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Understanding why people learn

The following five assumptions underlie the andragogical model of learning, which Knowles now calls a model of human learning, and they can guide ETDP practitioners in crafting successful learning programs:
Why Adults Learn
 Adults are self-directed learners.
 Adults build on prior experience.
 Adults respond to a need to perform more effectively.
 Adults want real-world applications for learning.
 Adults are motivated by internal factors.
The learner is self-directing.
Adult learners want to take responsibility for their own lives, including planning, implementing, and evaluating their learning activities. From the beginning the ETD practitioners’ needs to establish the teaching and training process as a collaborative effort, and throughout the process both parties should be partners engaged in ongoing two-way communication.
Adults build on prior experience.
According to Knowles, each of us brings to a learning situation a wealth of experience that provides a base for new learning and serves as a resource to share with others. Good or bad, the prior experience will affect the way an employee approaches a new task, and the new information will have to be assimilated. The savvy ETD practitioners determines what the learner already knows and builds on that experience instead of assuming he or she knows nothing and must be “taught” like a small child.
Adults are ready to learn when they see a need to know or do something in order to perform more effectively.
The days of abstract theories and concepts are over for most adults. They want the learning experience to be practical and realistic. The effective ETD practitioner helps the learner understand how mastering a particular skill or task will boost job success, that is, how the employee can do the job quicker, easier, or more efficiently.
This is particularly important in a retraining situation where the employee may resist the change.
Adults want real-world application now.
They want the skills and knowledge to help them complete tasks or solve problems they are currently confronting. People are motivated to learn when the topic is relevant to their lives and they want to apply the learning as quickly as possible.
Therefore, effective ETD practitioners deliver just-in-time training and they emphasize how the new skill will make-work easier.
Adults are motivated to learn by internal factors.
Internal motivators such as self-esteem, recognition, natural curiosity, innate love or learning, better quality of life, enhanced self-confidence, or the opportunity to self-actualize drive the adult learner (Knowles 1990).
Just as people work for different reasons, they want to learn for different reasons. The effective ETD practitioner identifies the learner’s WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?) and clearly links it to the training.

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