Learning methodology

Incorporating the essential elements of adult learning

The conceptual framework and theories of Malcolm Knowles in the 20th century were responsible for reorienting adult educators from “educating people” to “helping them learn”. PMC’s approach to adult education draws upon the work of Knowles and other key contributors to the field. Our experience in applying these principles has been gained over 40 years in working with hundreds of clients in government, industry and the non-profit sector. In practical terms, instruction for adults needs to focus at least as heavily on the process, if not more so, than the content being taught. Adult learners are typically:

Autonomous and self-directed

PMC courses are interactive, designed to actively involve participants in the learning process. Facilitating is preferable to teaching.

Experienced, with accumulated knowledge

PMC courses are designed to draw on the participants’ accumulated knowledge and experience whenever it is relevant to the topic.


PMC courses have clearly defined learning objectives so the manager and/or individual participants can judge whether the course meets their goals.


PMC’s in-house courses are often adapted for clients to ensure participants can see the direct relevance of the training to their work. Whenever possible freedom of choice is given to participants about specific topics for activities and projects, in order to reinforce relevancy.


PMC’s instructors always explain how training will be useful to participants in their work.

Desirous of respect

PMC’s instructors are skilled in cultivating an atmosphere of mutual respect within the classroom, allowing participants to voice their opinions freely. Furthermore, depending on the subject matter, differences in culture, gender, age, and job function are considered by the trainer.

PMC courses are designed to incorporate four essential elements of adult learning

1. Motivation

PMC trainers set a friendly, open and respectful tone for the training session, and usually begin with an “icebreaker” exercise. An exercise to command attention is also employed.

2. Reinforcement

PMC trainers use positive reinforcement to maintain positive learning. They are sensitive to the need for repetition for some learners. They give feedback using praise and recognition as appropriate.

3. Retention

Retention is directly affected by the degree to which new knowledge and skills have been applied during the course. Every PMC course includes opportunities to apply knowledge learned.

4. Training

Training can only be successful when the knowledge is translated by participants into application and use in operational contexts. PMC trainers encourage participants to develop an action plan to transfer the new knowledge and skills to the work situation. Participants are invited to contact the trainer by email with any questions that arise after they return to the workplace and begin to apply the new knowledge and skills they have acquired.

To maximize successful knowledge transfer, PMC courses emphasize achieving a high level of engagement between participants, and between participants and their instructor. Our trainers are skilled at helping the learner make the connection between the new information/skills and existing knowledge and understanding during the course – a key success factor in knowledge transfer. PMC stays up-to-date on adult education theory and practice.

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