Bob Pike has a list of laws as they relate to adult learning and training.
His first law, and the topic of this post is:
Adults are babies with big bodies.
When this was discussed the past two-days it took a different tact than the way I’ve normally had it explained. My peers in the classroom tossed out that babies:
- like to whine
- want to be fed
- need naps
- feelings are easily hurt
- hold grudges
Which, oddly, are all very true. Something that as classroom leaders we DO need to take into account and plan for those more physical and emotional parts of a classroom experience. I think that focusing on those attributes is to the trainers detriment, and we really should be focusing on the ways Adults are like Babies when in comes to the learning process.
Think (or observe if you have children) about how do children, babies learn? How does that child that starts out needing everything done for them at hour one progress to a fully functional toddler in three years. How they move from a toddler to a school attending child in three more years, and the advances … no … LEAPS they make in what they are able to do physically, cognitively and socially.
Children, babies, experience learning. They learn that if they cry their needs will be met (fed, changed, cuddled). The experience that food that was usually liquid can also be solid, and need to be chewed with these new hard ivory things that were a pain at first but ideally suited to this chop up the Cherrios task now before them. They experience that mobility is a whole body activity, that can become more efficient using these dangly things that can make the slither, crawl, cruise and walk. They find out that this round hole in their face that usually is only good from bringing things INTO their body, is also suited for communicating with other people that look like they do, as well as for terrorizing the more furry things that sometimes live around them. No one takes a baby and sits them up and just talks to them.
Now this gaping maw where your crying noise comes from is called a mouth, and is composed of tissues and muscles that you can manipulate through the power of your thoughts to:
- drink milk
- chew food
- spit juice
- jabber jobber
- taste pocket lint
The truth, that shouldn’t be shocking, is that the way babies learn is also the way adults learn. Adults have a larger toolkit for learning, we can listen for longer periods of time, we can take disparate peices of information and pull them together into a cognitive theory, we can express ourselves in speech, or song. We can control our bodies better, hide our emotions better, and lots of other things.
Somewhere, though, we as adults have been trained that the learning process as an adult is not the same as that of a child. That model is what participant-centered thraining is bucking against. The thought that adults learn differently than children is frankly ‘poppycock’. I state, emphatically, that we learn the exact same way, and to remove the ‘experience’ from the learning process is crippling the learning process. Yes, as adults we can learn differently than a two-year old. That doesn’t mean that we should learn differently than a two-year old.
The question we should ask as educators/facilitators/leaders is how can we create courses, classrooms and lessons that tap into the experieces a student would need to learn the content we’d like to teach. We need to switch around our priorites to enhance the learning not expand the teaching.
With my children, when they started becoming mobile, I took them by the hands, and let them walk by moving their feet. As they grew more confident, they might let loose a hand, and experiment with using the free hand as balance. Then one day, out of the blue, they’d realize that having one hand on a wall or peice of furniture was a lot like having one hand held by Daddy. Then they’d try out the whole balance thing by pushing away from one wall and heading to another arms flailing as they awkwardly took those tenative first steps. They’d most likely fall, but when they got back up, they do it again, with a daffy grin on their face as they noticed me watching them. They learned by doing, they learned by failing, and they had a fun time doing it.