Getting Your Learning Programs Right

Getting Your Learning Programs Right

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“A universal human need is to improve and progress in life. Nobody wants to think their life will be worse tomorrow than it is today. Within that concept is our hunger to learn.”


(Shovlin, 2005. p.6)


Like most adolescents, I had no idea what I wanted to do when I left school. But I did have an insatiable appetite for learning and working.


My father was a hard-working, self-employed builder and there was nothing I loved more than helping him out with everything from his paperwork, PA duties, mixing the perfect concrete, wallpapering old ladies’ houses to out-right demolition jobs (I liked those a bit too much!).


I wanted to know how everything worked, yet I hated school.


How could a young person, so naturally hungry for learning, be so opposed to it formally? Then one day in 1994, this question was answered for me in a way that concreted the direction my life would take forever…


I sat in Mr. Burkett’s history class. We were learning about King Henry the Eighth and his wives. With genuine interest, I put up my hand and asked him what the point was in learning about this. Henry was dead, after all, and I didn’t understand how it was going to help me get a job.


Mr. Burkett didn’t like my question. Not one bit. I was quickly called a ‘rude and preposterous little child’, he asked me how I could be so stupid, and was ordered to leave his classroom until I ‘got a brain’. I was humiliated, devastated, angry, and frustrated. I genuinely wanted to understand the value of his lesson.


Until this point, I had been doing well at school despite my repulsion towards it. But this sudden declaration from a ‘respectable’ person of authority – that I was ‘stupid’ and ‘had no brain’– hit me like a train in the face. This stimulus turned into a fixed, concrete belief that I was incapable of learning. My reaction was to withdraw, to hide from my inevitable failure, to give up. I also asked myself ‘Why did he respond like that? He’s my teacher.  It’s my job to learn and his job to teach.  If I was a teacher, how would I have answered that?.’


I became obsessed with what a ‘good’ teacher actually looked like, what they did, and how they taught. I became equally obsessed with understanding how we learn, what engages and disengages us, and what makes the greatest transformational learning interventions.


I soon began a career in the adult education space, with my first post being a Trainer in a male prison in the UK. By the age of 21, I had worked my way up to a Training Manager in the welfare-to-work sector, was well into my degree in education, and was already running my training organisation on the side that was teaching facilitators of adult learning how to deliver effective and engaging training.


My theoretical and practical experiences combined and my roles fuelled and informed one another.  There began my journey of a life of dedication to contribute to the field of education for the benefit of learners and educators alike.


In my 10+ years of working in the education sector, I have come to learn that it’s not what is being delivered, it’s the how.


You CAN make math enchanting, you CAN make compliance training captivating, you CAN engage the disengaged, you CAN make English Literature is magical, you CAN make any learning rewarding and transformational.


Learning is NOT boring; bad delivery is boring at best and detrimental to the continuation of a lifelong learning pathway at worst.
By delivery, I don’t just mean the charisma of the Trainer, although important.  I’m referring to the considerations made to the learning experience during the design of the intervention and, in particular, to the considerations of aligning the training to the principles of adult learning.


Whatever role we play in designing, planning, preparing or delivering training and education, we MUST ensure that the fundamental principles of adult learning have been considered and embedded into every aspect of the training.

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