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Trainers: How to Deliver What Your Adult Learners Want

Jun 27, 2014

Posted by

Carla Cross

About Carla Cross, CRB, MA                           Read more

Trainers: Do you sometimes have trouble figuring out the level of expertise of a particular audience? Do you have some students say, “That was too basic.” Do you wonder how your audience likes to learn? In other words—are you in the dark about your audience background and preferences?

You can solve many of your instructional problems simply by using a pre-conference survey. (see it in The Ultimate Real Estate Trainer's Guide).

Adults Have Very Challenging Learning Diversities

Children are so much easier to teach than adults. Children are relatively ‘clean slates’. They don’t know so much (and don’t know things incorrectly), and they’re eager to learn. Adults, on the other hand, come into the classroom with some terrific learning, skills—and a lot of ‘missed learning’ and baggage. To teach effectively, you must find out everything about your audience before you get in front of them.

I teach Instructor Development in Washington state. I’ve done this for lots of years. It’s very challenging to teach, because these adults come into class with so many widely varying experiences about training. To teach them effectively, I need to know as much as possible about them before class starts.

What I Want to Learn About My Students

To prepare to teach Instructor Development, I always ask participants to answer a pre-conference survey. Here are some of the questions I ask:

  1. Have you had any formal training? Please explain.
  2. What do you want to accomplish?
  3. What do you want your students to be able to do?
  4. What are your favorite teaching methods?
  5. How do you like to learn in a classroom?
Can you guess why I ask these questions? I need to know
  • Their relative backgrounds, so I know the range of the students
  • What they want from the class, so I know their expectations (and lack of expectations!)
  • If they expect their students to change behavior as a result of the class—or if they just want students to learn ‘neat stuff’
  • How they like (and what they depend on) to teach—so I know their skill sets
  • Their favorite learning method, so I can include it in my teaching

What I Learn from Those Who Don’t Complete the Survey

That’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? In my Instructor Development course, I ask students why they think I did the survey, and what it tells me. We then discuss how to use surveys in various situations to gather information about those adult learners.

  

Pre-Surveys Set the State to Raise the Level of Your Course—and Your Fees

By using a pre-conference survey, you show students that there are expectations of your course. You show them that there will be more value than the ‘just show up and sit there’ type of course. You show them that you care more about them than just showing up. You can charge more for your course, because you have elevated the course from the ordinary to the extraordinary.

Your Responsibilities to the Students

Gathering all that information isn’t a free ride for you! Students will expect you to use that information to customize your course, teach to various learning styles, and stretch yourself as an instructor. Let me know how you use surveys prior to courses to increase the value of your course.