A Paper in Partial Fulfillment of
ED 7311 Theory and Methods of Educating Adults
September 17, 2010
As companies continue to try to come up with a plan for remaining profitable, some are overlooking one of their best opportunities due to their short sightedness and obsession for short term gain. It is the very asset which most firms claim is their most important and the one which provides them their competitive advantage. It is also, in some companies, the asset which is most mistreated and neglected as it is the most costly. It is the company’s employees. I don’t know of any company which would not state that employees and their knowledge of the company, its products and services, processes, policies and procedures are an important part to its competitive advantage and the reason for its success. Then the question that must be asked and answered is why then, in down economic times, is one of the first things cut in a corporate budget the training and development of this most valuable asset? The very asset which provides the company its competitive advantage. The one which, if not continually developed, will impact its growth for a considerable length of time. Management, rightly so, wants to see the impact of any venture to the bottom line. If training is the first item cut, it must mean its impact is not benefiting the company, or at least not being seen as such. Training must be designed, implemented and assessed in such a manner to provide a positive impact on the bottom line. It is therefore the responsibility of those in charge of training to be cognizant of how and why adults learn, so that training provides a positive impact on a company’s profitability and not seen as a necessary burden which only drains the company’s coffers. According to Stephen Lieb (1991, p.1) “Part of being an effective instructor involves understanding how adults learn best.” Eliminating training and only allowing for it when a company is profitable will have a significant negative impact upon the company in both the short and long term. Conducting training which is not effective and efficient nor provides a positive return on investment is not only unproductive but can create a resistance to future training and negatively impact the morale of employees.
How Adults Learn
Corporate trainers and class designers need to understand how adults gain knowledge as learning, in the Western perspective, is determined to be a cognitive function. (Merriam et. al. 2007, Wlodkowski, 2008). Neuroscience provides us with an understanding of how the adult brain operates in the process of learning. It involves the creation of neuronal networks within the brain. New information is assimilated to knowledge that already exists. “When adults learn, they build on or modify networks that have been created through previous learning and experience.” (Wlodkowski, p.11). By understanding this basic biological fact, teachers and designers, must be able to connect the material that is to be learned with the existing knowledge of the learners. Corporate trainers and designers must also take into consideration cultural aspects of their learners as a person’s “…class, culture, ethnicity, personality, cognitive style, learning patterns, life experiences and gender…” (Auerbach, 1992) will impact the learner and his/her motivation. “The more we know about the identity of the learner, the context of this learning, and the learning process itself, the better able we are to design effective learning experiences.” (Merriam, 2004, p.199). This point is extremely important for companies to recognize and understand, otherwise; people only go through the motion of attending training and do not necessary come out with the knowledge necessary for performing the job.
Adult Education Theory
Adult education theory is only about forty years old. Malcolm Knowles’ andragogy is one of the...
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