Donald Ford (2010) defines learner analysis as the investigation of the current and future audience for training. The purpose of conducting such an analysis is to get an understanding of the prerequisite knowledge, skills and experience of the training audience so as to better target the intended training.
It may also look at the culture, learning styles, background, values and beliefs of the audience so as to match the training design and methodology to the audience.
Why then is learner analysis a crucial element in the training process?
This is so because training has evolved from focusing on learners as a group to individualised instruction.
This highlights why designers of training now focus on the individual learner. The traditional approach was based on the premise that anyone could be taught to do anything.
Thus, it seemed to be a waste of time to make an analysis of the learner. Most courses assumed that learners were blank slates waiting to be filled with knowledge and skill.
However, the modern view of learning and development places the learner at the centre of everything, just as it is with the customer who occupies the centre stage of any progressive business. According to Ford (2010) cognitive psychologists have argued that learning takes place in the human mind through the active participation of the learners.
What the learners then do mentally in learning new knowledge and skill is what is at the heart of learning so it is important to study how learners learn as it is a crucial component of training design.
The current focus presently is customising learning for the individual through the use of such interventions as computer-based training, individual learning contracts and custom training designs targeting very specific populations.
What then do we need to know about the learners? Learner analysis normally takes two forms which are: general studies of the learning styles and preferences of learners and specific investigation of the needs of particular training audiences. These two forms play a crucial role in informing course designers about the needs, interests and learning styles of the audience they are trying to reach.
After considering that, it is important to now consider the learning styles that are consistent with adult learners. Knowles (1984) as quoted by Ford (2010) identifies the following as some of the general characteristics of adult learners which need to be considered:
- Motivated by self-interest
- Life-centred and pragmatic
- Change is primary driver to learn
- Rely on experience to learn
It is therefore useful to capitalise on these traits when designing a course for adults if training programmes are to be effective. So go on then and value the learners because of the crucial role they play in instructional design.
Paul Nyausaru is an HR Practitioner and leadership coach. For all your HR interventions and leadership development training you can get in touch with him on whatsapp/call +263774062756 or Email email@example.com