Adult Learning is Like a Chair – a metaphor for our instructors and learners
Adult Learning is Like a Chair
Each leg has its purpose — to balance out the seat. The seat is there to add comfort and an anchor. The back of a chair offers structure and support. And the color, finish, and design adds yet another element. Today, I am going to tell you all about adult learning, Your Teachable Moment, and how it relates to a chair.
A chair typically has four legs. It can work with three, but four adds additional stability and flexibility.
Think of one leg as the experience a learner has when they arrive in a course. Adults have a variety of rich life experience from which to draw in any discipline. Our courses should be designed to honor the experiences learners arrive to us with. Almost everyone has had some exposure to whatever topic we are instructing. Even someone who has never knitted before has seen someone do it. I am taking a watercolor course this month, and although I have never tried this myself, I have admired watercolor art and seen it done. If we offer a finance course, likely the participants have some money in their wallet. For Instructors, remember everyone arrives with some exposure – though the levels will vary. For Learners, remember you are coming in with some experience and your own knowledge of a topic may help the Instructor and other Learners. We ideally hope that our interactive courses will have Learners gaining knowledge not only from the Instructor, but also from their learning colleagues. If Instructors want to assess the knowledge a Learner is coming in with, we have a “quiz” feature in our course listing. I suggest an Instructor ask what knowledge or level of expertise a Learner is coming to them with, so they can appropriately tailor the course to the Learners level of need. This quiz can be taken before class occurs and is a great way to measure what the Learners hope to gain from the course.
Leg number two represents relevance. Adult Learners need to spend their precious unscheduled time doing something that is relevant to some aspect of their life. I would never need to take a spreadsheet course. It simply is not the way my brain works, nor would it be relevant to me as I navigate adulthood. Offering a VERY wide variety of courses helps us to meet our goal that something is relevant for everyone. We currently have courses that vary from burlesque dancing to bat biology to second language learning and even social groups around important topics. This second leg is so vital as we develop our instructor pool. Do you have something you are passionate about? It would likely be relevant and interesting to someone out there who is visiting our site. Again, the quiz feature could be used to ask how Learners hope the course could be relevant in their life. Think of the quiz function as a Learners’ Needs Assessment! It is always good to ask the question – How can the course the Instructors give really meet the needs of the Learner?
Leg three is passion. We expect our Instructors to have topic knowledge, but even the most learned expert is not inspiring without passion and enthusiasm for their subject. Inspiring and inspired Instructors will always have the greatest success on Your Teachable Moment. Only you can assess the level of passion you have for your topic(s). An inspired Learner is a happy Learner!
Leg four is respect. As I said before, a three-legged chair can stand, but a four-legged chair is far more sturdy and reliable. Respect for one another is the element that all interactions should be based on. Respect gives us balance, a baseline from which to communicate and ensures a safe space to learn and share. Never forget that this fourth leg is the key to a quality experience in and out of our courses. I know we, as founders, try to remember the fourth leg with every interaction we have with both Learners and Instructors.
The seat of the chair is the comfort and support that our Instructors are expected to provide in their courses. As an interactive platform, we expect our Instructors to be genuinely interested the Learners that join them in their courses. We hope that Learners and Instructors will forge friendships that transcend our courses and that our community grows as courses progress. As each leg represents something the Learner can bring to the course and that the Instructor can honor, this seat is how we see our Instructors holding it all together.
The back of the chair is the way we, as a platform and as a company culture, support community-building and course development. Dawn, Heather, and I are sturdy and sure of the founding elements of the platform – live, interactive courses which offer knowledge, inspiration, and community. We are the thing that the Instructors can lean on and the Learners can count on.
The finish and design of our chair is our support team. The beautiful advertising we have received from our marketing firm has colored our chair with several thousands of contacts and continues to paint as they expand our reach. We love it! The solid design of our chair was made both by Heather as she designed our foundational website and includes the learning management system and our technical helpers. Without this solid back, which looks beautiful, no one would be comfortable or be able to appreciate the aesthetics of it.
Dawn, and I promise to be the glue to hold it together and to give you a place to anchor – both as instructors and learners. If you are an interested instructor, know that this is a platform designed by teachers with more than 50 years of experience between us. If you are a learner, know that our years of teaching brings us an understanding of where you are when you come to us. We will give you our very best efforts in all that we do. We promise transparency and to be led by the needs of the community.