Engaging the Adult Learner — Occupational Health and Safety


Engage the adult learner

By Terri Dougherty, Writer at JJ Keller & Associates, Inc.

For many adults, sitting in a training room is something to avoid at all costs. However, training is a necessary part of today’s workplace. Companies must provide training for their employees. To help the reluctant learner, trainers can use a variety of techniques that will pique students’ interest and desire to participate in the training.

Learning can be defined as the act, process or experience of acquiring knowledge or skills. Presenting the information in a way that allows the learner to acquire the knowledge is the trainer’s challenge. Part of this challenge is that students learn in different ways. They learn by seeing, hearing, speaking, writing and doing. Many adult learners have a primary learning style, and they will learn most effectively when that particular learning style is used during training. Therefore, the trainer should use a combination of auditory, visual, tactile and participatory styles in order to reach all trainees in the class. By incorporating a mix of styles, the trainer is sure to reach all students.


Trainers should actively involve participants in the learning process. Instructors should encourage students to be active participants, not passive learners. Although conferences can be effective, they should be kept to a minimum, if possible. One way to engage learners is to use problem-solving situations. Additionally, the trainer can use case studies, role plays and games to engage people.

Question-and-answer sessions and small group discussions allow adults to participate. Small group discussions give individuals the opportunity to express their opinions in a less intimidating environment. Question and answer periods can be effective, but some adults are reluctant to “speak up” during the training. One way to help adult learners ask questions is to ask them to submit written questions to the trainer to read to the class. Using these techniques keeps learners involved and active.


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