3.6. Motivation for learning and the way we learn

How to make people learn?

Your job as a trainer is not only to prepare the training plan and its implementation, but also to motivate the participants, encourage them to get involved during all sessions.

There are several methods and activities that you can perform in order to make participants more motivated and eager to learn.

Participants’ influence on the objectives and subject of the training

Participants will feel motivated if they have an influence on the objectives and the subject of training, and the opportunity to choose such methods of learning, which in their case turn out to be the most effective.

This can be achieved e.g. by:

  • Ask the participants what they want to learn, and how they want to use this knowledge and skills after the training. Taking into account their needs when planning training.
  • Responding to the current needs of the participants expressed already during the training. For example requests for additional breaks if they feel tired etc.

Interesting and engaging tasks

Participants will be more engaged, if the tasks you propose differ from the routine and require effort. At the same time the participants should be able to complete the task.

This can be achieved e.g. by:

  • Assessment before the training, what is the level of competence of the participants, what are they able to do.
  • If the level of competence of participants varies prepare tasks of varying difficulty.

Safe atmosphere

Participants will get involved, if during the training they feel safe. They will then have a greater desire to experiment, to work in a custom way, and make innovative ideas. They will also be more willing to express their opinions.

This can be achieved e.g. by:

  • Enabling participants to get to know each other. The more they know about each other, the more trust each other.
  • Limiting competition. Proposing methods that require cooperation.
  • Establishing rules together with the participants. The very fact that the rules are known causes that participants know what behaviours are desired.
  • Supporting participants, if they meet difficulties that without your intervention they cannot overcome. Encouraging participants to help each other.

Your positive attitude

You can also influence the participants’ motivation through your attitude during training. Participants will be more motivated if you too will be motivated and be able to show this.

This can be achieved e.g. by:

  • The expression of your satisfaction related to delivery of the training.
  • Showing participants that you are interested in topics of training, you have competence in this field and you enjoy what you’re doing.
  • Showing respect to participants and helping them when they encounter difficulties ensuring their comfort in the training room, good quality materials and efficiency of the equipment.

The knowledge on adults learning approach will be also extremely helpful. You should take it into the account, while you develop and conduct the training.

As we’ve already said, people learn more effectively, when they are motivated. At the same time, we also have to remember that people learn effectively in different ways – some people prefer learning with others, some prefer learning individually. Some prefer learning in practice when they have an opportunity to try something. Others need more theory, facts or figures. People also differ in terms of the sensory system. This sensory system determines how we perceive the world around us, what kind of information we notice and memorize best. It also determines our personal strategy of learning. There are three representational systems:

  • visual system – we remember better what we see (e.g. charts, infographics, tables, pictures, movies);
  • auditory system – we remember better what we hear (e.g. when we listen to others or ourselves, when we talk with others, when there’s no other disturbing sound around us, when we read or think loudly);
  • kinesthetic system – we remember better when we can move / touch / feel / taste (e.g. when we feel emotions, when we are in touch with others).

Among others, based on these conclusions on the adults learning methodology, David Kolb, an American educational theorist, described the most efficient model of learning (called Kolb’s Cycle) , which consists of four phases.

The first phase is: experience. In this phase, participants of the training have an opportunity to experience something. For example, they participate in an exercise, discussion, role play, case study – any activity that enables them: a. to try something new, b. to use their own personal experience (for instance their knowledge, skills, attitude). This phase is especially important for people who learn in practice and for those who prefer kinaesthetic system.

The second phase is: reflective observation. This phase enables participants to reflect on the activity they’ve already had. It is a moment of discussing conclusions, emotions or any thoughts that appear. As a result, people not only have an opportunity to express their opinions, but they also understand the reasons of their activity (and their effort!). It also builds mutual trust (both among participants and the trainer as well).

The third phase is: abstract conceptualization. This phase follows the reflection on the experience and leads the group to general conclusions. For instance, if participants have already discussed how they behaved, now they should discuss how people behave in general. The role of the trainer is to help participants discover that by themselves – by stimulating discussion, asking questions, etc. When the most crucial findings are listed, there’s the moment to present additional facts and figures by a trainer. However, it should be very brief, accompanied by charts, drawings or powerpoint presentation. This phase is especially valuable for people who need more theory.

The fourth phase is active experimentation. It enables participants to try out what they’ve already learnt and to refer their new knowledge or skills to their own needs. It usually consists of individual activity, that becomes an opportunity of another experience at the same time. This phase is a first step of applying new knowledge and skills (what should be continued after the training). It’s also useful for people who prefer practicing and concrete actions.

All of the phases are necessary and it is also recommended to be used in the order described above. Once we develop the whole training and each of the training sessions accordingly to this methodology, we can be sure that our participants will learn effectively.

Learning can be divided in active and passive learning. With passive learning involving activities like listening to a speech and reading a book. Active learning, allows to experience what we are supposed to learn, for examples through role plays, common discussions and presentations created by participants. While people are more likely to remember things when these involve ‘real’ experiences, experience on its own won’t get us very far. We also need to reflect on our experiences and make ‘generalizations’ about them.