Archive for the ‘ Adult Learner Characteristics ’ Category

Positive Learning Environment: Developing Strategies


More on the purpose of this video later!

Adult Learner Characteristics and Positive Learning Environments

Before you forge ahead and develop or utilize strategies that encourage a positive learning environment for adult learners, you should first understand the characteristics of adult learners. According to the ReproLine Reading Room (http://www.reproline.jhu.edu/english/6read/6issues/6jtn/v6/tn0305trng.htm), Adult Learners are characterized as per the left column of the following table (this is directly from the webpage). In the column to the right, I’ve provided some actionable itemsto satisfy adult learner needs to create a positive learning environment.

 Adult Learner Need Positive Learning Environment – Actionable Items
Require learning to be relevant. Are highly motivated if they believe learning is relevant Ask students at the beginning of the class what they would hope to accomplish with the completion of the course. This not only helps them identify the relevance of the course, but also gives them a sense of responsibility for their own education. This sense of responsibility is an intrinsic motivatorThrough the use of class participation, or reflection type activities like journals, have the learner relay how a course concept can be used outside of the classroom.Need to be recognized as individuals with unique backgrounds, experiences and learning needs Must maintain their self-esteem Have high expectations for themselves and their trainer Have personal needs that must be taken into consideration
Need participation and active involvement in the learning process See posts about active learning by clicking on the Active Learning category in the sidebar.
Desire a variety of learning experiences Ensure you use more than one form of instructional strategy. Ensure that you mix both group and individual activities to create a balance and to satisfy different student personalities. For example, group work and individual reports. Consider other factors, like Group work that is comprised of a presentation component, and group work that involves only in-group discussions.
Desire positive feedback Let students know when they’ve done a good job, that they’ve brought up interesting points, that they’ve asked good question or that they’re on the right track. If constructive feedback were only created, students may focus on where they are lacking and not also where they have done well. This can affect their self esteem.
Have personal concerns and need an atmosphere of safety Involve the learner in creating this atmosphere. Have discussions about what kind of classroom atmosphere would be ideal. This creates a sense of commitment to that type of environment for all learners. You may also decide to show an inspiring video like the one at the top of the post.
Need to be recognized as individuals with unique backgrounds, experiences and learning needs validate their experiences. Adult learners bring varying experiences into the classroom and their perspectives are shaped by their experiences. Ask them questions in relation to course concepts. Let them know how valuable their experiences are in enhancing learning for all.
Must maintain their self-esteem Do not criticize learners. This is related to positive feedback and validation.
Have high expectations for themselves and their trainer Can have course activities around what they are expecting from themselves and from the instructor in the course.
Have personal needs that must be taken into consideration As an instructor, we must understand that the adult learner has other commitments like family, health, work, etc. Discuss course expectations like the number of hours per week to commit and provide sample schedules to illustrate

You will notice that the strategies for a positive learning environment has ties to motivation and active learning as well. Remember this post on motivation? There were four factors that were discussed by Nick Place that would motivate adults 1) Inclusion, 2) Meaning, 3) Attitude, 4) Competence. Most of these factors fit in with the Adult Learner characteristics in the table below. Thus, what motivates adults, also helps create a Positive Learning Environment.

Six Aspects of Positive Learning Environments and Strategies

Another resource that may aid you in developing a Positive Learning Environment is page 6 of this PDF from the Australian Government, Department of Health and Ageing: http://www.rhef.com.au/wp-content/uploads/a_guide_to_facilitating_adult_learning.pdf

This PDF discusses how we should satisfy the Social, Physical, Emotional, Cognitive and Holistic aspects to create a Positive Learning Environment. It also includes some approaches that you could use!

For example, to satisfy the Social aspect (the human need to be a part of the social setting), consider using Welcome signs and introductory activities. This brings me to ice breakers. Here’s a resource for ice breakers if you need some ideas: http://wilderdom.com/games/Icebreakers.html

An icebreaker activity I’ve done before is to have students create superhero names in relation to the subject matter. For example, if I were to train them on how to use a software named “KP Software”, they may create names like KP Storm, or KP Whiz, KP Fire, etc. To add an element of collaboration, I have them create a name for their neighbor. The purpose of this activity is to also create a sense of commitment to becoming an expert at using the software.

Perhaps we will look at these 5 aspects in more detail at a later post!