Motivating Learners by Encouraging Active Participation

Adults have a wealth of knowledge and experience and they generally like to share this with others. They have gained valuable insights into many topics from their work experience, cultural background, hobbies, and volunteer activities.

As an adult educator it is important to encourage adults to use their talents and experiences to the fullest. Instructors can often times bring out the best in their students by encouraging them to share their opinions and experience will others. This will engage the learners and also motivate them because they are now active participants in their education and not passively receiving information.

Some teachers may cringe at how this may disrupt their lesson plans; however, if an instructor sees it as a disruption, then the instructor is not giving the learners they best education they could receive.

I have had the opportunity to be a student seated in a large lecture theatre with about 500 other learners. There were one or two questions from students, but about 98 per cent of time the professor simply spoke from his or her notes while PowerPoint slides gave us a bit of visual candy.

I have often wondered how lecture-based professors would react if they had to actually interact with their students. Thankfully, at the college level and increasing at smaller university, these types of lecture-based teachers rarely exist.

There are two keys to success for instructors who wish to have their students share their opinions, talents and experience.

First, instructors must stay in control and keep the student on topic. Make sure that there is a clear point to what the student is saying and how it contributes to the topic at hand. There are the few students who will talk for the sake of hearing their own voice, which is detrimental to the learning experience of others.

Secondly, instructors should never start a heated debate with a student. It is always easier to say something such as, “Good point, but does anyone else have a different perspective.”  Not only will this move the discussion foreword, it opens the floor to others, or perhaps may return the attention back to the instructor.

Encouraging students to participate will also allow instructors to find out what parts of the subject the students are interested in. Good instructional designers will take this information and use to create compelling assignments, in-class group work, or elaborate on the topic later in the course.

Either way, having adult learners participate is an excellent teaching and learner vehicle for both the students and the teacher.

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