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Knowing Our Learners

As already been established during previous topics, it is essential we know our learners and their needs. We have to build rapport and ensure we are supportive and inspire learning and motivation. An understanding of theories will help you as the teacher to have a better understanding of the learning process and factors that might be affecting our learners.

Research also suggests that most learners should be encouraged to use the learning style they do not usually favour, so that they broaden their approach and their ability to learn in most situations. Matching delivery of instruction to the style of learning with which the learner is most comfortable is important, but we should try to broaden the way in which a learner learns.

Research suggests that learning material should include:

  • focus on factual information.
  • the opportunity for the problem solving.
  • information presented in a logical and orderly sequence and in a variety of forms such as visuals, movement, colour, sound, static and practical exercises.
  • experimentation and activities rather than listening and or reading
    projects and assignments that encourage creative and reflective thinking, brainstorming, and the development of options

The success of your training sessions will in part depend upon how well you have analysed the characteristics and differences of your trainees. Information about trainees can be viewed in terms of:

  • Content
  • Context
  • Characteristics

Content: the particular skills and knowledge they require

Context:

  • where they are located city, country, workplace.
  • what training environments they require and are able to access.
  • the purpose of their training.
  • time constraints.
  • is the need for training urgent or not urgent?
  • must the training be intensive or long term.

Characteristics: details about the trainees themselves that can influence their approach to training and their ability to take advantage of particular training situations. Such details may include their:

  • age.
  • family situation.
  • educational background.
  • preferred learning style.
  • cultural background.
  • employment situation.
  • life experience.
  • financial situation.
  • motivation.
  • experience with technology.

In any one group that you are likely to encounter, the content they are seeking is probably identical, or at the minimum, similar. But their backgrounds will vary considerably. For instance, consider these three cases:

  • a woman from a well educated and financially secure family, where education is highly regarded.
  • a young man of the same age with different cultural values and who lacks experience with any of the educational technologies.
  • a man from a lower socio economic background.

These differences alone can pose significant problems for the teacher, but when the constraints of context are superimposed on this, the challenge of accommodating a class full of disparate individuals becomes a reality. It becomes essential for a teacher to use every tool available to satisfy the learning requirements of such a group.