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