through a seminar or class and leave thinking it was a waste of time. Good teachers want students to learn and hopefully enjoy the process. Following are some ideas to help make the most of adult learning opportunities:

Know what’s most important
  • Know the purpose, focus and goals
  • Don’t get sidetracked on unimportant matters
  • Know how you will measure success
 Work for true learning
  • Remember learning is more than covering material, notes, script and curriculum
  • Better one thing learned well than many things covered, but not learned
  • Don’t be a fool. Just because people are politely sitting and appear to be listening does not guarantee learning is happening
  • Be careful with handouts. If you give too much upfront people will read ahead and be finished way before you have completed your efforts
 Start from strength, not apologies or excuses
  • Connect, greet, make eye contact and learn names with all possible
  • Know your opening words cold
  • Avoid saying “I have a lot to cover so we need to hurry.” (communicates this is going to be a fire hose of information as opposed to a learning process)
  • Also, avoid saying you are sorry for being late or unprepared (don’t let these happen, be proactive)
  • And, remember to have a clear, concise ending (exit strategy) ready
 Know your audience
  • Ensure that the setting and information are accessible as needed
  • Be aware of what is unique about the setting and audience
  • Avoid minefields, issues or words that may alienate the audience
  • Don’t tell them what they already know
  • Make sure they have needed backstory to understand what you are offering
  • Respect adults by not reading word for word what you have handed out or are showing in a visual (most readers will get quickly ahead of you possibly resulting in losing connection, attention, focus and respect)
 Know yourself
  • Maximize your strengths and minimize weaknesses to balance your effectiveness
  • Discover and grow your voice and style
 Preparation is the real work
  • When well prepared the presentation flows
  • Give learners time to reflect, participate and respond
  • Give breaks (at least every 40 minutes), respect physical needs, sitting too long diminishes learning
  • Be a hero, give the gift of time by finishing a few minutes before scheduled end. No one has ever complained about getting out early, many have been worn down to the place that learning stops before the teacher does…
 Adult learning is a process
  • You are building on their past experiences and understandings
  • All learning is self-learning, teachers can present and encourage, actual understanding and experiencing is the work of the learner
  • Adult learning is collaborative
  • There are numerous ways to communicate, learn about learning styles and mix it up
 Environment matters
  • Temp, light and décor can improve or detract from learning
  • Ensure visuals are visible and sounds are audible
 Be careful with PowerPoint 
  • Do not allow PP to become the center of your presentation. It is a tool to (subtlety) help
  • Don’t leave slides “on” after impact has been made, move to next or a blank
 Humor is a great support
  • Use it to build bridges, incorporate surprise, transition topics
  • Avoid inside jokes (this can easily ostracise those new to the group)
 Be flexible
  • Be ready to adjust and change to meet greater goals
 Get feedback
  • And learn from it


The 3 P’s revisited, with better results

Last year I wrote about the 3 P’s and how procrastination drives many of our efforts (Here is a link the 3 P’s). As a way to go forward with better results, I have a new list of 3 P’s. To help move beyond Procrastinate, Panic and Produce I am suggesting Plan, Pace and Produce. Here are a few steps and questions to successfully guide most any project:

  • Plan – What is to be accomplished? What will be the result of this effort?
  • Pace – When does this need to be finished? Who needs to be brought into the process? What resources are necessary? How do I coordinate this with my other commitments and responsibilities? What are possible distractions and obstacles?
  • Produce – Set a timeline (it can be a simple mental process) and implement. Make necessary adjustments along the way (without panicking because you allowed space for the unpredictable). Finish the work and celebrate!

We choose our style and the related life impact (or we choose to be guided by a reactive whatever happens, happens mindset). Hopefully, we are willing to think beyond our habits and defaults. By being proactive, we can avoid the emotional roller coaster, be a better part of our community and get things done!


I just finished Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer. My good friend Seth Thomas has faithfully encouraged me to read the book (for quite some time). A great book on many levels. Vocation, the inner life, wholeness, leadership and more are explored. Seth was right, I needed to read Let Your Life Speak.




The 3 dreaded “P’s”

You may have never heard of the 3 P’s but you have probably met them. Much of our lives are spent managing a flow of responsibilities and commitments. Too often we are backlogged and overwhelmed.

We can find ourselves in situations where we are frustrated by our efforts and disappointed in the results. We often feel caught in a cyclical trap of: 1) procrastinate, 2) panic and 3) produce.

  • Procrastinate: First we receive a new responsibility. It may be assigned or the result of our own goal setting. It gets filed on our “To-do” list. Lists vary from mental reminders, to sticky notes to high powered web based systems. It likely goes to the back of some, already, overwhelming, overdue stack. So, we do what comes naturally. We ignore it. We let it sit and wait, wait until some unknown moment when we get a message.
  • Panic: The message is that something needs happen, happen now, or the consequences will be real and soon. We panic. Adrenaline spikes and we revert to the proverbial college student on an all-nighter.
  • Produce: We get it done. Maybe not our best effort and or the most satisfying results. But it is done and we can relax…until we notice the next thing moving toward deadline and renewed panic.

It’s habit, it normal, it’s what everybody does. We have plenty of excuses, but the question is, can there be a better way?

The answer is yes. But it is not a one size fits all, quick fix. Time and responsibility management needs to fit the person to be successful. You can buy programs, take classes and download apps, but if the system doesn’t match the person it will soon be abandoned.

Through coaching I can help you identify reasons for being trapped by the 3 P’s. Together we can develop your way of planning and managing life commitments and responsibilities. Contact me if you’d like to break the oppressive cycle and move forward toward better things.


Change needs support

I love supporting others in life growth, change, goal clarification, decision-making and transitions. Here is a brief story from Breeze Potts related to our work together:

I am a counselor. I haven’t always been a counselor. At one point in my life, I was a college dropout with no clear direction or plan. This is when I met Jim.

I am a counselor in part because of Jim’s encouragement and investment in my life. He helped me uncover who I am and discover where I was headed. This included walking alongside me and helping me discover my gifts, passions and work style…Jim’s dedication to helping me become more “fully myself” nurtured me to be able to more honestly evaluate who I have been and who I am becoming…

Jim’s support, friendship and leadership have been a significant part of my self-discovery process.  I know I am not the only one who has been impacted by his leadership. I continue to discover new things about myself but it is no longer terrifying. I am grateful for new insight and for Jim’s encouragement to open myself up to exploration and possibility…

This is one of the things I love most about being a counselor. I get to invite others into a similar place and process. I am now a counselor and an advocate for self-discovery.

Breeze Potts, Bellingham, WA

If you are ready to take action and make changes, or to risk exploring the possibilities, I’m ready to help. The details: 1) We can arrange face to face meetings in the greater Puget Sound area (I live in Bellingham and meet monthly with people in the Seattle area), and 2) I can, and have, done Skype and/or phone meetings with people across the country and internationally. Let’s connect!