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Training and Development for Adults in Multicultural Environments

TOPIC: "When designing and conducting training for adults in a multinational or multicultural environment, why is it important to know adult learning theories and principles? What do trainers need to know about how adults learn, why is it so important, and in what ways should that understanding guide the trainers when building training plans and activities?"

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"When designing and conducting training for adults in a multinational or multicultural environment, why is it important to know adult learning theories and principles? What do trainers need to know about how adults learn, why is it so important, and in what ways should that understanding guide the trainers when building training plans and activities?"

Being an effective trainer and or educator of adults (people generally above the age of 18) involves a comprehensive understanding of how the adult brain functions and what helps adults to learn best (Merriam, 2012). This theory of adult learning is commonly referred to as Andragogy.
Andragogy is the study of adults and how they learn. It originated in Europe in the 1950's but was taken to the mainstream and pioneered in the 1970's by Malcolm Knowles (Bowman, 2012). Knowles was an adult educator in America who regularly practiced and participated in adult education and the theory and conceptualization of what helped adults learn. He defined adult learning or andragogy as "the art and science of helping adults learn effectively" (Bowman, 2012).

What Knowles specifically functioned on was the andragogy theory that establishes a set of assumptions as to how well or poorly adults will learn in life or in the classroom setting. Knowles theory of andragogy places a heavy emphasis on the values associated with the overall process of learning in adults. The approach that Knowles uses emphasizes a problem based and collaborative teaching environment as opposed to a didactic setting. Knowles hypothesized that adults learn best when they have a structure that emphasizes equality between the teacher and learner (Bowman, 2012).

As trainers of adults, it's important that we understand what Knowles and many others have established as the most accurate and successful practices associated with adult learning and model our training curriculum and design around these principles. Specifically, Knowles stated that there are six core adult learning principles that need to be understood. These principles are:

1. During learning, adults bring their life experiences and their already learned knowledge into their learning experiences.
2. Adults tend to be very goal oriented
3. Adults are relevancy oriented
4. Generally Adults are very practical
5. During learning, adults like to feel they are being respected (Merriam, 2012).

By focusing on these principles, it will help guide us on how we develop our training. Through the understanding that adults are generally motivated internally and are self-directed, it teaches us that adults commonly resist learning if they feel like their teacher or instructor is being imposing or forceful in the delivery of information to them. So, the role as an instructor will be to develop a curriculum that fosters common bonds between the adult students and the instructors. This will help tap into the internal motivation present in adults and help them better engage in their desire to learn and not feel challenged but encouraged (Merriam, 2012).
This can be very common in the training of adults that are from multicultural environments therefore extra sensitivity and care needs to be taken when teachers are working within these types of workshops. Failure to recognize that students from different backgrounds and cultures may interpret things differently or comprehend things differently could lead to a very big disconnect that fails both the student and the teacher as the bond will never occur. It is all too common that instructors try to apply the same systems or teaching curriculum that worked with their home country toward students in multicultural environments only to realize it will often not be understood equally (Norton, 2013).
Knowles principle also shows us that adults bring their own life experiences and knowledge into their training which is helpful to us in understanding how to structure our curriculum. The study of andragogy and Knowles work teaches us that adults like to be given opportunity to utilize their core knowledge and experiences already gained in life and apply those ideas to their new learning experiences. So, as an instructor we can try to find out all we can about our students and their backgrounds, interests, cultures, etc... and use this to our advantage in building ...

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