August 21, 2007

Understanding the Adult Learner

Andragogy is the discipline that studies how adult learn. Andragogy is based on five assumptions about the differences between how adults and children learn:
Self-concept – as people mature, their self-concept moves from being dependent personalities toward being self-directed human beings.
Experience – as people mature, they accumulate a growing reservoir of experience that becomes an increasing resource for learning.
Readiness to learn – as people mature, their readiness to learn becomes oriented increasingly to the developmental tasks of their social roles.
Orientation to learning – as people mature, their time perspective changes from postponed application of knowledge to immediate applicability, and accordingly, their orientation toward learning shift from subject-focused to problem-focused.
Motivation to learn – as people mature, their motivation to learn becomes increasingly internal.

Trainability of the adult learner
Trainability is concerned with the readiness to learn, combining participants’ level of ability and motivation with their perceptions of the work environment

Trainability is an important factor in HRD. Placing employee in programs they are not motivated to attend or are not prepared to do well in can waste time and resources. Participants with a lower level of ability take longer to learn, which can increase the length of the program and the expense involved with conducting it.

Peer group pressure
Many employees can be influenced by their coworkers’ perceptions. If employees perceive that an HRD program is inconsequential, those perceptions may transfer to others in the department. HRD professionals have to find the root of the negative perceptions. Once you have an understanding of why individuals in the group are resistant, you can explain the program objectives and communicate how attending the program will help them in their jobs.

Low tolerance for change
Some workers may be content with their current jobs. They’re not interested in taking on new challenges or responsibilities. They’d like to maintain the status quo. Unfortunately, companies that only maintain the status quo rarely survive.

Understanding learning styles
Learning styles describe the ways individuals learn and how they process ideas. An awareness of these styles allows HRD professionals to interpret and reflect upon ways to accommodate each style in learning situations.

Visual learners learn best through seeing. These learners need to see body language and facial expression to fully understand content. In a traditional classroom setting, they tend to prefer sitting at the front in order to avoid visual obstructions. During a lecturer or classroom discussion, visual learners often prefer to take detailed notes to absorb the information.

Auditory learners learn best through hearing. Verbal lectures, discussions, talking things through, and listening to what others have to say are their preferred methods of learning. These learners often benefit from reading text aloud and using a tape recorder.

Kinesthetic learners, also known as tactile learners, learn best through a hands-on approach. They prefer to actively explore the physical world around them. They may find it hard to sit still for long periods and may become distracted by their need for activity and exploration.

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