Adult Learning Principle 1- Needs Assessment

A principle is the beginning of an action leading to its desired outcomes. In the context of Adult Learning, all the twelve principles are found to be intrinsically related one to the other. Dia means “between,” logos means “word.” Thus, dia + logue = “the word between us.”

Adults have substantial experience to be in dialogue with any teacher or trainer and will learn new knowledge, attitudes, or skills best in relation to that life experience (Knowles, 1970). In this article series, we will discover that as we work with the twelve principles of adult learning, we cannot exclude any of them at any given stage.

Needs assessment: participation of the learners in identifying what is to be learned
Safety in the environment and the process: We create a context for learning that is safe.
Sound relationships between trainer and learners and among learner peer groups.
Sequence of content and reinforcement.
Praxis: action with reflection or learning by doing.
Respect for learners as decision makers.
Ideas, feelings, and actions: cognitive, affective, and psychomotor aspects of learning.
Urgency of the learning.
Clear roles and role development.
Teamwork and use of small groups.
Engagement of the learners in what they are learning.
Accountability: how do they know they know?

Principle 1: Needs Assessment

While learners may enroll for the same training they all come with different experience and expectations. Listening to learners’ wants and needs helps shape a training program that has instant usefulness to adults. Hence, the dialogue actually begins long before the training starts.

Thomas Hutchinson (1978) of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, coined the WWW question for needs assessment. Who needs what as defined by whom? The ‘who’ are definitely the decision-makers. They can be either the teacher or the learner. Deciding and defining on the ‘who’ is the trick here. Adult learners must take responsibility to explain their context, what they think needs to be taught. At the same time, the teacher/ trainer needs to discover what learners already know, what they need or want to know, and be clear about what can be offered to the learners. This listening exercise is called learning needs and resources assessment.

The biggest advantage to needs and resource assessment is realized by actually meeting and interviewing learners at work. Any case where adult learners are bored or disengaged, shows that learning preferences have been neglected. It is very critical to discover the learning preferences of individual or learner groups. Visiting learners at work, exposes their learning preferences and makes it easier to interpret them.

Needs assessment informs the objectivity of the course and guides the learning designer to form it.

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