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.
Training is an everyday occurrence for most managers
of volunteers. Sometimes it is in the classroom, more often than not,
it is in a small group or one-to-one. Being caught up in the daily activities
of training can make one forget the basics when it comes to adult learning.
This is a short refresher on the motivation to learn, tips on planning
training, and classroom behavior.
Adult Motivation to Learn
Life changing events are opportunities for training. Change
is stressful and the grown-up seeks information to help cope with
the experience. Participation in training is one way that happens
Adults want training to relate directly to their life.
Adult volunteers participate in learning only so long as it
meets their needs and is relevant to the new position or task.
Maintaining a sense of self-esteem and fun during training are
strong secondary motivators for engaging in learning experiences.
Adult are less interest in the history and philosophy of the
organization than they are in the specifics of expectations and
Adults need to be assisted in integrating new experiences and
information with old learnings.
When information received conflicts with long held views, the
new information is slower in being adopted by the adult volunteer.
Pacing of learning activities needs to be related to the complexity
of the information to be conveyed and the age of the volunteers.
Volunteers are often slower in learning some psychomotor tasks
but compensate by being more accurate and making fewer trial-and-error
Adults tend to take errors personally and are more likely to
let them affect self-esteem. Therefore, they tend to apply tried-and-true
solutions and take fewer risks.
Training courses for volunteers must take into account the different
viewpoints of adults at different life stages.
Adults prefer self-directed and self-designed learning projects
over group-learning experiences led by a professional, they select
more than one medium for learning, and they desire to control
pace and start/stop time.
Adults are increasingly using the Internet and programmed instruction
to acquire information. Not all training needs to be "trainer"
Volunteers are after direct "how to" information.
While self-directed learning is a preference of adults, it does
not mean learning alone. Effectively planned small group or team
projects in training, where the learner interacts with the content,
is one of the most effective methods of teaching adults.
The Learning Environment
The learning environment must be physically and psychologically
comfortable; long lectures, periods of interminable sitting and
the absence of practice opportunities rate high on the irritation
scale. Food, beverage, and nearby parking and bathrooms, if absent,
can impact the effectiveness of training for the learner.
Adults are nervous in any new learning experience. If there
previous experience in formal education was less then rewarding,
he/she is putting their ego on the line to just participate. Early
success in the training can help allay fears of most adults.
Volunteers arrive at training with expectations. Clarify what
is happening, have an agenda, state the learning objectives. This
must happen before the content is presented.
Adults bring a great deal of life experience into the classroom,
an invaluable asset to be acknowledged, tapped and used. Adults
can learn well -and much - from dialogue with respected peers.
Open-ended questions are a way to draw adult learners into dialogue
with the instructor and their peers.
Adults have to integrate new information with the old. That
happens for an adult most efficiently when the student is an active
participant in the activities in the classroom.
Integration of new knowledge and/or skills requires time. Follow-up
with volunteers is essential.
We now have downloadable books available in PDF
format. Check out our online
bookstore for Handling Problem Volunteers by Steve McCurley
and Sue Vineyard now available electonically.
COLLEGE PROGRAMS ON NONPROFIT
AND VOLUNTEER MANAGEMENT
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://tltc.shu.edu/npo/.
Thank Roseanne Mirabella, of Seton Hall University for keeping up with
Interested in assessing volunteer and
staff relations in your program?