Preparing for Instructions 5 – Experiential Learning


This would be my last blog in a series of Preparing for Instructions for PIDP 3100. This has been an enlightening journey through the theories of adult learning, which actually helped me in realizing how much the knowledge and experience that we carry within ourselves can help in achieving and acquiring new knowledge.
Starting from the very beginning, it became clear to me that we (as educators and workplace trainers) rely on “experience” that adult learners have. The early theorists, Lewin, and Dewey, elaborated on the role of experience and created the learning models, which were later on improved by Kolb (who named this model the ‘Experiential Learning’), Jervis, and Fenwick (Meriam & Bierema, 2014).
Both of the early models have the similarities, as both start with the ‘Experience’ or ‘Impulse’, which in turn creates ‘Observation’ and ‘Reflection’. As a result, of the reflection, the new ‘abstract concepts’ or ‘Knowledge’ is created, thus allowing for ‘Testing new concept’ and/or ‘Judgment’ by putting together what was observed and what was recalled. The difference between the two models is in the presentation of the learning process since Dewey claims that the ‘Judgment stage determines if the new impulse will be created, thus creating a purpose of a learning process (Kolb, 1984).
Kolb (1984) claimed that learning is a continuous process which is grounded in experience. He also pointed out that there are two types of knowledge; social knowledge (based on objective experience), and personal knowledge (based on subjective experience). Kolb defined that the transaction between objective and subjective experiences leads to a learning process and knowledge creation “through the transformation of experience” (Kolb, 1984).
As I felt that there are numerous articles written about the experiential learning theory based on the works of Dewey, Lewin or Kolb, I thought I could try and find some of less known works. The authors (Dirkx and Lavin, 1991) of the linked article felt, however, that even though numerous researchers offered their viewpoint of the learning from experience based on both the individual or subjective experience and social or objective experience; they neglected to provide the explanation for the other ways of learning from the experience.
They, therefore, created a FOURthought model of experience-based learning, which is based on four fundamental ways of learning or thoughts about us and world around us, and also tried to explain how we as the educators should approach instructions (Dirkx & Lavin, 1991). The authors felt that the Fourthought model they created provided a more holistic approach to experiential learning as they added two new dimensions, namely creative expression and discernment.

So what are the models they described? They are summarized below:
1) Trial and error – according to the authors, the facilitators can learn from this method by randomly selecting an experiential activity to keep the group busy and, later on, realizing that the selected method either worked or did not work in the desired way.
2) Rationality/reflection – the emphasis for this view was on the role of rationality and systematic reflection in the process of learning from experience. It assumes that the learner has the “capacity to “step back” from his or her experience in order to reflect on and learn from it”. They do not, however, provide an input on how the facilitators or instructors can learn from this experience, but rather reflect on the works of above mentioned early theorists. This (understandably) implies that we, as the instructors, also need to rationally and systematically reflect on the experience we had in class and learn from it. This, in turn, allows for developing a “deeper understanding and meaning of particular aspects of our facilitating”.
3) Creative expression – the approach to teaching or instructing guided by our emotional dimensions and presents a way of our deeper self to communicate with the outside world. It is based on the storytelling and feeling and sense of ‘rightness’ about the work being performed (in the author’s case it was the place and activity of his writing). For the instructors, it means that the “creative expression helps us better understand ourselves and our worlds”.
4) Discernment – the approach to teaching or instructing this form of learning is to help adults understand and discern the symbolic meaning the particular outer events have on their inner lives. It is focused on emotional aspect and often uses journals writing and dialoguing with dreams and meditation. I have to admit, though, that I do not think I would ever use this in my facilitating :).
While I am positive I will never use some of the above-mentioned models, I also know that I will use some of them. For example, our recent training class on ‘Alignment of the Internal Quality Auditors’ (a.k.a IQAs) utilized the make-up stories to create the “cases”. The IQAs were asked to determine the severity of the non-conformance for each “case” and to classify them appropriately within the auditing report. It clearly required them to use “Rationality / Reflection” model. It is important to note that all of the IQA have to be very familiar with the requirements of the standard they are auditing against. The problem is that they review the process and the standard on the annual basis and use it only once a year. After the initial discussion and disagreements on the severity of the “cases”, the IQAs quickly realized that they need to utilize their experience from the daily work in order to reflect on the requirements of the audit. By stepping back and re-thinking each case, they were able to come to the proper conclusions and determine appropriate severities for each non-conformance.
One thing is clear, though. No matter what approach we select in facilitating the experiential learning (especially in a workplace), we need to be aware of who are the primary receivers of our instructions and what are we trying to achieve with our instructions. Only by being aware of these requirements we will be able to deliver the training at the appropriate level.



Dirkx, J. M., & Lavin, R. (1991). Understanding and facilitating experience-based learning in adult education: The FOURthought model. Paper presented at the Midwest Research-to-Practice Conference, October 3-4, St. Paul, MN. Retrieved on: 27-February-2016. From:
Kolb, D.A. (1984). The Process of Experiential Learning. Chapter 2. In D. Kolb, The experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. NJ: Prentice-Hall. Retrieved on: 26-February-2016. From:

Kolb, A. Y., & Kolb, D. A. (2005). Learning styles and learning spaces: Enhancing experiential learning in higher education. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 4, 193-212. Retrieved on 26-February-2016. From:

Merriam, S. B. & Bierema, L. L. (2014). Adult learning. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons

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Preparing for Instructions 4 – Cognitive Science of Learning

Mythical Retention Data & The Corrupted Cone

Wow!!! How often do you attend the training session in which the trainer bombards you with the information that you know is bogus? Not once, but twice, during the last Friday’s training session I found myself in a need to debunk the information the instructor was giving.

The first false information the instructor gave us was about the ‘workers right to refuse the unsafe work’ under section 3.12 of the Workers Compensation Act (can be found here if anyone has any interest in it) completely mixing it with the section 4.19 (can be found here) which prompted lots of discussion amongst the employees. This has almost nothing to do with today’s blog, but I wanted to give you some extra information for your future perusal (good to know when you work for any company).

It was the second information he delivered that resonated so wrongly in my mind. He stated bluntly, that:
a) If we only listen to him, we will remember only 10% of today’s lecture;
b) If we listen to him and have our books open, we will remember 20%;
c) If we listen to him, have the books open and take notes, we will remember 30%;
d) If we try it and talk about it while doing it, we will remember 90%.

When researching this issue I quickly interviewed a few people in my surroundings on what was their take on the above statements. Well, guess what? They disagreed, and offered numerous pointers to prove those statements wrong. My husband, for example, pointed right away that it really depends on how much he is interested in the topic being presented, how concentrated he is during the presentation, what was his previous experience and knowledge about the subject, as well as how interesting the presentation was and the mode of lecturing used. My friend, on the other hand, said that it is so untrue, as it depends on the person’s intelligence, interests, previous education and skill levels, the way it was presented etc.

It is not without a reason, that there is a saying that we are surrounded by the like-minded people!!!

Well, the author of the linked article also begs to differ with this myth, so often used by the instructors and motivational trainers. As a matter of fact, there are probably as many websites posted by the people who want to debunk this myth, as there are the websites that utilize it.

If you type “Dale’s Cone of Learning” or “Dale’s Cone of Experience” into a search section of our friendly search machines you will get tens of thousands of hits in mere 0.23 seconds. I selected two cones just for the sake of placing them one beside another.

Dales Cone of Experience   The Cone of Learning

The question is: When did the Dale’s Cone of Experience become the “Cone of Learning” attributed to Edgar Dale (1969)? The answer can be found in the linked article, which also provides further links if you wish to investigate this issue.
To conclude I will ask you the following question. Did you ever attend a meeting with your coworkers and tried to compare your notes afterward? I did. And I learned early enough that two, three, even four people take the topic of the conversation and important points differently from each other. Meriam and Bierma (2014) cited that the connection between the experience, memory and feelings determines how will the brain respond to all information it receives, pointing out that two people will remember the same situation or information differently depending on their previous experience (Meriam & Bierma, 2014 p. 169-173).

With that in mind, how much of the information you just read will you remember in two weeks?

Happy memories!!!


Merriam, S. B. & Bierema, L. L. (2014). Adult learning. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons

Thalheimer, W. (2015). Mythical Retention Data & The Corrupted Cone. Retrieved on: 04-March-2016. From:

WorkSafe BC (2016). The Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Regulation. Retrieved on: 04-March-2016. From:

Google results on “Dale’s Cone of Experience” Retrieved on 05-March-2016. From:

Google results on “Dale’s Cone of Learning” Retrieved on 05-March-2016. From:

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Preparing for Instructions 3 – Motivation

Top 5 Tips To Motivate Employees

Motivation is a huge factor in gaining new knowledge. While there are several options on how to approach this subject, I decided to use myself as an example of the adult learner and investigate my motivating factors to learn and to teach.
First, I asked myself: “What is motivation?” The simplest answers can be found in any dictionary (i.e. The New Penguin English Dictionary) and are as follows (noun): “1. The act or an instance of motivating or being motivated. 2. A motivating force, influence, or incentive that directs one’s action towards achieving a desired goal; a motive. 3. Enthusiasm or drive” (Penguin Books, 2000. P.904).
Meriam and Bierma (2014) stated that motivation is a fluid and complex phenomenon (Meriam & Bierma, 2014, p.146), whereas Madsen and Wilson (2008) claimed that the motivation to learn and change is crucial to improving employees performance and that motivation “affects the performance of what has been learned as well as demonstrating its effect on the process of learning itself “(Madsen & Wilson, 2008). When Paas, Tuovinen, van Merriënboer and Darab, A.A. (2005), researched the role of motivation in Cognitive Load Theory, they argued the role and necessity of the learner’s motivation. They determined that “instructional manipulations to optimize the cognitive load have little effect unless learners are motivated and actually invest mental effort in processing the instructions”. They further concluded that “Motivation can be identified as a dimension that determines learning success and causes the high dropout rate among online learners, especially in complex e-learning environments” (Paas, Tuovinen, van Merriënboer, & Darab, 2005).

According to the above definitions, I am a motivated person! I am motivated to learn, and I also have enthusiasm and drive required to pursue taking further actions to achieve the desired goal, which, in my case, is obtaining the Provincial Instructor Diploma. I am also motivated to learn how to motivate others to pursue additional training.

In view of that, I continued my quest on trying to determine the motivational factors that are the driving force for my learning.

What are the two types of motivational aspects every person has? Motivation can be internal (intrinsic) or external (extrinsic). External motivators can range from receiving monetary compensation, promotion, public recognition, earning certificate or diploma, and, by default, come from the outside factors. Intrinsic motivators, on the other hand, come from within the person, and usually come from personal performances (intellectual performance, achieving mastery in certain subjects, curiosity, competence, emotions etc.) (Meriam & Bierma, 2014, p.147, Education First, 2014, p.13).

If I take myself as an example, in order to achieve my first goal, I was motivated by both external (earning a diploma) and internal factors (achieving mastery in teaching adults). So, the motivation to learn was, indeed, much required to start learning, but also to continue with learning. In order to do so, aside from reading the books and spending numerous hours in front of the computer, I reviewed several motivation theories just to be able to place myself into the pattern, and also to try and improve my motivational strategies.

The recent report from Education First (2014) states that “To motivate an employee to start a training course, the most important thing is to play to an employee’s rational calculation by demonstrating the tangible benefits.” (Education First, 2014, p.13).

There are 6 recommendations for motivating adult learners presented in the research (Education First, 2014, p.7), with each one of them being applicable to my second goal of motivating others.

1. Dynamically adapt motivational strategies along the training cycle.
I implemented different tangible benefits to motivate employees to start with the training, including the paid courses and also offering advancement in their career.
2. Continue to take an active interest in employees’ training.
The motivators I use during this stage are recognition of their training, recognizing the new skills learned, co-operation with coworkers attending the same training and eventually providing a financial incentive for finishing the courses.
3. Make sure the employee can fit the training into their schedule.
Since all employees have different responsibilities in their work duties and with their family lives, it is important to allow the employees to take time and fit the training into their busy schedules. For those employees who are taking the in-house training, the training is scheduled during their work hours.
4. Provide a good learning environment.
The training taken in-house is occurring in the environment that is suitable for adult learners, and all longer training sessions by default include refreshments.
5. Create a culture that enables training benefits to be realized.
I learned a long time ago that it is not sufficient just to take or to conduct the training. What is required is the application of the newly acquired skills. The sooner, the better.
6. Tailor motivation to different markets.
Even though the authors conducted this study in different countries, and drew this conclusion about the different markets with the different countries in mind, my experience is that the different departments can also be perceived as the different markets (countries or even worlds for what it matters). Therefore, we cannot really apply ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to training and motivating different people. Recognizing their differences and applying different motivating techniques is of utmost importance.

This blog could now continue with further reflection on the different motivational theories (such as ‘Needs theories’, ‘Equity Theory’, ‘Expectancy theory’, etc., all of which can be found here (Ball, B. (n.d.) or here (Cherry (2015)), however, I will leave it for some other time.

To summarize; personal preferences are strong drivers in achieving one’s goals. Adult learners, myself included, do require motivation to learn. Is that motivation going to come from within, or from outside, depends on many circumstances. Even though I strive to reveal the internal drivers within myself, I also rely on the external ones.

An example of the internal motivation was a feeling of enjoyment and gratification I experienced after conducting the training with the employees yesterday. Even though the training topic was mandated by the rules and regulations, the delivery was quite different from what they expected. The new approach initially surprised them, but they quickly became fully motivated and engaged in the training material, willingly participating in discussions and offering their previous experience and knowledge. At the end of the training session all involved shared satisfaction for gaining new knowledge.

Your very motivated learner.


Ball, B. (n.d.). A summary of motivation theories. Retrieved on: 26-February-2016. From:

Cherry, K. (2015). Theories of Motivation. Retrieved on: 26-February-2016. From:

EF Education First Ltd. (2014). DECODING MOTIVATION. Global insight into motivational drivers of corporate training. Retrieved on: 26-February-2016. From:

Madsen, S. R. & Wilson, I. (2008).The Influence of Maslow’s Humanistic Views on an Employee’s Motivation to Learn. Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship. Vol. 13, No. 2. Paper Presented at the Mountain Plains Management Conference. Retrieved on: 13 February 2016. From:

Merriam, S. B. & Bierema, L. L. (2014). Adult learning. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons

Paas, F., Tuovinen, J.E., van Merriënboer, J.J.G. & Darab, A.A. (2005). A Motivational Perspective on the Relation Between Mental Effort and Performance: Optimizing Learner Involvement in Instruction. ETR&D, Vol. 53, No. 3, 2005, pp. 25–34 ISSN 1042–1629. Retrieved on 26-February-2016. From:

Penguin Books (2000). The New Penguin English Dictionary (p.904). WS Bookwell, Finland: Penguin Books Ltd.

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Preparing for Instructions 2 – Creating a Positive Learning Environment

For Adult Learners Only

While doing a research for this week’s blog, I came across several websites which equally grabbed my attention. The reason for a tie is that I just spent the last two days attending the company mandated training on the safe work regulations and practices, which got me thinking about how that particular learning environment was created and what could have been done differently to improve the learning experience for my colleagues and myself. Reflecting on what I have learnt thus far on the characteristics of adult learners, Knowles’ “climate setting” immediately came to my mind (Meriam and Bierma, 2014. p. 48-49).
Knowing that the learning environment needs to satisfy the two aspects (physical and psychological) (Meriam and Bierma, 2014. p. 48-49), I asked myself: what would be the best definition of the positive, ideal, and encouraging learning environment?

Even though there are so many websites available that deal with the learning environment issues for the adult learners, I found a word document issued by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority that provided a nice definition of a positive learning environment. “A positive learning environment is one which encourages learners to achieve their potential, identifies and accommodates their individual needs and learning preferences, and deals sensitively with issues that arise within groups” (NZQA, 2013).

Furthermore, in a linked article, Slotnick (2001) wrote an interesting sentence: “Teachers do not teach anything, but if students participate in the learning environments their instructors create, they can learn an awful lot” (Slotnick, 2001).

McDonough (2013) further elaborates that “The environment should encourage intellectual freedom, experimentation, and creativity” (McDonough, 2013).

Boudreau (2012a and 2012b) states that “Ideal learning environments don’t just happen, they’re facilitated by skilled trainers!” (Boudreau, 2012a,b).

In order to determine what is deemed a positive learning environment, I further elaborated on the physical and psychological aspects.
Boudreau (2013) claims that the next 10 physical aspects of the “Ideal Learning Environment” increase your chances for a successful class. The 10 physical aspects that need to be observed are: 1) Ensuring good Air Quality; 2) Scheduling appropriate number of breaks; 3) Ensuring comfort for the learners; 4) Providing healthy food; 5) Ensuring appropriate lighting in the room; 6) Ensure that your personal hygiene is not offensive to others; 7) Ensuring the room is large enough; 8) Ensuring safety of the participants; 9) Eliminating outside distractions; and 10) Allowing for quite/private time. He concluded that “physical distractions have the potential to dampen your efforts to build an ideal learning experience” (Boudreau, 2013).
Coleman (1989) defined three considerations for the physical aspects that contribute to a success of the training sessions: 1) the learning ‘climate’ or “participants’ reaction to the stimuli of the training area”; 2) Physical parts of the training environment such as décor and furniture; and 3) The room design with respect to size and type of space (Coleman, 1989).

In his article from the series on the “Ideal learning environment”, Boudreau (2012a) discusses the ways to create a healthy emotional learning environment. He defined 10 ways as follows: 1) Lead with a positive attitude; 2) Establish an emotionally safe and friendly learning environment; 3) Teach topics that are interesting to you; 4) Focus on the learner; 5) Build trust; 6) Create learning adventures; 7) Encourage supportiveness; 8) Appeal to a variety of senses, using friendly aromas, creative visuals, nature sounds, healthy food and colourful flowers; 9) Use learning circles; and 10) Use music (Boudreau, 2012a).
Gregory (2013) described a quite unique way of building trust and establishing an emotionally safe and friendly learning environment through the use of speed-dating Ice-breaker technique (Gregory, 2013).

Boudreau (2012b) continues his ‘Ideal Learning Environment’ series with the intellectual aspects. According to him, “Each person is a holistic being with an intellectual self that needs nurturing and growth, regardless of his or her ability to read hefty books or use big words”. Therefore, in order to create a healthy intellectual learning environment, one has to use the following 10 pointers: 1) Discover the participants’ intellectual needs and abilities early in the training; 2) Use techniques that keep learners interested; 3) Strive for clarity in all communications; 4) Be knowledgeable about the topics you are teaching: provide accurate information; 5) Tell stories to illustrate points; 6) Provide constructive criticism or feedback, after obtaining permission to do so; 7) Recognize different learning styles (visual, auditory and kinaesthetic) and learner preferences and incorporate them into the training; 8) Make it safe for learners to make mistakes; 9) Acknowledge that everyone is a teacher and a learner; display your willingness to learn from the participants; and 10) Provide learners with strategies to implement their learning (Boudreau, 2012b).
Clapper (2010), for example, elaborates on the importance of creating the safe learning environment from both emotional and intellectual aspects. He states that “we might sometimes feel that we are one step away from potentially being embarrassed by the teacher, or by other learners in the new learning environment”. He emphasized that it is crucial to establish the safe learning environment and explain to his students that we need to allow errors to happen. As we can only learn from the errors if we are in a safe and risk-free learning environment that allows us to take one or two steps back and determine when, where, how and why the error occurred (Clapper, 2010).

While reading about creating the positive learning environment, I reflected on my own teaching techniques. It was quite encouraging to realize that I indeed already use the proper means to create a friendly learning environment. For example, preparing of the training room is always done in advance of the training to suit the type of the training that will occur. We make sure to provide refreshment drinks, coffee and doughnuts for the longer training sessions, and to provide a lunch if the whole day session is held. The group size is appropriate for the training room we have available, thus ensuring the comfort of the trainees.
I always come earlier to the scheduled training and greet all of the participants with a warm smile. Whenever possible, I refer to them by their first name and ask some questions from their lives. In order to keep the employees interested in the training topics, I always provide them with the real examples (story-telling and/or showing pictures).
In training for the metal detector operation, we utilize all three learning styles, namely we prepare the power point presentation and the procedure that is handed out to the employee, we elaborate on the protocol utilized to operate the metal detector, and we also provide hands-on training on the proper operation of the metal detector.
I utilize the group activities for specific training sessions that require employees to enhance specific skills (for example, a role playing is often employed in the training of the new employees).
I will, however, look for additional ways to improve the learning environment, based on the newly acquired knowledge.

And finally, the video of the instructors sharing advice on creating a positive learning environment in an interview with Amelia Horsburgh, Barbara Phillips, Fred Philips, John Kleefeld, Rebekah Bennetch, and Tracie Risling of the University of Saskatchewan can be seen here.

Happy learning.

Boudreau, D. (2012a). Creating The Ideal Learning Environment: Emotional. Retrieved on: 19 February 2016. From:
Boudreau, D. (2012b). Creating The Ideal Learning Environment: Intellectual. Retrieved on: 19 February 2016. From:
Boudreau, D. (2013). Creating The Ideal Learning Environment: Physical. Retrieved on: 19 February 2016. From:
Clapper, T. C. (2010). Creating the safe learning environment. PAILAL, 3(2), 1-6. Retrieved on: 20 February 2016. From:
Coleman, F. (1989). A Room of One’s Own. Training & Development Journal. Volume: 43. Issue: 11 Page number: 31+. © American Society for Training & Development, Inc. COPYRIGHT 1989 Gale Group. Retrieved on: 20 February 2016. From:
Gregory, C. (2013). Love the One You’re With: Creating a Classroom Community. Faculty Focus. Retrieved on: 19 February 2016. From:
McDonough, D. (2013). Similarities and Differences between Adult and Child Learners as Participants in the Natural Learning Process. Psychology. 2013. Vol.4, No.3A, 345-348. Retrieved on: 07 February 2016. From:
Merriam, S. B. & Bierema, L. L. (2014). Adult learning. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons
New Zealand Qualification Authority (NZQA) (2016). Create and maintain a positive learning environment for adult learners. Retrieved on: 19 February 2016. From:
Slotnick, H.B. (2001). For Adult Learners Only. Retrieved on: 20 February 2016. From:

The Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching Effectiveness: Creating a Positive Learning Environment. Published on 09-Apr-2013. Retrieved on: 20-Feb-2016. From:


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Skype call with my learning partner Richard!

It is not that often that I have a chance to talk to someone as deeply immersed in the oil world as my learning partner Richard is. Well, even though he came out of the oil industry to pursue a teaching carrier, he is still sincerely connected to the science behind, as well as the practicalities of oil extraction. It was interesting to hear the passion in the voice when he was describing how deeply the oil market was impacted by OPEC countries and how the technology improvements were making shale oil wells fracking a very lucrative business in the States. Even though some of the oil fields in Alberta have dated technology, and the fact that the Alberta Government is imposing the carbon tax, he still thinks that the fields will continue to be economically sustainable and profitable, and will continue to employ the armies of his future students.
Taking the teaching opportunity at the relatively young age, Richard decided to come back to Vancouver and work for BCIT. His viewpoint is that in order to be a good trade teacher one needs to have the firsthand industry experience. His experience should help him in creating, what will become, a future generation of steamfitters / pipefitters. In order to do so in a remarkable way, he decided to take the PIDP courses.

He is currently teaching Foundations Programme and the Steam/Pipefitting fitting class at BCIT. Of course, the challenges that he is facing are substantial. Being new to teaching, he is currently relying on the curriculum developed by other teachers. We agreed that there are some similarities between the “must know” requirements in the food industry and in Steam fitting. Both of these are heavily guided by the codes, rules, standards and regulations. Like me, he is also trying to find a way to make such ‘dry content’ of the codes and regulations as interesting as possible to the adult learners. While he may not be quite there yet in the classroom settings, he is already investigating how to implement the “Flipped classroom” concept in the week of practical training. By doing so, he would be able to facilitate more hands-on learning, as the students would come to the class already prepared and ready to try new techniques.

He is planning to (and I am so confident that he will succeed in it) add some contents that he currently sees missing from the curriculum. He is also working towards participating in the preparation of ITA (Industry Training Association) level exams and Red Seal exams. As he is (at this moment) the second in a line for promotion for steam fitting teaching department, he is planning on expanding his field of expertise to the power engineering.

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Preparing for Instructions 1 – Characteristics of Adult Learners


Your Adult Self Doesn’t Learn the Same as When you Were a Child


Since Malcolm Knowles introduced andragogy, his initial assumptions on the ‘Characteristics of Adult Learners’ were cited by numerous authors (i.e. Meriam and Bierma, 2014, PBS TeacherLine, 2007, Smith, M.K., 2002).


Adults learners are characterized by ‘Self-concept’ or as being ‘Self-directed’ – “As a person matures his or her self-concept moves from that of a dependent personality toward one of a self-directing human being” (Meriam & Bierma, 2014). Children, on the other hand, “are dependent on their teacher to lead the learning, deciding what the child will study” (O’Hara, 2015).


The second characteristic of adult learners is “Experience” – “An adult accumulates a growing reservoir of experience, which is a rich resource for learning (Meriam & Bierma, 2014). Webster, Zachariah, McFaury, and McMullin (n.d.) suggest that even though the children have fewer experiences than adults, they still “need to have opportunities in their learning to reflect on their life experiences-to explore concepts of family, culture and nature in their own way” (Webster, Zachariah, McFaury, & McMullin (n.d.)).


In my experience, these two characteristics of adult learners have become the biggest obstacle in conducting the company mandated training. These training modules are based on “must know” rules and regulations, with an additional requirement for “re-fresher” training sessions to occur annually or biennially. Knowing these facts, some of the long-term employees would immediately put on “What are you going to teach me that I do not already know?” face. In order to achieve the maximum from the trainees, I had to involve them in discussion (usually achieved through the real examples such as customer complaints, product non-conformities, problems that occurred in production), engage them in talking about their own experiences/concerns and show them how they will benefit from the training. Moving the training plan from “Instructor – Students” to “Facilitator – Learners” setting in which the employees provided the examples (thus allowing the other employees to learn the first-hand) and also proposed the solutions for the problems seems to work the best in our company. The only draw-back we experience in conducting this type of the training sessions is the training length, which sometimes exceeds the allocated time.


The next characteristic that makes the clear distinction between the adult learners and the young learners is a “Readiness to learn” – “The readiness of an adult to learn is closely related to the developmental tasks of his or her social role” (Meriam & Bierma, 2014). Even though the well-known fact is that the children are born ready to learn, their “readiness to learn, generally, has been thought of as the level of development at which an individual (of any age) is ready to undertake the learning of specific materials” (Lewit & Schuurmann Baker, 1995).


“Orientation to learning” – The adult learner’s time perspective changes from one of postponed application of knowledge to immediacy of application, and, accordingly, his orientation toward learning shifts from one of subject-centeredness to one of problem-centeredness. (TeacherLine, 2007). Unlike adults, “children often learn about skills that may be useful “one day in the future” (Webster, Zachariah, McFaury, & McMullin (n.d.)). This of course does not apply to the skills the children are learning in order to achieve their own goals, as we all know at least one child that knows how to fix the bicycle, or to cook the great food, or to tend to their pet in a need.


“Motivation to Learn” – As a person matures the motivation to learn is internal (TeacherLine, 2007). Since the children education is directed by their parents and governmental programs, they “are usually motivated by external pressures and the consequences of failure. Children are also usually told what they need to do in order to work their way up to the next level” (O’Hara, 2015).


The last three characteristics of the adult learners make the training interesting and also allow you as a trainer to use your creativity. There is nothing I like more than an employee who is ready and willing to learn new tasks and take on new responsibilities. The whole world of possibilities exists that will allow both you and the trainee to achieve the new levels.

Some of the training activities that we use in our company are based on the experience. For example, we occasionally have a very upset customer/operator who could not be reasoned with. There are a few employees who are trained to handle similar situations. In such instance, when the group meeting is held, the experience is shared with other employees, including all details of the conversation and how the situation was handled. Everybody is required to reflect on the situation and provide an input how they would handle the situation. The new employees are requested to think about the issue and the ways they would handle the upset customer. In order to better prepare them for conflicting situations, we would role play the situation to make sure that all employees are confident in handling upset customers.


And finally, here is something to think of. If you read my previous blog on Trends in Adult Education, you probably noticed that I touched upon something much deeper than the adult education in the western world. Whilst characteristics of adult learners are readily available to study, an interesting aspect of adult learning in different cultures can be found here: “Adult Learning across Cultures”.


Happy reading.



Lewit, E.M. & Schuurmann Baker, L. (1995) CHILD INDICATORS: School Readiness. In: Critical Issues For Children and Youths Volume 5 Number 2 Summer/Fall 1995. Retrieved on: February 06, 2016. From:

Merriam, S. B. & Bierema, L. L. (2014). Adult learning. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons

O’Hara, S. (2015). Your Adult Self Doesn’t Learn the Same as When you Were a Child. In Future School. Retrieved on February 06, 2016, from:

PBS TeacherLine. (2007). Characteristics of adult learners. Retrieved on February 06, 2016. From of adult learners-reading.pdf

Smith, M. K. (2002) ‘Malcolm Knowles, informal adult education, self-direction and andragogy’. The encyclopedia of informal education. Retrieved on February 06, 2016. From:

Tulloch, A. (2014). Adult learning across cultures. Blog in: Neuroanthropology – Understanding the encultured brain and body. Retrieved on February 06, 2016 from:

Webster, K., Zachariah, M., McFaury, J. & McMullin, L. (n.d.). Questions and Answers on Adult Education. Retrieved on February 06, 2016. From:

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Trends in Adult Education – Use of the 21st Century Technology in Adult Education – MOOC

A MOOC (massive open online course) is defined as “an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web…. many MOOCs provide interactive user forums to support community interactions among students, professors, and teaching assistants (TAs)” (Wikipedia, 2016).


The reason I even looked into this topic lays in a fact that majority of the Professional Development training needs I personally embraced during the past 5 years occurred in an online environment. Not only I was able to learn about the topics I had an interest in, but I was also able to deepen my understanding of the topics required for my profession. The fact that some of the online courses and webinars I attended provided ‘Certificate of Completion’ or ‘Certificate of Achievement’ (which in turn may play an important role in “employability” of the adult learners) made it even more rewarding and important for me. Looking back at the assumptions proposed by Knowles in introducing andragogy (Merriam & Bierema, 2014, p.47) it is clear that the technology available to the adult learners in the 21st century increases self-directed readiness to learn by providing them with the knowledge that they need to develop in their work or social roles, and, what is more important, apply the acquired knowledge immediately.


In his article “Use Of MOOCs And Online Education Is Exploding: Here’s Why” (, Bersin (2016) elaborated that the technology advancements that allowed us to easily access the course contents from any device, combined with the low costs, the fact that employers show increased interest in certain skills and education, as well as ability of the learners to comment or rate the course on the social networking, “forced the content providers to be better than ever” (Bersin, 2016).

Cobb ( 2013) in his “12 Trends (Still) Disrupting the Market for Lifelong Learning and Continuing Education” post from 2013 (as re-posted in 2015)  lists 12 trends that are taking over the large portion of the lifelong learning market. He summarizes that we are required to “constantly update, retool, rethink, and relearn” (Cobb, 2013).

The fact is that MOOCs provide access to education for a wide audience, allowing for the increased access to education. However, Rohs and Ganz (2015), debate that “the availability of those educational resources (MOOCs; OER; etc.) is especially useful for people with higher socioeconomic status and / or educational background and is associated with a different kind of motivation and reception of learning offers”. This is mainly because the courses are designed for the specific contents, and mostly attract students with higher education. According to Rohs and Ganz (2015), “before MOOCs can help people in developing countries to become more educated, the infrastructural issues have to be solved”, namely the attendees have to have the electricity, computer and a stable internet connection (Rohs & Ganz, 2015).

And finally, the great talk about innovations in education and MOOCs is given by Anant Agarwal (2013) which can be accessed here:



Anant A. (2013). Why massive open online courses (still) matter. Retrieved February 06, 2016. from:

Bersin, J (2016). Use Of MOOCs And Online Education Is Exploding: Here’s Why. Retrieved Febryary 06, 2016. from:

Cobb, J. (2013), 12 Trends (Still) Disrupting the Market for Lifelong Learning and Continuing Education. Retrieved February 06, 2016. from

Merriam, S. B. & Bierema, L. L. (2014). Adult learning. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons

Rohs, M. & Ganz, M (2015). MOOCs and the Claim of Education for All: A Disillusion by Empirical Data. The International Review Of Research In Open And Distributed Learning, 16(6). doi:

Wikipedia contributors (2016). Massive open online course. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved February 06, 2016. from:



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My learning partner’s blog

Hi all,

A link to my learning partner’s (Richard Lindberg) blog is:

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Knowing that the advances in technology in the 21st century allowed an increased access to various issues to a wide (and growing) consumer base, it is not surprising to learn that Food safety and Food security became the hot topics over the last 10 years. Today’s consumers have the access to information and have the resources to make a significant impact on everyone involved in the Food Supply Chain. Safe Food for Canadians Act in Canada and Food Safety Modernization Act in the USA are the regulatory mechanisms instituted to protect the consumers in these countries.


Producers and manufacturers are now not only required to satisfy the ever-growing Quality standards, but also more and more prominent Food Safety Standards. Both of these requirements deal with the risks associated with unintentional contamination within the food production. However, the governments around the world also recognized the need to protect their citizen (consumers) from intentional contamination and adulteration of food. This led to creation of two additional categories of food protection; Food Fraud and Food Security.

Bearing in mind the four different aspects of food protection, the clear distinction between the contaminant and adulterant is being made: “An adulterant is something that is intentionally added while a contaminant is something that occurs by accident or in association with another act” (read more at (Spink and Moyer, 2013)

An interesting reading about the topic from a Canadian perspective can be found at (Mayers, 2015).

I hope you find this topic as interesting as I do.

Have a sweet day,



Mayers, P. (2015). A Closer Look at Food Safety in Canada. Food Safety Magazine. Retrieved on January 17, 2016. From:

Spink, J. & Moyer, D.C. (2013). Understanding and Combating Food Fraud. Food Technology magazine, Volume 67, Number 1, pp. 30-35. Retrieved on January 17, 2016, From:



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A bit about me

About a name:

I hope that this blog will become a useful tool for at least someone out there. My name is Jelena. The pronunciation of my name is the tricky part for the majority of English speaking part of the world (and probably for some others). Since the letter ‘J’ is in my native language pronounced as ‘Y’, the proper way to say my name is ‘YELLENA’. Well, now that we mastered the pronunciation, we will move to its origins. It is a Slavic version of a Greek name ‘Helena’ or English version ‘Helen’ which means – light. (There are many variations of this name in different cultures, all of which may be found here: and probably elsewhere on the internet).


About a person(ality):

How do you start your day? Are you smiling or being very serious. Someone once told me that I was almost unbearable as a child. I would wake up at 05:00 in the morning and sing, sing and sing until everyone in the household wakes up. Does this mean that I am: a) a happy person; b) a loud person; c) a nuisance; d) all of the above? I guess, the correct answer would be under ‘d’. My late father used to say that I was sleeping for the first nine (9) months of my life, and then I started talking. And, I never stopped after that.

Another person asked me to undergo some tests (???), and I got a “shocking” score of 97% extrovert. Well, maybe it was shocking for someone, but after doing some informal learning (see the connection with my current interest and pursuing the PIDP – Provincial Instructor Diploma Program at Vancouver Community College –, I was very pleased with the results. I also, recently, came across an interesting blog, which can be found here: Needless to say, sometimes, I am a little bit ‘too much’ energetic for my surroundings.


And finally, what is it that I do:

Well, I am trying to sweeten the lives of many people. One would ask oneself: “How do I do that?”

The answer is very simple; I work in a sugar refinery. 🙂

Admit that you did not expect this.

Not only that I work in a sugar refinery, but I also have to ensure that all that sweetness that is leaving our production area passes all required quality and food safety requirements. And, how do we achieve that? We have a food safety and quality system compliant with the international standard called FSSC 22000 (if interested please read more here:



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