Workplace Training and Education: Effective Methods for Training Adults

In earlier articles in this series, we looked at How Adults Learn and Adult Learning Styles. In this article, we consider some training delivery methods that can further support your workplace training efforts.

In addition to taking adult education and adult learning theory into account when training employees, it’s also important to use delivery modes that support the way adults learn. The following are some approaches that enable adults to learn in ways they find most effective.

Just-in-time (self-directed)

Methods that allow employees to access the information they need as they need it allow them to exercise ownership over the learning process and immediately tie learning to practical application. These might include context sensitive help, embedded links to video tutorials or brief online training modules supplemented by discussion forums and social networks. The key to making this type of training effective is to have it readily available to the employee so it can be accessed “on demand” and to curate information as necessary to focus knowledge exploration.  Just-in-time training snippets should also be limited to bite-sized chunks with the ability to access additional information as needed.


The accessibility and potential for self-direction offered by eLearning can be a valuable asset when time and budget constraints impact workplace learning activities. Building better retrieval practice into eLearning (rather than the more typical recognition practice provided by multiple choice) and increasing the level of interaction will improve its effectiveness.

Collaborative Learning

Using online technologies that enable collaboration and rapid knowledge sharing, even among remote team members, can provide valuable learning opportunities for employees. Online groupwork is increasingly common and may provide a cost effective alternative for more traditional group-based learning.


Praxis is Greek for action with reflection. The idea of doing while learning is a widely recommended approach to teaching adults[1]. One way to 'do' while learning is to set skills in the context of problem solving; another is to provide experiences for the learners and allow them to construct their own knowledge. This type of learning is especially valuable for management and leadership training, development of innovation skills and for developing strategic and critical thinking abilities.


Traditional, face-to-face groupwork supports greater social integration within the learning environment, which has been shown to positively affect retention. Small groups of peers at the same level of career maturity create a social environment that motivates adult learners to persist.[2]

Case Study

Incorporating real (or realistic) scenarios (cases) into problem solving activities engages adult learners by tapping into the natural human fascination with story-telling and by demonstrating relevance to learners’ current professional and personal challenges.

Combined Learning Modes

Groupwork based on the analysis of case studies and tied to real world problems that participants must resolve together combines the benefits of the preceding three training modes and can lead to transformative learning experiences. 

Facilitated Discussion

Facilitated discussions encourage adult learners to participate more fully in large group discussions as the facilitator can draw out reluctant speakers and gently restrain more verbal participants providing more balanced participation.


Based on Paulo Friere’s principles of popular education and the subsequent work of Dr. Jane Vella (both of which build on the Socratic Method), dialogue education poses questions that learners reflect on and consider within the context of their personal experience and knowledge. Learners are invited to actively engage with the content being learned rather than being dependent on the educator for learning.

Spaced Lecture

Spaced lecture involves breaking information up into smaller portions and incorporating pauses that allow learners to review, reflect, discuss and summarize material covered to that point. When there is a large volume of information has to be shared, a spaced lecture approach ensures that participants remain engaged in the learning process.

There is no question that employee development provides value to both employers and employees. Effective employee development involves a progressive approach workplace training and education. It may incorporate education outside the workplace or even personal educational goals. In order for both employers and employees to reap the benefits of these programs, they must be developed and delivered in ways that work for adult learners and they must result in a successful transfer of knowledge and skills that are retained and subsequently applied.

This article is the fifth in our series on Workplace Training and Education. Read the other articles in the series here:


Subscribe to the TribeHR blog for regular HR insight and resources to support a changing workplace.

[1] Vella, Jane. (1994)Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach: The Power of Dialogue in Educating Adults San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Inc.

[2] Kerka, Sandra, Adult Learner Retention Revisited. ERIC:, 1995.

Photo: by Khanb, E-learning_process_model, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Phase I: Content Development Content development process simply means that e learning materials designed and produced or developed following a plan that incorporates instructional design principles for meaningful learning. The Content Development phase consists of the following stages: 1. Planning 2. Analysis 3. Design 4. Development 5. Evaluation

Phase II: Content Delivery Content development process simply means that e learning materials are made available to the users. The Content Delivery phase consists of the following stages: 6. Delivery of Learning Environment 7. Administration of Learning Environment 8. Marketing of Learning Offerings

Link to original post


Leave a Reply