Your Students’ Beliefs and How They Influence Learning
When an adult enters a classroom, whether it is a traditional, corporate, or online classroom, a factor that can have a direct impact on their level of involvement in that class is their beliefs. Facilitation of the adult learning process may be more effective if the power of these beliefs is better understood. An adult’s beliefs can include what they hold as truth about their ability and their potential to learn. These beliefs may be subconsciously held and consciously recognized, formed through a process of ongoing interactions and prior experiences. Adults often seek confirmation of these beliefs, rather than question why they believe what they do, which in turn may determine the actions taken in the classroom, including the time, energy, and effort they devote to the process of learning.
How can an instructor directly influence, guide, and help shape the adult’s beliefs, especially if they do not have a positive attitude about their capabilities? This can be accomplished by helping the adult learner discover that they have a greater capacity to learn. An instructor who effectively guides the adult learner may shape their beliefs by engaging them in the process of learning, by encouraging their efforts and attempts to participate, and finding resources that help to meet their developmental needs. In contrast, an instructor is likely to find that simply telling the adult learner they must become an active participant is a less effective approach than one that involves guiding them through the process. The adult learner is self-directed by nature and they often come to the classroom with specific needs, which are influenced by their beliefs about what they are capable of doing.
Changing a belief system, especially one that has been held for a long period of time, may not happen overnight or within a short period of time. It is the accumulation of positive experiences and meaningful interactions that can change the adult’s beliefs in the long run. A facilitator who encourages self-discovery and reminds the adult that they have a greater capacity to learn will likely find this approach is much more effective in shaping their beliefs than demanding participation in the learning process. An adult is more likely to be engaged in the class if they believe they can learn and that it will meet their needs. This is an example of the power that beliefs can hold for the process of adult learning.