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Adult Learning in 2023 — Not Just “Chalk and Talk”

We’re all too familiar with the traditional “chalk and talk” method, even if the teachers now use whiteboards or smart-boards. It’s all about talking “at” the students, sharing as much information as possible and hoping for the best. Unfortunately, that’s still among the most used options in many educational settings.

For adult training, there are better options available. And because students can get up and leave if it’s not working, there’s a motivator for any instructor to prepare thoroughly, utilizing all the adult learning principles and strategies.

At OECS, we fully recognize the ongoing need for training in all aspects of safety. Plus, we practice what we preach. Our staff members are not only delivering training but pursuing continuing education to stay ahead and improve their training delivery.

So, what are the best methods and approaches to adult learning?  Read on to learn more about best practices for adult learning and how OECS is adding a powerful tool in its safety training toolbelt through launching the new OECS Safety University (OSU):

What is Adult Learning?

Adult learning requires significantly different training approaches from those used to teach children. The technical terms are andragogy, teaching adults, and pedagogy, teaching children. Adult learning must focus on providing the reasons behind the training, hands-on training they can do themselves and stepping back so they can try things out risk-free.

Adult training approaches must consider that the adult learner is already accomplished and experienced in many areas. It also needs to recognize that adult learners are ready and willing to take on new challenges if they can clearly see the reasons behind the training and why it’s important to them, their jobs and their employers.

Key Adult Learning Principles

Several fundamental principles must be considered when developing adult training programs. Of course, a big question to answer upfront is, “What’s In It For Me?” We call it WII-FM because that is everyone’s personal radio station. That’s why we start with motivation in the list below.

  1. Motivation. Adults have choices. Among them is paying attention in training or not. They need to see the reasons behind the training and why it’s essential before they can fully engage and remain engaged. One big difference between adult and child learners is that adults are, by and large, self-driven.
  2. Relevance. Part of that motivation comes from the relevance of the training and training outcome to the adult learner. It must demonstrate that the training is important for on-the-job performance, advancement opportunities or personal and workplace safety. It can’t be merely something nice to know or that the boss wants you to know.
  3. Goals. Most adults are goal-driven toward reaching some relevant personal or organizational goal. Once the goals are set, measurement systems and rewards can further drive motivation. These goals and measures can also be applied within a training program to motivate completion.
  4. Ownership. When motivation, relevance and goals come together, the adult learner takes full ownership of their training activities. They further ramp up their effort and encourage others to do the same.
  5. Experience. One big difference between teaching children and teaching adults is that the adults have experience across their entire lives. That includes both their personal and work experience. Well-designed training taps into that experience and leverages it to drive learning and increase motivation.
  6. Practical. If the training and training outcome isn’t focused on the practical aspects of work, it’s unlikely to engage an adult learner. Ideally, the training is also “hands-on” to further engage the learner and drive home essential aspects. It’s also called “learning by doing.”
  7. Recency. Another word for this is repetition. Adults learn from repeating the task, and their retention is strongly related to how recently they’ve accomplished it.
  8. Frequency. The trainer’s mantra is “recency and frequency.” The more recently and more frequently a task is accomplished directly correlates with the adult learner’s skill level and ability to perform that skill when needed.

Adult Learning Styles

Those principles of adult learning need to be addressed in any training effort. There are also four styles of adult learning that must also be considered. These learning styles are how people understand, express and remember information. As you read through these styles, you should recognize your own preferred approach to learning new information.

  • Visual. This style is noted for ready connection with visual communication, including charts and diagrams as well as photos and symbols. Videos are compelling for this learning style.
  • Auditory. This is learning through listening. Lectures, discussions and podcasts can be excellent tools for this learner.
  • Read/Write. Much of our early learning was focused on reading textbooks and writing papers. Those who excelled in this approach either were read/write learners, to begin with, or have optimized their approach to excel in that environment.
  • Kinesthetic. This is “hands-on” learning or learning by doing, which is using all your senses, from seeing to touching and even smelling and hearing.

None of these styles are exclusive. You may readily read, write, connect with charts and take a hands-on approach to learning. Plus, the optimum style for you may change over time. Perhaps you were great with reading and writing when in school, but now that has long ago left your learning repertoire.

OECS Safety University: Cutting-Edge Adult Training

So how does this information come together in a practical real-world setting? Our consultants are truly passionate about what they do and you can feel the positive energy throughout their training sessions. Our team has taken all four of these learning principles into account and applied them to our OECS Safety University.

At OSU, we strive to serve all learning styles to not only provide the necessary training but to use every tactic possible to deeply influence our students.

Our brick-and-mortar classroom is combined with our virtual classroom to make it feel like one giant classroom, regardless of if the students are physically in the room or not. The ability to take the class in-person or online suits all preferences, conveniences and learning styles.

Finally, our instructors create highly interactive training programs to get everyone involved and make sure they are fully understanding the material.

Take an Upcoming Class

Anyone can sign up for a class at OSU! See our list of upcoming classes and attend in-person or virtually.  Don’t hesitate to ask questions: call us at 763-417-9599 or email us at or complete our contact form, and we’ll be in touch.