Strategies for Engaging Adult Learners to Enhance Learning Outcomes
Trainers continually look for strategies for engaging adult learners to enhance learning outcomes. Many have discovered what is termed as brain-based learning in order to create content and environments that help challenge and actively engage their learners.
Scientists and researchers continually explore the human brain and have made some amazing discoveries related to how the human brain functions and reacts to various stimuli. Neuroscientific research on learning (also referred to as brain-based learning) continues to provide new insights into how a person’s brain best processes information and forms memories for future recall. This is a key element of an adult learning environment. It is crucial for helping adult learners gain, retain, recall and use what they experience, is engagement. That is why anyone involved in adult education, training, and facilitation, or who presents information to adults, should learn how to use strategies for engaging adult learners.
The following are three proven strategies for engaging adult learners that I have used for nearly four decades when training and educating adults.
Encourage risk-taking. Develop and use energizer activities at various points during your session. Design them in a manner that can be either low-risk or high-risk and encourages learners to step outside their comfort zone. For example, in a low-risk activity, you might have participants self-disclose something about their jobs. To take that to a high-risk level, you might ask them to share something that they like and dislike about their job and how they would improve the job if they were in a leadership position. Based on what they disclose, you could encourage them to create a plan to speak with their supervisor in a constructive manner about job enhancement.
Incorporate energizers into your sessions. Energizer activities are great for helping teach and reinforce session content and for providing a vehicle in which participants take an active role in their learning. Depending on the time of day, session content, physical environment, and other factors, learners need periodic mental and physical breaks if your session lasts more than an hour. The key to effectively using energizers is to connect them to session objectives and not just do something that is fun or that you enjoy. During the activity, encourage learners to think and practice real-world skills that relate to the session topic and help promote the learning outcomes that you are seeking. There are many books, articles and Internet content that provide energizer activities based on a variety of topics.
Use fun activities for reviews. Rather than simply reviewing key concepts covered during your session, engage learners to do that for you. You can do this as an interim review after a section of content has been addressed or as a final session review of all concepts. There is an endless array of possibilities limited only your available time, willingness and creativity. Find activities in books, on the Internet, or create your own. One that I use is a Hot Potato Review. I use a modification of the children’s game that involves music and tossing something. I purchase Hot Potato games to use for concept reviews. I then form teams of six to eight participants and arrange each group in a circle. Next, I creatively select a team leader for each group. When I sound a noisemaker, the leaders squeeze their potato to start the music and tosses it to someone else. This process continues until the music stops. The person holding the hot potato at that time calls out a key concept, term or skill learned in the session. He or she then squeezes the toy to restart the music, tosses it to someone else, and sits down or steps back out of the circle. Once a concept, term, or skill has been mentioned, no other participant can use that one. The goals of the activity are to not be the person holding the toy when the music stops and to review key terms and concepts covered in the session. Once there is only one person standing for each group, I either bring those people together for a final round or wrap up with summary comments. In either case, I generally have everyone give a round of applause for all the input provided and reward the last person standing (as an individual or from each group) a small prize (e.g. candy, toy or other items related to the session theme).
The key to using strategies for engaging adult learners is to tie them directly to learning objectives, get learners actively involved, and make the learning fun.
Looking for more ideas on using activities and strategies for engaging adult learners? Check out other articles on the topic on this blog. Also, take a look at Creative Learning: Activities and Games That Really Engage Learners; Training Workshop Essentials: Designing, Developing and Delivering Learning Events That Get Results; The Creative Training Idea Book: Inspired Tips and Techniques for Engaging and Effective Learning; and Energize Your Training: Creative Techniques to Engage Learners.
Do you have creative and effective strategies for engaging adult learners that you are willing to share with others? Share one here.