User Instruction

When studying user instruction it is very important to consider the three main learning styles: physiological, cognitive, and affective.  These learning must all be considered when teaching certain users.  Considering everyone has their own way of learning and doing things, it is necessary for the instructor to see this and adjust their teaching technique accordingly in order to successfully engage students.

The Physiological learning style includes environmental conditions, how many breaks there are in the session, and the time of day the session is conducted.  I learn best in a classroom atmosphere, during the day, with no fluorescent lights, and do not care about getting a break.  SIS online night classes have been quite an adjustment for me because by 6:30 pm I am already drained from the day.  I am able to focus best between 10 am and 3 pm.

The Cognitive learning style refers to how people learn: by reading, listening, or doing.  I am a visual learner in that I like to have a visual in front of me when being taught (PowerPoint, handout) and I appreciate listening to a professional instruct on a subject because I can hear their point of view on the subject.  It also helps to actually do a hands-on activity to gain experience and knowledge.

Affective learning style focuses on the emotional aspect of learning.  This can be extremely beneficial for some if they tend to base things on how they feel.  Some learners may be curious or questioning in the learning process and act on more emotional tendencies.  Instructors can combine aspects of all three of these learning styles to best accommodate their intended audience.

Evidence-based learning vs. problem-based learning: both can be very useful and successful in teaching, it just depends on the content/material that is being taught and to whom it is being taught. Personally, I prefer problem-based learning because it allows the students to explore and self-direct in determining solutions. Problem-based is an open inquiry and gives students more freedom in exploring, creating, thinking, and evaluating outcomes.

I can appreciate evidence-based learning and I think it is a wonderful teaching method because it is a guided inquiry in which thorough research has already been done and the students are examining the process and outcomes of actual events. The fields of medicine and law rely heavily on this method because of the knowledge that has already been acquired in these fields by professionals with incredible experience and skills. This also helps learners build vocabulary and terminology relevant to the field they are studying.

On a different note, motivation is one of the most important factors in learning (in my opinion). If people are not motivated to learn, work, succeed; they will slack and not live to their full potential. This goes beyond the learning environment into the work environment. It is important for instructors, managers, etc. to be flexible and realize that everyone learns and works differently. And being approachable is key in interacting with anyone – keeping an open mind, being encouraging, and listening will all establish good relationships and enable a positive learning and working environment.

I have been especially interested in adult learning because throughout the course of my career at Scripps Networks and the American Cancer Society, I instructed/taught mainly adults. I had different experiences with different groups of adults. Most of the co-workers and volunteers that I trained were open to instruction, feedback, and suggestions.

When teaching adults I think it’s important to know your audience. Many people are busy with job, families, extra-curricular activities, etc. and prioritize things differently. There are also time constraints, using personal experience as knowledge, and different expectations of learning. Instructors must consider all these things in order to engage and teach adult learners, no matter the environment.