Taking the time to tailor learning to the needs of each individual learner can have a significant impact upon the quality of the learner experience. It is the domain of the facilitator to ensure this occurs and can take considerable time and effort to do so.
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Develop a tailored learning relationship
We are all different. Countless academics have built careers upon defining the numerous ways in which we differ.
When it comes to how we learn there are consistent similarities as described in the adult principles explored earlier yet there are observable differences also. The term learning styles refers to how an individual learns.
Developing an understanding of learning styles and the ability to recognise them in individual learners can assist facilitators in providing targeted learning activities. Frequently observed learning styles include:
- Sensory preferences:
a) Auditory learners
b) Visual learners
c) Kinaesthetic learners
- Left vs. right brain learners
- Honey and Mumford learning styles:
- 4MAT learning styles (influenced by Kolb)
a) Imaginative – feeling and watching
b) Analytic – listening to and thinking
c) Common sense – thinking and doing
d) Dynamic – doing and feeling
The learning styles of individuals can be seen through observation of their behaviours and interactions. When training a group, where individual learners may have differing learning styles, facilitators benefit from taking a varied approach to provide everyone with the greatest opportunity for learning.
Adapt learning plan and facilitation techniques to learner
Identifying the context in which the learning is to take place is as important as identifying individual learning styles. It allows for the identification of potential barriers to learning. Barriers to learning may exist within or outside of the learner and some are simpler and more straightforward to address than others.
- Language, literacy and numeracy
- Previous learning experiences
- Education level
- Level of motivation
- Emotional and psychological wellness
- Perceived safety
- Physical comfort, health and wellbeing
An individual learning plan is a contract between facilitator and learner specifically tailored to meet the needs of the learner and support their ability to meet the learning objectives.
Individual learning plans often detail:
- Program goals and objectives – important to adapt to individual learner needs
- A detailed program outline
- Program and learning relationship duration
- Styles of training delivery – important to adapt to individual learner needs
- Training and meeting schedule – important to adapt to individual learner needs
- Avenues for additional support – important to adapt to individual learner needs
- Contingency arrangements
It is not only potential barriers to learning that must be addressed in tailored learning plans it is also learner interests, and learning styles. The goal is to help the learner achieve the stated learning outcomes in as enjoyable, stimulating and positive manner as possible.
Develop session plans
The value of preparation cannot be underestimated particularly when it comes to the facilitation of learning experiences that require high levels of in session adaptation to meet differing learner needs. The better organised the facilitator, the more learners will relax and allow learning to occur.
Preparation extends from having knowledge and competence of the training content to the organisation of resources, use of technology, the direction of activities and scheduling of additional presenters or speakers.
Effective planning includes:
- Confirming venue
- Confirming catering and equipment if required
- Confirming learner attendance
- Session timing including programmed guests
- Personal punctuality
- Preparing learner resources, equipment and activities
- Preparing responses to questions held over from previous sessions
- Recapping progress
- Appearing positive, confident and competent
- Creating a comfortable, safe yet stimulating learning environment
Many experience facilitation will say that all the best laid plans can and have gone awry so it is helpful to plan for contingencies and have such familiarity with the content that the program could be delivered without any additional materials.
Design learning activities to support learning
The design of learning activities has a direct impact upon learner outcomes. Activities that target the sweet spot where learning objective, learner interest and learner capability coincides can be highly motivating for learners and go a considerable way to the development of new skills and knowledge. Activities too challenging or simplistic can cause learners to lose interest, confidence and momentum.
Structured learning activities are varied with those potentially valuable in the retail context including:
- Facilitated discussion
- Role plays
- Work based projects
- Film / presentation analysis
- Learning journal
It is important to design activities to maintain program momentum. Momentum is forward motion experienced by learners when training sessions run smoothly and they are progressing at a comfortable pace toward their learning objectives.
When learners are confident and comfortable in the environment they may express that they are experiencing difficulties.
Whether it is due to ego, workplace or social culture or low self-esteem, not all learners will do so and it is up to the facilitator to appropriately draw out the underlying cause of a drop in momentum, address it and encourage the learner to regain their focus.
About ARA Retail Institute
ARA Retail Institute is Australia’s leading retail training provider for both accredited and non-accredited learning programs. For more information, please visit: www.retailinstitute.org.au