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Adults bring a unique focus to classroom


The mere thought of returning to a classroom can fill some drivers with dread, especially if their earlier learning experiences were shaped by droning teachers, pop quizzes, and lessons that didn’t seem to apply to the “real world.” 

Fleet trainers who focus on the unique needs of adult learners can make the difference – enhancing the skills that help boost productivity, improve safety records, and comply with the ever-changing regulations which govern the trucking industry. 

Malcolm Knowles, widely acknowledged as an expert in adult education, identified many of the factors that can affect the way older learners view a training session. Adults motivate themselves, expect respect, draw on their own experiences, focus on a training program’s ultimate goals, and take a practical approach to learning, he said.  “Adults need to know why they need to learn something before undertaking to learn it.” 

Let’s put that another way. Children may see “Because I said so” as an acceptable answer. Drivers won’t. 

Motivating factors are just the beginning. Effective training materials also recognize that trainees absorb content differently. 

Auditory learners pick up the details from a lecture or discussion, much like the setting in a traditional classroom, but visual learners glean most of their information from diagrams and images. Kinesthetic and tactile learners, many of whom are attracted to hands-on trades such as trucking, tend to rely more on hands-on experiences. 

Consider a lesson about conducting a circle check as an example.

 The auditory learners will be able to follow discussions about the individual steps and relate everything back to their personal experiences. Visual learners in the classroom absorb more from diagrams and videos showing how the steps are completed. The kinesthetic and tactile learners, meanwhile, soak in most of their information when actually building up air pressure, checking fluid levels, and crawling under trailers.  

Formal lesson plans reflect all these realities and help everyone to achieve their goals.

The plans themselves actually include several parts. Their detailed notes for a trainer, for example, will ensure that information is delivered consistently from one class to the next, even if someone else has to deliver the content. They will also identify required training materials or props, questions to ask trainees, and when to schedule breaks. 

The content provided to trainees will identify the difference that program objectives make in practical terms, identify all the key messages, and tie everything together with a recap to demonstrate that the objectives were achieved.

But as important as the plan may be, it will still rely on well-structured training materials to deliver the
information.

For many trainers, this will involve a focus on PowerPoint slides. The good news is that these materials can support auditory and visual learners alike. Each slide will even help trainers to stick to their lesson plans and ensure that no topic is overlooked.

The challenge is that slides are
often poorly designed. Pages might be crammed with paragraphs of text that nobody can read, transforming a projection screen into little more than a distracting eye chart. Animation and sound effects, meant to make the content more interesting, actually begin to distract from the messages. And the images that are needed to engage
visual learners are squished and distorted so much that it’s hard to tell
exactly what the picture or diagram was supposed to represent.

The text on a well-structured slide is limited to a few words about a central method or theme. 

Only the instructor needs to see the detailed notes which guide the discussions.  Any animation is also introduced to serve a specific purpose, such as revealing a particular line of information that is being discussed or to keep learners from reading ahead of the instructor.

A related quiz or other evaluation tool will help to measure just how effective any of the training material actually was. If trainees consistently make errors when answering the same question, it may be time to revisit the way the content is being explained. The final scores, combined with real-world evaluations, will certainly help to ensure that drivers have absorbed the necessary details.

And trainees are not the only people who need to be graded. Feedback forms can give everyone the chance to describe how well trainers did their job. After all, even the most popular trainers have been known to fall into the trap of “edutainment,” playing an audience for laughs rather than sticking to the lesson plan. 

It proves that everyone has something to learn.

This month’s expert is Charlie Charalambous, risk services solutions training specialist. He has worked in adult education for almost 15 years as a trainer, instructional designer, performance consultant and training specialist. Northbridge Insurance is a leading Canadian commercial insurer built on the strength of four companies with a long standing history in the marketplace and has been serving the trucking industry for more than 60 years. You can visit them at  www.nbins.com.


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