When we were younger we were able to pick up concepts and absorb information effortlessly. This does not mean that adults are slower learners; rather, we simply depend on a different method of learning.
Our adult minds function like a computer, when new information comes in, we first store it in the buffer, a place for temporary memory. Then the hard disk, or long-term memory, is checked to see if similar information is already stored there. If not, the index, a mental filing system is flagged to relate the new information to existing knowledge in an orderly file. Our primary role as facilitators of learning is to help the adult learner “index” correctly and efficiently.
In an adult learning environment, we need to consider several elements to improve learning effectiveness.
Adults require value for learning before they store information in their long-term memory (their hard disk,) and it must prove useful and true. Adults learn from experience. Adults have short attention spans, even shorter than young children. Adults are judgmental of concepts and processes and they constantly evaluate any material presented to them, which becomes a barrier for learning. Adults do not memorize, instead they prefer to concentrate on concepts and learning will take place as they practice the concepts presented. Adults think that they cannot retain a lot of information at any given time. And adults need to relate new information to previous knowledge because they index all information.
At the core of our purpose is to “provide learning experiences which improve business and human performance.” In our learning design, the participant gets an opportunity to practice the concepts and processes presented. The learning process is one of exploration, practice, reflection, personal mastery and growth.
The output that we look for is for a set of leadership competencies to flourish. When the appropriate circumstances arise, the learner is likely to use them as a result of the change experience that he/she has gone through. While not everyone is a leader in an organization, everyone is a leader in his/her life.