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The Training Page of Volunteer Today has practical trainer techniques and activities to make orientation sessions more productive and valuable. There are also ideas to help enhance the professional volunteer manager's training level.

~ December 2004 ~ Topics

The Experiential Learning Cycle

The experiential learning cycle has long been identified as the way in which a large number of adults learn most effectively. It is in use when an adult tackles learning on their own; doing faux painting for a remodeling project, mastering the art of scrap booking, learning to build a child’s toy, or learning to ski. And it can be used to guide managers of volunteers as they plan training for any audience of adults.

Experiential Learning Cycle:

Experiential Learning Cycle Diagram

Adult learners absorb best from one of the parts of the cycle. For example, some learners will get more from reflecting on an experience (Step 2) than the experience itself (Step 1). Other adults rely on the analytic part of training and find step 3 the most useful in their learning. The last group of learners best acquires knowledge from the application of learning. (Step 4)

The key thing for trainers to remember is that you cannot "skip" a step. The cycle has four steps that provide sequence and order to the learning process. It is important to remember that the "light-bulbs" will go on around the room at different points in the cycle. The trainer needs to stay focused on the cycle and move easily from the first step to the last, bringing all types of learners through the cycle.

Here is an example of how to use the cycle in planning in a 20- 30 minute training on confidentiality for adults.

Learning Objective: The learner will be able to identify 3 – 5 appropriate behaviors when dealing with issues of confidentiality as it applies to organizational and client information.

Learning Cycle Sample

Want to learn more about adult learners? Check out our online bookstore for An Introduction to Helping Adults Learn and Change, by Russell D. Robinson.

Details for Helping Adults Learn and Change Book

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Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. Churchill

Macduff Conducts Basic and Advanced Workshops in Seattle in January

Nancy Macduff, Senior Editor and Publisher of Volunteer Today is conducting two workshops on the management of volunteers in Seattle, Washington, on January 24 and 25, 2005. Topics for the first workshop include the basics of recruiting volunteers, including episodic volunteers, and working with corporate volunteer programs. The advanced training, for those with two or more years of experience managing volunteers, involves supervision strategies, empowering volunteers, and a primer on risk management planning. For more information contact: Patty Igo at PattyI@UWSC.ORG.


Close to 200 colleges and universities offer academic programs on nonprofit and volunteer sector management. They are usually master's degree programs, but not always. American Humanics sponsors undergraduate programs, as well. If you are looking to push out the professional development window, consider taking a course at one of these colleges. A full list resides at http://pirate.shu.edu/~mirabero/kellogg.html. Thank Roseanne Mirabella, of Seton Hall University for keeping up with this list.

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