Learners are individuals that bring their own needs and history to the learning environment.
A person's individual profile or learner characteristics will determine the way they respond to both formal and informal learning environments.
Although learner characteristics can provide some general information, be careful not to stereotype your learners. Every learner is an individual and 'general' learner characteristics should only be used as a guide.
You can find a wealth of information on learner characteristics on the World Wide Web.
A person's age may affect how they learn, and how they interact with other learners.
- Mature individuals often have a wealth of experience, which they can bring to the learning environment. This diversity can be used as a learning resource by encouraging learners to share their experience with others in the group.
- Younger learners sometimes need additional motivation to keep their attention focused, and although they may not have as much life experience they offer unique perspectives to the learning environment.
- Think about using active learning strategies to help motivate learners.
- Individuals returning to learning after a long break may need additional time to complete tasks and activities.
Gender, partner status and families
Every learner is an individual and should not be disadvantaged because of gender, partner status or their family commitments:
- Do not segregate males and females for specific activities or repeatedly select males or females for specific tasks.
- Be aware of your body language and tone of voice to ensure that it is non-discriminatory at all times. Be extra careful that jokes and gestures cannot be interpreted as discriminatory or containing sexual references.
- Do not refer to a person's sexual orientation or partner status, or single them out because of it.
Gender, partner status and families continued
- Respect all learner's right to confidentiality.
- Consider the needs of learners with partners and family commitments. Learners who care for partners, parents or children may need a flexible learning approach that provides them with a range of learning, schedule and assessment options.
- Be aware of a learner's personal space and do not make body contact unnecessarily.
Learners with ongoing or acute health conditions may have special needs:
- Be sure to look for any information relating to the target group's health needs in your training needs analysis documentation and learning plan.
- Ensure that you factor special health needs into your 'hazard checklist and risk control action plan'.
- Your observation skills will also come in handy here. Look for signs of discomfort in your learners that may indicate the need for a short break or additional support.
- Build in flexible delivery approaches to ensure that learners with health conditions are provided with a range of delivery options to suit their needs.
As a trainer, you need to be sensitive to the needs of different cultural groups:
- Ensure that you communicate clearly and use plain English as some learners may use English as a second language.
- Be aware of different cultural practices and customs. You may like to research the customs and practices of your learners before you begin training.
Cultural background continued
- Diversity can be an excellent learning tool, encourage learners to share their knowledge and experiences with the group to promote understanding and tolerance.
- Take care when you are selecting and customising learning materials to ensure that they do not cause offence to learners from different cultural groups.
- Build flexibility into your delivery plan to allow you to cope with unforseen events.
- Body contact can be offensive to certain cultural groups; do not make body contact with your learners unnecessarily.
An awareness of learner's religious practice is important so that you can ensure that training is effective and that learner's needs are being met.
- Some learners may need to leave the room to pray during a training session. You may need to have a prayer space set aside for them.
- Some religions require adherence to specific dietary guidelines, you should take this into account when planning catering.
- Religious holidays may fall during a learning program and these learners may require flexibility in their learning schedule.
- Some religions require fasting and as a consequence learners may lack concentration or become lethargic. You need to be understanding of their needs in this situation and build flexibility into your delivery plan.
- Some learners may be required to wear religious or cultural dress, make allowances for this and be flexible in your delivery approach to ensure that this does not disadvantage any other learners.
Literacy, language and numeracy requirements
People with low literacy language and numeracy skills and people with learning difficulties may require additional support in a training environment:
- Use visual aids (graphics, photos) where possible to support written material.
- Monitor learners' comprehension of required tasks and activities carefully by asking them to repeat instructions back to you.
- Use active learning strategies wherever possible.
- Build flexibility into your learning plan to allow these learners additional time to complete tasks and assessments if required.
Personality traits including: maturity level, adaptability and attention span will impact on the way a learner interacts and participates in a training environment.
- Use a range of delivery methods and learning strategies to ensure that the needs of learners with different personality types are met.
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