What makes a motivating instructor?

The more I get into Enhancing Adult Motivation to Learn: A Comprehensive Guide for Teaching All Adultsby Raymond Wlodkowski, the more I am enjoying it. If you are an adult educator, I would recommend this book as part of your library. There is a lot of great information.

In this section, Wlodkowski discusses the characteristics and skills of a motivating instructor. I would certainly like to think I am a motivating instructor; however, after reading this section, I think I have some work to do.

Wlodkowski focuses his thoughts around “five pillars:” expertise, empathy, enthusiasm, clarity, and cultural responsiveness.

The first one, expertise, seems rather straight forward. We know our topic, others would like to learn it, and we are willing to share our knowledge. As it has been mentioned before, learners come because they want information to help move their life forward. They benefit from a lesson when the information presented adds to their experience. Because experience can vary so widely, it is important to understand the learners. Understanding learners can help us tie the lesson to their experiences as realistically as possible. Wlodkowski also stresses the need to understand your topic in such a manner that you can provide many different examples. You must also know what you do not know. The BS meter is well developed in adult learners. Finally, Wlodkowski points out the important of having a thorough instruction plan. Like blueprints, a good plan provides the beginning of a solid foundation.

The second pillar focuses on empathy. My take away from this section is that we must understand the learners so that we can tie the lesson to their personal goals. We don’t want to waste their time. We want to provide instruction at an appropriate level for the learners. We are not able to do this without assessing who they are, what they already know, and what they want to know. Wlodkowski provides an informative chart of methods for gathering information about learners. He discusses at length the idea of Appreciative Inquiry; where attention is focused on improving what is working well and other areas tend to also improve. (This seems to be an interesting area, one that I will have to research further. ) Learning in a classroom setting is a cooperation between the instructor and the learners. Each is bringing their own set of goals; it is important that the goals mesh for the most productive learning environment possible. Finally, Wlodkowski stresses that we must listen to understand in the classroom and benefit from the experiences of others.

The third pillar is enthusiasm. If you do not care about your topic or see the importance of it, neither will the learners. It is about walking the walk. When I speak about technologies for education, I do not recommend anything that I do not personally use. You must be sincere. Bottom line is, if you are not happy doing something, it is important to find something else to do. Life is too short to be unhappy. Also, the effects of making learners unhappy are long lasting.

Clarity forms the fourth pillar. The key takeaway for this section is if you cannot be understood, learning will be degraded. There are a lot of brilliant people who are also instructors, however, learners can only benefit from the brilliance if it is clear. It is important to provide clear examples to illustrate a concept. Likewise, it is also important that visual aids are also clear. Instructors should regularly summarize and check progress to see that understanding is taking place. Once again, having a clear well thought out lesson plan is important to help ensure clarity. Wlodkowski includes a useful checklist that lets learners evaluate the instructor on clarity of instruction.

The final pillar that Wlodkowski highlights is cultural responsiveness. Basically, this is create a learning environment that is respectful of the opinions and experiences of others. Each individual is unique and brings diversity to a learning session. There must be a safe environment to discuss diverse thoughts and opinions. If individuals are criticized for their opinions, then learning will suffer as a result. This does not mean abolishing critical thinking, it means that individuals must question opposing ideas in a respectful manner. A respectful sharing environment will facilitate learning.

This was a very informative section of the book… so far. Again, I recommend it as a part of your library. To make things easier, I have included a link to the book*.

* In the spirit of full disclosure, this is an affiliate link, which means that if you purchase this item through my link I will earn a commission. You will not pay more when buying a product through my link. I only recommend products & systems that I use and love myself, so I know you’ll be in good hands.
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