Monday, 24 December 2012

How to keep adult students motivated

The greatest challenge for vocational trainers, especially those involved in on-line training, is to keep their adult students motivated and returning for more :-)

In my personal experience, "tangible results" is the greatest motivator possible for mature learners.  I suppose seeing real and tangible results will motivate adult and child alike, but with mature students "results" is a compelling factor in the success or failure of any training endeavour.

Child learners can be very forgiving.  They are not really sure about what they want or need to learn and they also understand that their role is to "go to school and learn" and the role of the teacher is to "teach".

Not so with the adult learner.  Adult learners KNOW exactly what they expect and they are also perfectly aware of their RIGHTS as a learner and consumer.

Moreover, many adult learners come into vocational classes because they are forced to do so by their employers or licensing bodies.  So they are not exactly thrilled to be there.

The equation: Forced Learning + Recalcitrant Student + Informed Consumer = Trainers’ nightmare.

Vocational Trainers therefore need to display their super powers in order to survive in the industry.

Most vocational students come into the classroom with a great deal of anxiety.  Fear of failure and ridicule, and traumatic memories of nasty maths teachers and exams are prominent in their minds on day one of their course. 

If you are a vocational trainer, you are by now well familiar with the icy cold stare that greets you on your first day at work.  After a few anxious moments, all trainers realize that the “dead-eye stare” is simply a symptom of fear—even terror, with some individuals.

So our first job is to reassure the “pupils”, to let them know that we are there to help them.  Most importantly it is essential that we respect them as individuals.

I too have been “forced” to undertake certain dubiously useful programs to retain some of my licenses in my industry.  On several occasions, the appointed “trainers” and “auditors” behaved, as if all of a sudden, my 25 years of experience, and that of my fellow “students”, had suddenly vanished.  You can imagine how motivated we felt about returning the following day.

So reassurance and respect are two powerful tools in winning the cooperation of recalcitrant students.

But reassurance and respect will not hold for long unless we are able to produce RESULTS.

Fortunately for us, “results” do not need to be spectacular.  They can be moderate, but they must make the students feel they have “discovered something about themselves” that they did not know, or thought possible, before attending your lesson.

Creative trainers can plan role-plays and activities that allow the learners to discover something new about themselves.  I use a few of these to “break the ice”.  The power of these role plays to enthuse and reward the desire for recognition of the participant is so strong.  It is strong enough to dissolve the ice and bring the “dead-eye look” back to life.

If you are interested in this topic, you may also want to read this blog.  It is jam packed with valuable information on how to keep adult learners motivated.

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