How to Create a Classroom Conducive to Adult Learning

July 22, 2022
Alison Grimley
Training facilitator asking a question with people raising hands

Many adults come to the training room with a wealth of knowledge and experience. It is important that we recognise and acknowledge this at the start of any course.

Knowing about the organisation through research or a pre course call and listening to introductions allows instructors to connect new learning experiences to what adult learners already know. The adult learner also needs to see value in the training and how this will support them in the workplace.

Anxiety and defensive behaviours

That said, many learners arrive on a course and face the same anxiety that children face in a new setting, so be mindful that learners have lives outside the training room and many may show anxiety and defensive behaviours as they enter the room.

This is normally due to a range of precipitating factors from traffic problems to childcare to the cat/dog being sick on the carpet as they leave the house. Bear in mind there may have attendees who have experienced trauma and we need to exercise care not to retraumatise anyone - the course needs to be delivered in a trauma-informed way.

We all know that behaviour influences behaviour but with careful management we can be supportive and allay any fears.

The first 30 mins are crucial to the success of the course. As a trainer, we should be making our learners feel comfortable and welcome in the classroom.

After greeting participants when they enter the room introduce yourself, explain any housekeeping, including break times, lunch and finish times.

Learners should sit where they feel comfortable and have access to refreshments before the course starts.

The room should be at a pleasant temperature with access to natural light if possible.

Adult learning

This is adult training so if people need to stand or nip to the loo, they don’t have to ask but ensure you start and finish on time. Ask participants to respect contributions from fellow learners and be open to new ideas.

A welcome smile goes a long way to help people feel comfortable, as does maybe a chat about their journey in to the venue that morning.

If learners like and connect with the instructor, then the course will run more effectively.

Aligning teaching style

At the beginning of the course the instructor should be watchful and friendly as well as try and navigate any possible barriers to learning such as:

  • Can participants hear you?
  • Can they see the presentation and flipchart?
  • Is English a second language?

This allows the instructor to align the teaching style with that of the learner.

If the room is conducive to learning any disruptions will be fairly mild. These include chatting at the back of the room, texting, or if someone who is argumentative or disrespectful, could need a gentle reminder when they stand to keep themselves and others safe while practising physical skills.

Think about some scripted interventions and fogging techniques to help us to stay on task such as:

  • Can I make a note of that on the flip chart titled questions and come back to it later?
  • Let's practice first then I’ll answer questions in the debrief.
  • Call for a break.

For more serious problems, or if the disruption persists:

  • Speak with the person at break
  • Seek to understand the reason for the disruption.
  • Be prepared to think back to the Integrated Experience. How behaviour influences behaviour.
  • Question yourself - do you need to change your behaviour?

Hopefully as our classrooms are welcoming and friendly and we use Care, Welfare, Safety and Security as our guiding philosophy, our learners will enjoy our courses and learn.

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