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As concerns around costs in higher education grow, class contact time is increasingly seen as an indicator of value for money. The 2018 Student Academic Experience Survey [1] also cites contact hours and teaching quality as two of the factors that lead to perceptions of poor value amongst students.

Interestingly, the needs of learners in post-secondary education are very different from those at primary and secondary levels.  American educator and champion of andragogy Malcolm Shepherd Knowles [2] placed far less emphasis on contact time for adults, advocating instead a move towards self-directed learning, principally because adults: are self-directed human beings; have experience that is a valuable learning resource; have learning needs orientated towards their social roles; are focused on problem solving rather than theory; and are self-motivated.

Andragogy then assumes there needs to be a willingness to learn, and that teaching should be orientated to what the learner needs to know, relating this to life application and role.

With the introduction of new technologies, we are better placed than ever before to learn independently, albeit with some direction and access to appropriate materials. In the online world, learners can follow prescribed reading paths, access lesson materials, search archives for independent evidence and access audio-visual materials anytime and anywhere in ways to suit their own abilities and learning styles. They can even use self-assessment to test understanding, building confidence along the way.

But andragogy also recognises that the learner’s experience is a rich resource for individuals and groups, and so teaching methods must include discussion and encourage participation by all. This works better if the trainers can draw on relevant personal experience to bring debates to life and create resonance with learners.

The importance of industry experience in teaching is supported by earlier Student Academic Experience Surveys, carried out in 2017, 2016 and 2015. Although the presentation of results differs, the surveys have consistently shown that learners in post-secondary education place a high importance on the need for teaching staff to: maintain and improve their subject knowledge; have received training in how to teach; and have relevant industry experience.

If a key challenge for the trainer is to aid debate with probing questions and examples to stimulate interaction and knowledge sharing then in a manufacturing environment it’s not surprising that practitioner-trainers with real world experience of problems and problem solving find it easier, whether this is through face-to-face discussion and facilitated workshops or by leading discussion and debate within an online learning community.

At HFL Consulting, we have recognised for some years the benefits that practitioner-led training brings. But we also understand the need for teacher training, which is why those involved in the design and development of our training courses and programmes have appropriate teaching qualifications.

Contact HFL Consulting today to find out more about our practitioner-led blended training programmes or visit our website to learn more about our training services here.

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[1] The HEPI-HEA 2018 Student Academic Experience Survey, Jonathan Neves & Nick Hillman

[2] Knowles, M. et al (1984) Andragogy in Action. Applying modern principles of adult education, San Francisco: Jossey Bass.