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Trainer's Corner: The Unique Needs of Professional Adult Learning

Posted 6 years ago

In most areas of life, when we are expected to teach something to another person, we revert to the teaching style we experienced throughout childhood. In the United States, that teaching style is largely rote memorization and regurgitation of facts. As adults, this is far less effective. With adult learning, successful trainers have discovered that we must present information in a way that resonates both professionally and inter-personally. Workshop training guru, Mark Snow, describes the importance of presenting adult learning in terms of life skills (rather than just work skills). The most effective adult learning strategies require defining the participants own “why?” which will make the workshop leader’s content much more likely to stick. As the visionary and catalyst behind the revolutionary DISC Workshop Leader Certification, Mark Snow offers some terrific guidance on how to accomplish this.

Trainer’s Corner: The Unique Needs of Professional Adult Learning

by Mark Snow

As children we are marched into classrooms – single file, please! We sit quietly at our desks. We listen to factual information from the teacher, or read it from a book. And eventually we are asked to repeat that information, either out loud or in writing. Over and Over. Until it sticks.

Sounds wonderful, right?

As adults we have neither the time nor the appetite for such experiences. In fact, you can hear examples of it in most offices when remediation is taking place between co-workers “Please do not talk to me like I am a child!”. If anything, the resistance to training increases when we take the learning approach that has been used for most of our academic lives.

Adult learners need to be involved in their own learning – in the creation of a learning path that is specific to them. We see resistance in our classrooms when the learners have not been involved in the “Why?” of their attendance. The requirement for some job-specific training subjects are quite clear, but most soft-skills development programs are offered to (or demanded of) participants without including the learner in the process or reason. When the learner does not understand the benefit, they see training as either frivolous or as a waste of time.

Not Just Work Skills – LIFE Skills That Are Used at Work

One way to improve the perception of your training classes is to frame the skills to be learned as useful for more than just their job. While hard-skills or technical training typically has an immediately apparent application once the learner returns to work, soft-skills training often does not. When I am leading such a class I tend to work with the learner to set the anchor – to answer the “Why?” question for themselves – at the beginning of each module. For example; if in a leadership development course with modules on Creating a Vision, Effective Delegation, Building Trust, and Holding Ourselves and Others Accountable, I would start each module with the following two questions:

What is the very first area of your work, in a task or with a relationship, that you will try to apply this module to create measurable improvement?

In what area outside of your work – in your personal life, do you think it will be most useful to build this skill?

Try it for yourself with one of the modules mentioned above and you will quickly see that you can contextualize these “business skills” to multiple aspects of everyday life. Do you need to become more adept at delegating chores to your children rather than doing them all yourself? Do you need to build better strategies for holding yourself accountable to your diet? As developers of employees we are also developers of people. The most important aspect of facilitating training courses is to have an engaged learner who is building a new skill. Not a work skill, but a life skill, that they will be applying at work. By challenging our learners to create their own path, with a result that is what matters the most to them, we do not need to change our content. We just need to allow our learners to create the meaning for it.

Connect with Mark Snow

For over 15-years, Mark Snow has worked with hundreds of leading organizations on a variety of performance improvement initiatives specializing in the areas of leadership impact, strategic performance interventions, instructional design for classroom delivery, and defining success metrics to ensure alignment to business needs
Since partnering with Assessments 24×7 in 2017, Mark has collaborated with other team members to develop the organization’s popular DISC Workshop Leader Certification. This training program has been designed to teach consultants how to lead five different full and half day DISC-based workshops: Trust Based Leadership; Making Teams Work; Self Awareness & Communication Skills; Sales Optimization; Transitioning from Peer to Leader. The DISC Workshop Leader Certification training begins with Assessments 24×7’s popular DISC Practitioner Certification, which is internationally accredited for continuing education units with ICF, SHRM, HRCI and ATD.