Writing for Effective Adult Learning
With fall and the beginning of the school year, thoughts turn to education. Although not my specialty, I do sometimes write instructional materials.
When I do, I find it useful to refer to basic adult learning principles and apply them to the project at hand. Here's how I applied three frequently used concepts when I contributed to a training course on global leadership. (Caveat: I'm only scratching the surface here, and some of these theories have been open to debate. Check out the Resources for more suggestions.)
Multiple Intelligences Howard Gardner developed the theory that people have more types of intelligence that what standard IQ tests measure. These intelligences, and how I thought of them for the global training project, include the following:
Play music from other cultures softly as people enter the first morning and during breaks. Plan an evening networking activity that revolves around music.
Break people into small groups, move around, get up to do exercises.
Introduce data and analyze it to support the topics discussed. Problem-solve in a structured way.
4. Linguistic Work through how different cultures communicate, for example, in an email or conversation on a sensitive topic.
5. Visual/Spatial Present concepts graphically; use icons and other graphics throughout.
6. Interpersonal Team-building, with exercises that focus on working with people from different cultures.
7. Intrapersonal Pre-workshop assessments, self-checks and reflection during the workshop.
8. Naturalistic Explore outdoors, or at least take breaks out of the classroom environment.
Adult Learning Principles
Malcolm Knowles developed six learning principles in the 1970s about how adults learn differently than children. Here they are, and how I thought of integrating them into my assignment.
1. Adults need to know why they should learn something.
Have participants consider the bottom-line reasons about why their organizations sent (and paid for) them to attend a global leadership course.
2. Adults need to be self-directing.
Lots of time for individual and group interaction.
3. Adults have a greater volume and different quality of life experience than children do.
Provide opportunities to talk about real-life successes and challenges, in class and during breaks.
4. Adults become ready to learn when they need to.
In pre-workshop assessment, identify any particular pain points (such as managing virtual teams).
5. Adults enter a learning experience with a task-, problem-, or life-centered orientation to learning.
Stress how to transfer/apply the workshop content once back in their offices.
6. Adults are motivated to learn by both extrinsic and intrinsic motivators.
The environment must foster a sense of belonging and achievement. Anyone in this class, it should be strongly implied, is really among the best of the best.
VARK Learning Styles Finally, Neil Fleming developed an inventory of how people learn: visual, aural, read-write, kinesthetic. (For those more familiar with "VAK," read-write has more recently joined the assembly.) The point: Provide training that meets the needs of how different people learn and retain new information--through sight, sound, words, movement, and combinations of them all.
April 2013 marked the 5th anniversary of this newsletter.
Check out the archive of the issues I've sent out since then.
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