Training Learning Facilitators to Teach Adults Effectively


So often, people are tasked with teaching others simply because of their expertise, and therefore they’re obliged to deliver their “packaged” knowledge to get their colleagues up to speed. With better understanding of adult learning principles and with a multisensory approach to learning, knowledge transfer from SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) could become more effective and make learning ‘stick’.

The question “What helps you learn?” has been posed by learning providers over decades. However now is the time when personalization is key to an individual’s learning process, proven as a powerful and effective means to engage learners, transfer knowledge and to make learning “stick”. Yet, without the support and structure of deep-rooted Adult Learning Principles, personalization is not enough.

So, what are these Adult Learning Principles? Knowles* – an American educator – emphasizes that adults…. expect to take responsibility for decisions, and therefore, adult learning programs must accommodate this fundamental aspect. Knowles described four key principles in helping adults learn:

1. Involved – in the planning and evaluation of their (learners) own learning
2. Experience – leverage prior learning
3. Relevant – have immediate impact on their (learners) lives
4. Problem centered – to solve problems, rather than be content-oriented

In practical terms, when training learning facilitators to deliver programmes in order to incorporate these four basic principles, focus more on the process and less on the content as an effective strategy to embed new learning. For example, the process of eliciting information from learners (and not only giving it!) helps to identify what learners already know or have experienced and it involves them (learner-centric).

Moreover, using these principles without bringing a holistic approach to the learning process neglects the resources that we have at our fingertips. Building in a multi-sensory approach that, where possible, uses all senses to embed learning so that it can be recalled more easily when needed. For example, while teaching emergency procedures, using an alarm or bell at critical moments in the learning delivery, whether face-to-face or online, will help to recall the learning point. Likewise, to remember the key points of this blog, imagine a picture of a PIER to recall Knowles’ four principles of Adult Learning – and incorporate these into your next learning intervention!


*Malcolm Shepherd Knowles – an American educator credited for being a fundamental influence on adult learning process. He observed that becoming an adult was a process, and that adult learners have distinct and unique characteristics. He coined the term Andragogy – the art and science of adult learning.

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