Curriculum Planning/Adult Learner Audiences

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Looking at the Learner:[edit | edit source]

Looking at the Learners

Adult Learner Audiences[edit | edit source]

Many training programs for adults are designed by non-professional adult educators. When designed in an ad-hoc manner, training often ends up designed to accommodate the age, cultural factors, literacy level, and prior classroom experience of the trainer. Training designed in this way may or may not fit the needs of the learner audience.

High-quality training must be designed to fit the characteristics of the learner audience. These characteristics can be determined through a comprehensive learner analysis, and can be used to accurately describe a learner audience within a Training Plan.

The following characteristics apply to groups of learners rather than individuals. Training planned for a group of learners may still require customization during the training session to accommodate individual variations in learning preferences and needs. A summary of learner audience characteristics should reference life-stage, gender, literacy level, and cultural factors; as well as employment and special accommodations when relevant.

Think about which characteristics will describe the group of learners you will be working with. The following tables will give you an idea of the variety of learner audiences and group characteristics that can affect training.

Life Stage:[edit | edit source]
Sub-groups Characteristics relevant to training
Youth Often fresh out of school with school expectations. Usually fully- or partially text literate; often technologically literate as well. May lack clear motivation for training. Often unemployed or partially employed. Often more adaptable to cultural diversity.
Mid-Adult Schooling may have been completed some time ago. Usually at least partially text literate. Technological literacy may vary widely. Often fully- or partially employed. Usually has a clear motivation for training. Cultural factors may influence training.
Senior Schooling may have been completed a long time ago (or not at all). Level of text literacy may vary widely. Often lacking technological literacy. Often partially- or unemployed. Cultural factors may strongly influence training. Physical factors of the training environment (lighting, acoustics, temperature) may need adaptation.
Multi-generational High-quality training for multi-generational groups of learners requires considerable trainer expertise. Multiple trainers and small-group activities may be necessary.

Gender:[edit | edit source]
Sub-groups Characteristics relevant to training
Primarily male Often at least partially-literate and employed. Scheduling may need to be adapted to employment. Cultural factors may strongly influence training. A male trainer may be preferred.
Primarily female[1] Accommodation for young children may need to be provided. Scheduling may need to be adapted to school and family care needs. Older women may lack text literacy. Cultural factors may strongly influence training. A female trainer may be preferred.
Mixed gender Cultural factors may strongly influence how men and women participate in the training. Training involving couples may increase transfer of learning and training success (especially for women).
Literacies:[edit | edit source]
Sub-groups Characteristics relevant to training
Non- or partially (text) literate Curriculum must rely on resources other than books and other presentations of text. Videos, images, audio provide better resources. Demonstrations, role-plays, discussions are more suitable teaching strategies. Assessment must be non-text based.
Fully (text) literate Curriculum can include books and presentation of text. Homework and self-study may be expected. Some assessment may be text based.
Professional group Learners may have fairly consistent levels of literacy, prior learning related to the subject, and motivation for the training. Training expectations may be quite high.
Multi-level (text) literacies High-quality training for multi-level literacy groups requires considerable trainer expertise. Content should be delivered in more than one way. Groups and activities which involve both strongly- and weakly-literate individuals may work well.
Non-technologically literate Learners may lack confidence in using digital tools, or they may completely lack exposure. Trainers may use computers and digital resources with caution, utilizing (or beginning with) more traditional learning resources until learners are ready to try the new tools.
Employment:[edit | edit source]
Sub-groups Characteristics relevant to training
Non- or sporadically-employed Training may be more flexibly scheduled. Motivation for training of youth and mid-adult learners may be very strongly employment-related. Some upgrading of basic literacies may be necessary. Learners retired from the workforce may have widely varying literacy levels, interests and motivations for training.
Employed full- or part-time Training must accommodate work schedules. If most learners are employed by the same employer, some employer buy-in will be invaluable for the success of the training.
Self-employed Training must respect participants’ time commitments, including seasonal and daily patterns of entrepreneurial activity.
Cultural factors:[edit | edit source]
Sub-groups Characteristics relevant to training
Unilingual and/or unicultural Learner groups who share a common language or culture may still vary widely in terms of most other factors. If the trainer is from outside the culture, s/he will benefit from direct knowledge about how members of the cultural group prefer to learn and work together. A translator may be necessary.
Multilingual and/or multicultural Learners who come together to learn in a multicultural group often share a common language. However, those who can speak a language may not be able to read or write it (and vice versa). If the trainer is from outside the multicultural milieu, s/he will benefit from direct knowledge about intercultural differences which could affect the learning experience.
Special Accommodations:[edit | edit source]
Sub-groups Characteristics relevant to training
Learners with disabilities Learners with mental, physical, or emotional disabilities may need special accommodations for a successful learning experience. The nature of the accommodation will vary with the type and degree of disability.
Post-Conflict Prolonged conflict situations can have profound impacts on learners’ health (physical, emotional, mental), motivation, gender and intercultural dynamics, and formal education history. Educators need accurate field knowledge to design training for these special learner audiences.
Quarantine A sudden switch to remote learning will be especially difficult for low-literacy learners and those without access to technology. Learners caring for young children or working in jobs deemed essential may require asynchronous rather than mandatory synchronous activities. Trainers may need to strip the curriculum to essential topics and assessments only, and focus on engaging the learners with regular contact via whatever channels are available.

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  1. Additional information about ensuring women’s participation in training is available in this resource: Integrating Gender throughout a Project’s Life Cycle 2.0. View especially Chapter 2.