Sunday, January 30, 2011

Communicating Quality and the Principles of Adult Education

In recent while, I have been engaged in the active promotion of  medical laboratory quality in a variety of forums, including writing this web-log, providing an on-line course, hosting single-site lunch time education,  hosting the resident seminar series, and organizing and participating in workshops and conferences.  All of them have provided me with the opportunity to consolidate my own philosophy towards Quality.  
There is a lot of differences between all these activities; some have been held in Canada and others are international, some are one-off events while others short-term multiple events, and others yet are long multiple events, some of them are at no-charge to the participants while others are at substantial cost. Some of the participants want to be participating while others they are there because they feel compelled for one reason or another.  It would be easy to say that the only thing they have in common is a common topic, but there is something of far greater commonality; all the participants are adults.
Teaching adults is a special event because adults learn in their own special way.  There is tons written on adult learning.   For a quick summary you can visit Principles of Adult Learning at the University of Hawaii site.  

There are lots of reasons that people attend courses.  For learning, the most successful reasons are when they believe there is something in it for them; it is a topic of interest or there is an opportunity for career advancement.  Sometimes it is less about knowledge, and more about the social aspects; is a way to meet and connect with others, or is better than just being bored.  These folks may not be focused on learning, but they might connect.  Sometimes folks attend solely because they have to; it is a requirement and attendance is being taken.  This never turns out well.

Adults are autonomous and self-directed, and learn on top of their accumulated knowledge and life experiences, which means we learn what we want and how we want and accept the knowledge if it makes sense and is consistent with what we already know.  And we learn if we see the purpose to the information and especially it is meets our own goals.  And we are practical and pragmatic learners; if the information is not organized and timely then we turn-off. 

Adults tend to learn best if motivated, especially if we can link the information to what we do as a matter of competence or promotion, or job enrichment.  (Some say we learn better if there is money on the line.)  
For the educator, this means that the successful ones make the information relevant to what people do, is consistent with what they already know and link the knowledge to competence and enrichment.  Keep the information organized and timely and interesting.  For me, I have been involved as an adult educator for over 30 years.  When I think back to what I was like when I started, I can say with confidence that I am a lot better today than I was back then.  And one of these days I may actually get it right.  
One of the most successful educators I know has a formula.  He has 3 points to make (4 points a maximum).  He makes his points and reinforces them with stories and humor.  When he has delivered his points and told his stories, he stops.  I’m pretty good at the selecting 3-4 points and the telling stories.  I am pretty weak at the humor, and tend talk until I run out of time, rather that knowing when to stop.

Memo to self:  with widely divergent groups, some folks are there because they want to be there; others are not.  Remember the motivation; point of why knowing about Quality is an important   component of competency and enrichment, and can have an impact on promotion.  Be organized and know when to stop talking.  After than, the rest is largely out of your control, so don't worry about it.


PS: I am accumulating the post seminar series data now.  Will share the results soon.

PPS:  Big changes at  Lots of NEW information.

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