Can you remember when you were in college or high school and how people were learning in different ways? Some took notes, others doodled, and nowadays students flip between social networking and note taking at the same time.

Let’s look at how adult principles come into the training process. We will use time management examples to show how you can bring adult learning principles into the equation when you are training others.

We learn to do by doing.

Give trainees something practical to do with the information they have just heard. (For example, have them fill in appointments in their planner for the next month or clean out their briefcase.)

We have five senses.

We get impressions through our senses, so combine verbal explanations with written instructions, illustrations, or an object they can taste, touch, or smell. (Example: In addition to verbal suggestions on time management, provide written materials, demonstrate the proper technique for electronic filing, or show the group a video.)

We learn when we are ready to learn.

If possible, train when there is a need for a particular skill. Help trainees understand how this learning can help them in their job, their career, or their personal life. (Example: Learning to use time to our advantage is an essential skill if we juggle a job and a home, or if our job is demanding. Most of us have things we would like to do if we could find the time.)

We make connections.

We tie new learning to what we already know. Try to make connections between what they are presently doing or saying and how they should behave differently after the training. (Example: Ask them to identify how they handle calls or e-mail now and help them work through a different way of handling these tasks to save time. Ask them where they feel they are not using their time effectively and work from that starting point.)

We learn one thing at a time.

Trainers must watch that they don’t rush through things too quickly, or give trainees too much to absorb at one time. After each learning point, it is a good idea to give people a chance to ask questions, to do an exercise to cement their understanding, or to let them practice what they have just learned. (Example: Make sure trainees completely understand how to de-clutter their office before you move on to talk about using a paper or electronic planner.)

We learn more rapidly when results are satisfying to us.

Praise your trainees when they do well at even a small thing. Never ridicule them in front of others. Don’t put people in positions where they might feel humiliated or threatened. (Example: Often just filling in a planner, or setting up a telephone list of frequently called numbers, can be a satisfying thing. Start small and work from there.)

We need to understand what we learn.

It is not enough to just ask, “Is this clear?” or, “Do you understand?” They need to demonstrate their understanding. If you break learning into small chunks, give trainees opportunities to practice, and check back with them to see if you have been clear, they have a better chance of understanding. (Example: A case study or a skill-building exercise based on learning to say “no” may be appropriate for time management.)

We develop skill through practice.

Always provide opportunities for trainees to practice the skill they are learning, in a non-threatening environment. (This is not always possible in a classroom setting, such as in our time management example. However, giving them a garbage bag and a workplace assignment to clear out clutter when they return to their desk can help.)

We differ from one another in abilities and background.

We learn differently and we have different talents. We may be better with figures than we are with words, or we may have never had the opportunity to learn a particular skill. Respect these differences; they can become a great source of creativity within the group. Create an atmosphere where people are comfortable sharing their ideas. (Example: Divide participants into small groups. Ask them to list their top time management tips on flip chart paper. Then, bring the group back together and have each small group present. You, too, may learn some time-saving techniques!)

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