Friday, 29 June 2012


Adult learners don’t need information – they need application.

Consider going on a workshop or a project or a training session. In work or out of work. At the time it all makes sense and you can make connections in the context of the classroom (that’s often because the trainers should have engineered it so it works positively). Anyway, you return back to work and after a few days of catching up on missing emails, you think “oh yes, I ought to do some of what I learned last week.”

And nothing happens.

So you ask for a handout or an aide memoir or a bit of written support.

And that is where it just goes wrong. So please can all folk in L+D stop doing it.

FACT: children with learning needs (e.g. struggling with maths or English homeworks) are often put in classes or extra class where they are given more work to do to help them. Easier problems or verbs to learn. They don’t do very well. BUT if given counselling (or coaching, frame it how you like) they do very well – better in fact than their peers without help.
Children make good learners are most of their world is at school and what you can’t succeed in doing one day you can succeed in doing the next as each day and week and term presents more opportunity to get it right. A lot can be learned from this when it comes to adult learning.

Adult learners are different.

It’s a one chance thing really as they have a desk job to commercially deliver upon. They don’t make good learners.

Few (if any) read up on the courses they attend and question the material they are given. A simple google search or Wiki search will fuel them with plenty of information on what they are about to learn and in many cases that’s VERY detailed and far beyond what’s offered on a course. So it’s not a question of information adults want to satisfy their learning needs but application.

Consider me teaching you to change a tyre on a car. I could sit you in my kitchen and show you pictures, tell you stories, draw you sketches, watch films on youtube, go –online to a forum, ask questions, dial up a conference call, web chat, webinar, tweet, act and a whole range of blended learning options.

Or I undo one bolt, you watch and listen to my advice. I then watch you undo the other three. We take it in turns in short stabs of info and immediately apply learning AS WE SOLVE THE TASK so the learning is visceral and real. The added extra is I then watch you teach someone else what you have just learned on the second wheel of the car offering feedback to your coaching style and quality of advice, chosen language, metaphors, stories and timing.

That’s what makes great adult learning.

Handouts are not the answer. They are a symptom of trainers not considering the learning issues and thinking more material makes up for what’s clearly missing in their classroom intervention.

In summary, we learn all the time but at work we learn in a sociocontextual fashion how to be and what to do. We pick up the learning from watching those around us. We adults don’t make good learners when training isn’t thought out for us. Adults have forgotten how to learn (or don’t realise that they need to change their behaviour a little to lock in the new content). You don’t have to read very far to see the statistics on how much is learned before and after the interventions.

If there is a constant request after your training for some more material don’t give it to participants but think on why it is they are asking.
It’s because the want is there to apply but the ability to do so isn’t. You can’t teach the ability transfer bit, you can only pass on information. It’s in the coaching whilst doing the magic happens.

Change your programme design so there is more of that and more opportunity for live work on live projects and material and see what happens...

Now, go save your photocopier and yourself a lot of wasted time.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

the more things stay the same, the more we change...

The more things change, the more they remain the same...

Or should it be the more things stay the same, the more we change?

I was sitting on the train last night. [Before we go any further, this is the correct English. Far too often I hear “I was sat on the train”. That is incorrect. If you are DOING the action, then your verb must be active not passive!)

I was sitting on the train last night. I was returning home from another day in London and the carriage then filled with school boys. “uh oh” I thought, here we go. Then I just watched and listened as I pretended to read my book – but not in a nasty way.

So NOTHING has changed in 25 odd years since I was their age. These guys were 12/13/14. They all looked the same as my class at school. There was the fat one, the ugly one, the sporty looking ones, the small scrawny looking on ee who probably had a pretty sister, there was the joker, the quiet one and so on... The lad opposite me was reading his exam notes (1950s communism, nitrogen cycle, French verbs and what looked like a bit of classics. I figured a posh school). The lad to my right was on his phone and the one to the right of the one opposite was playing a ps2 and talking apps, downloads and interrupting everyone with the gaol he’d just scored at the European cup.

Nothing has changed has it.

My trips were full of the same thing, just different content and expressed differently. We had magazines (Viz), the Ps2 was a rubbish Donkey Kong that was made of red plastic and had the screen printed in ink as the graphics were like a modern day digital watch, football, science lessons, balls sports, teachers we hated, bikes we’d ridden, homeworks we’d forgotten, tapes we were listening too and which member of the A-team was best were the subjects.

I suppose a steam train in the 1930’s wouldn’t look that different, straw hated boys talking latin and cricket... and maybe 50 years from now I hope the school is going and some hologram t-shirt will replace the totally impractical blazers our kids are forced to wear.

For years people say ‘the youth of today’ and ‘it wasn’t like that for us back in the day’.. but it was. And it is. We’ve changed. That’s all.
I’ve changed.
I don’t get the music as easily.
I can’t as easily intuitively pick up the Ps2.
I know nothing about the euros.
I still don’t see why we need to learn the nitrogen cycle either.

BUT I am happy that we send boys to school so they can go on trips and interact with each other on day like yesterday; It was there and in those situations I found I could understand everything.

Last night, I was just a commuter on a train and the world seemed pretty difficult if I let it...

Sunday, 10 June 2012

mobiles - bad for the back

Had my chiropractic appointment just before the weekend (no, this is not a lead in to a joke) and before we had the joy of adjustment, we got chatting about health in general.

Not quite the full hippy, I do believe that a healthy head = health body. It (the head) after all is the control system for everything else so chemicals, thoughts and actions for me are all intertwined. the chiropractor and I have hit it off in this meeting of health thyself minds.

Anyhow two points to think on from our chat...

count the number of people (particularly kids) hunched over their heels tapping away on mobiles - bad for the back...

AND consider the NHS. It's full of sick people right? it's not about health, it's about treating you when things have got to the stage you're broken. So let's call it the National Sick Service!

Imagine the programming across society such a name gives and how more readily we'd take care of ourselves as a result.

Got me stretching and eating veg all weekend.