How To Make Learning Fun For Adults
Are you familiar with the term andragogy? It’s the term used specifically to refer to the theory of adult learning, as opposed to pedagogy, which is used for children’s learning.
How To Make Learning Fun For Adults
The distinction is important because adults do learn differently to children, and this needs to be considered when it comes to planning adult education programmes.
How do adults learn?
We need to look at how adults learn before we can look at how to make that learning fun.
Andragogy, as defined by pioneer Malcolm Knowles, is based on six learning principles.
1) Learning is internally motivated and self-directed.
Motivation plays a big role in adult education. Children who have no choice in the matter, but, unless being coerced by their boss, most adults sign up for courses because they want to. However, the Canadian Literacy and Learning Network points out that, personal motivation notwithstanding, adults will only learn what they feel is necessary – what is practical and helpful to them in the current (and future) situation. The trick is to uncover their true motivation and develop it so that they want to learn everything.
Another important point to note is that adults don’t like to be lectured to. They like to be engaged with and be a part of the learning process. Collaborative learning models work well, but bear in mind that the self-directed part of the principle also means that they like to discover things on their own.
2) Learning is influenced by life experiences and prior knowledge.
Like children, whatever adults have experienced in life will affect the way they learn and think about new information. The difference is that adults have decades more experience to draw on, so the effects are that much stronger. This also means that they are more resistant to ideas or information that contradicts what they already “know”. The challenge is to make study material and assignments and projects relevant to their lives and life experiences.
3) Goals are important.
Adults usually sign up with a particular goal in mind. They have a particular problem that they need to solve, or obstacle that they need to overcome. They need certification to get a promotion; they want to learn Russian to close a business deal; they need to learn how to use Excel to manage their company’s books; they want to get their high school diploma before their kids do./p
The course should be clearly structured to help them meet those goals as quickly as possible.
4) Relevance is important
Not only must adults see that the material is relevant to their goals, but they must also see that it is relevant to their lives. When they see the relevance of what they are learning, they are more likely to engage with it, become excited by it, and look to deepen the learning experience.
Assignments should be made personally relevant to their lives. If adults feel they are solving a real problem, they are more committed to the learning process.
5) Practice makes perfect.
Children learn well by doing, but adults learn even better when they get a chance to practice what’s been preached. Creative and interesting projects and assignments will do more to test their knowledge than written exercises out of a textbook.
6) Respect is paramount.
Many adults are nervous about signing up for courses or classes. It does’t matter whether they already have an undergraduate degree or haven’t finished high school. They feel out of practice and aren’t sure how their brains will cope with all the new terminology and ideas, not to mention whether they’ll cope with the workload. It’s essential that they feel respected as people. If they feel they are being condescended to or judged in anyway, they are apt to get defensive and a defensive brain is a rigid brain, and a rigid brain isn’t flexible enough for learning.
How to make learning fun
Keep the classes as informal as possible. Don’t make students sit in rows behind desks. Instead, arrange the class in a circle or form little groups that facilitate conversation. Then turn the lesson into a conversation. Cover the material necessary and turn it over to the students for discussion and dissection. Social learning situations are like gold for most adults.
Pose problems in ways that are practical to an average adultrsquo;s life and set groups to solve them creatively based on the ideas and information just covered. Instead of coming up with lists of solutions, encourage groups to create mind maps or draw charts, or even present their findings in a play. Bear in mind that some adults are very self-conscious about talking or acting in front of a group, so tailor the assignments for the class.
Don’t limit lessons to the classroom. Adults like a good class outing as much (maybe more) than children. In fact, theyrsquo;ll probably get much more out of a visit to a museum or gallery or real work environment than children. This is particularly useful in vocational or technical and further education courses, where practicality is the name of the day.
Bring in guest speakers – people who live every day carrying out the lessons being taught. Adults learn well vicariously. They also like to see the end result.
Don’t be afraid to use games. Adapt something simple, like Snakes and Ladders, use crossword puzzles or word searches, or get the students to design their own games.
Teaching adults poses different challenges to teaching children, but educators have one important advantage: Adults (by and large) want to learn. Play on that and learning can, indeed, be fun.
Jemima Winslow is a course junkie. She has a collection of certificates and diplomas that she constantly adds to. She’s currently contemplating one of her biggest projects yet, an honours degree in psychology.