There’s a reason Phoenix University has grown so rapidly since its inception. It offers college courses with a focus on an adult learning style. Unfortunately, the church has been slow in picking up on this. Here are seven principles I picked up from J. Russell Crabtree’s book, The Fly in the Ointment, that if applied, can add quality to any adult learning process.
1. Adults are motivated to learn when the information matches a need in the learner.
If the information isn’t deemed to be of immediate usefulness, adults either won’t come or they won’t retain the information that’s given.
2. Adult learners need clear objectives and specific outcomes.
What’s the anticipated outcome of the training? That’s the question adults are going to ask, and the question that needs to be answered up front. That might sound a bit academic, but there’s a reason college courses state the class objectives early in the course description.
3. Adults learn by doing and the participation of the learner makes application more likely.
We tend to focus more on teacher/content rather than leaner/skill. With virtually every topic, there are activities that can be done in a class to create more of a hands-on feel. For instance, divide the class into groups of 3-7. Hand out a short story that illustrates the challenge presented in the class material and see what the groups come up with.
4. Adult learners have high levels of anxiety about training that require a safe, respectful, reassuring environment.
It might come as a surprise, but adults are more anxious about class settings than children. Starting the class out with a question the adults can easily answer will pay off dividends in the quality and quantity of discussion later on in the session.
5. Adult learners desire opportunities for immediate application.
We call this just-in-time training. When the disciples failed at casting out the demon in the young boy, they were all ears as Jesus explained the reason for their lack of success.
6. Adult learners value opportunities for self-development.
In other words, the value of the class jumps up significantly when adults can see multiple applications for the lesson. After a weekend training in coaching, one of my elders expressed sincere appreciation because he was able to apply it at work and home as well as at church.
7. Finally, any leadership development approach should make the broadest possible use of resources and methods that are available and that give the learner as many options as possible.
For instance, there is no reason not to take advantage of all the possibilities of learning that our generation enjoys, like CDs and DVDs, websites, Skype, online training and webinars, mentoring, coaching, seminars and retreats.
One size no longer fits all…as if it ever did! What changes can you make to enhance the effectiveness of the training you offer?