How we can become better trainers by learning from children
As a relatively recent university graduate, I am acutely aware of how many aspects of my new professional life still retain aspects of being a student. Sit in on this meeting/lecture, take notes and contribute where appropriate. Write up this report for the client/professor. Work together with your teammates/group members to get this presentation ready. All of these are different ways for us to learn. If we accept a definition of learning to be "any process that in living organisms leads to a permanent capacity change" (Illeris, 2007), then we as trainers for our clients should be aware of as many tools and methods at our disposal as possible to elicit this capacity change. Perhaps looking back to what inspired us to learn as children will help us with this task.
Prior to entering the professional workforce, I spent most of my summers during high school and college as an educator for middle school-aged children. This gave me the perspective to realize that despite the obvious differences in materials for teaching children and adults, the key concepts boil down to the same thing. To learn effectively, a subject needs to be understandable, it needs to be motivating, and it should be fun.Make sure it's understandable
You wouldn't just dump a child into an airplane's cockpit and expect them to be able to fly the thing. For kids, they spend most of their learning years being taught things in small chunks. Show them how each of the main controls of the plane works, putting it in terms they're familiar with. For our clients, we should try to make sure they're as comfortable with the new ways of working as possible. To begin with, make sure the content itself is understandable. Show how the new ways are better than the old, drawing any similarities you need to in order to aid the transition. This will help make them more comfortable with the new content and make them less likely to fall back on old methods.Find the right motivation
"You want to go see Gram-gram on the other side of the country? A plane's the fastest way of getting there." Now our hypothetical child is excited about the plane and learning about its operation. In case they're not, we tell them they can either learn to fly, or they'll spend significantly longer driving, cooped up in the car and hotels, so if they want to go see Gram-gram, they'll need to learn to fly. Our clients may just need the right frame of mind to want to learn, and it's our job to find the proper incentives.Find the fun
Once you've gotten most of the way towards convincing people into learning, making them realize that it can be fun is the last push you need. Just remind our new pilot that they're flying an airplane, and they should be so stoked about this they'll hardly remember any reluctance they might have had. With our clients, one method of accomplishing this is via Gamification, one of our newer offerings. Gamification has many forms, but they're all used to drive user adoption and participation by encouraging desired behaviors and actions. If you'd like to learn more about Gamification, click either of these two links for some good articles on the topic: link 1 and link 2.
I think it's safe to say that most people still have a bit of a child at heart. There are far more similarities between children and adults than many realize. With educating them, many of the same techniques still work, just scaled up a bit. We may not necessarily be teaching them to fly an airplane, but we can still find the 'cool' in everything we do.
 Illeris, K. (2007). How We Learn: Learning and non-learning in school and beyond. London/New York: Routledge.