Educators must remember that learning occurs within each individual as a continual process throughout life. People learn at different speeds, so it is natural for them to be anxious or nervous when faced with a learning situation. Positive reinforcement by the instructor can enhance learning, as can proper timing of the instruction.
Learning results from stimulation of the senses. In some people, one sense is used more than others to learn or recall information. Instructors should present materials that stimulates as many senses as possible in order to increase their chances of teaching success.
There are four critical elements of learning that must be addressed to ensure that participants learn. These elements are:
1. Motivation: If the participant does not recognize the need for the information (or has been offended or intimidated), all of the instructor’s effort to assist the participant to learn will be in vain. The instructor must establish rapport with participants and prepare them for learning; this provides motivation.
2. Reinforcement: Reinforcement is a very necessary part of the teaching/learning process; through it, instructors encourage correct modes of behavior and performance.
3. Retention: Students must retain information from classes in order to benefit from the learning. The instructors’ jobs are not finished until they have assisted the learner in retaining the information. In order for participants to retain the information taught, they must see a meaning or purpose for that information. The must also understand and be able to interpret and apply the information. This understanding includes their ability to assign the correct degree of importance to the material.
4. Transference: Transfer of learning is the result of training — it is the ability to use the information taught in the course but in a new setting. As with reinforcement, there are two types of transfer: positive and negative.
Although adult learning is relatively new as field of study, it is just as substantial as traditional education and carries and potential for greater success. Of course, the heightened success requires a greater responsibility on the part of the teacher. Additionally, the learners come to the course with precisely defined expectations. Unfortunately, there are barriers to their learning. The best motivators for adult learners are interest and selfish benefit. If they can be shown that the course benefits them pragmatically, they will perform better, and the benefits will be longer lasting.