In my last blog, I discussed how to use adult learning circles to help employee training stick. And, by stick I mean actually transfer what was learned to improved skills and attitudes on the job.

If you have ever spent a day, two days or maybe more in training, you know that potentially only 5% of the actual training does transfer to improved skills and attitudes.  Real learning requires practice, discussion, repetition, and builds on what people have already been introduced to. Actually, if a learner can connect learning to what they already are familiar with, this is the learning that sticks the best.

So, what about entirely new skills and attitudes?  Learning circles provide the practice, discussion, repetition and review to transfer learning while building employee engagement and a sense of belonging in your organization.

Today, I am continuing to discuss various adult learning methods, how to use them and what they are best at accomplishing once business is restored after the pandemic.

Continuous learning through learning circles is a concept where team members and employees are given the opportunity to make learning a part of their work. It’s all about getting into the habit of developing skills and knowledge to become more proficient in their job.

Adult Learning Methods Impacted by Learning Circles

Megan is an independent consultant licensed to provide TIGERS resources to her clients.  Recently she heard from a economic development collaborative member that one of the people on his team who is cycling out of her collaboration is still working hard on her deliverables. In his view, she is displaying no “short timer” behavior. This means that people leaving teams frequently disengage and do not complete things before they leave. Not the case with this member.

Megan deployed a learning circle to the collaborative to read about the behaviors that build and sustain teams and behaviors that cause predictable problems. Then she facilitated their group behavior norm agreements. The combination of the two created the commitment and accountability of this team member, which for any team leader is  worth their weight in gold.


This theory involves the ability to use learning as a way to transform world views or in the organizational development realm, work culture. Developed by Jack Mezirow in 1978, it suggests that a trainer who introduces new concepts, challenges assumptions, and disrupts perspectives can help the learner:

  • Change his viewpoint / perspective / opinion;
  • Build a disorienting predicament where the information presented can challenge their perspective. This goes deep because what is expected is for the learner to question their beliefs, use their critical thinking, and adjust their opinions accordingly;
  • Remember the concepts can be taught easily because the “transformation” targets beliefs, thoughts, and behavior.

How is this type of learning conducted? 

Trainers must create an environment that supports the learner via authentic interaction, empathetic instruction, and a supportive environment that includes psychological safety, which learning circles demand.   When the learner is encouraged to question, they shouldn’t be judged.  To do this, facilitators introduce material that explores different points of view.  Learners are encouraged to engage with it deeply.

Who is this adult learning theory suited for?

Learners who delight in questioning the world around them and lean toward wanting to make things better. Many are eager debaters, critical analyzers, rational thinkers and people who use synthesis and discussion to make up their own mind.

This type of learning works great for employees who need personal and professional growth, or anyone who needs to learn how to apply evaluation and analysis tools to various scenarios.

This isn’t recommended for… 

Team members who have deep-seated beliefs, who aren’t willing to evaluate.  In addition, this type of learning isn’t always relevant in an organization.  Critics think that it’s blind to context since it doesn’t value culture, emotion, or relationships — unless those skills and attitudes do require transformation such as in the transition of a top down organization into one that is flatter and collaborative.


Experiential learning, a theory developed in the 70s by David Kolb, is hands-on learning using experiences to demonstrate concepts. This was the tool Megan used to teach about group behavior before facilitating the group’s behavior norms. In this  type of learning, learners are expected to: 

  • Look back and reflect on their experience after the “participation stage” and develop the knowledge that they’ve recently gained;
  •  Actively participate in the learning process; 

How is this type of learning conducted? 

Experiential learning involves the use of role-playing exercises, virtual reality, and simulation drills. 

Reflection and conceptualization are big aspects of this learning theory.  After the experiential aspect of learning is complete, the facilitator prompts learners to contemplate on how they can apply their new knowledge in their daily tasks. 

Who is this adult learning theory suited for?

  • Learners who are enthusiastic about learning
  • Tasks that need mechanical skills or systematic thinking.

This isn’t recommended for…/ What to watch out for

The danger for participants is the tendency to overemphasize individual knowledge at the expense of social context. Therefore, the role of the facilitator is to ensure that all ideas are heard and to apply critical thinking methods within the design.

When trainees tell you that they are still thinking about the training weeks after your event, you know you hit the target in your experiential training.


This classic theory developed in 1897 by John Dewey, centers around the idea of “learning by doing”. This is one real advantage of learning circles. Through discussion and on the job practice for what was learned, the “doing” becomes more refined and natural over time.  If you ever took golf lessons and hit that ball straight and true and later hacked up the greens or watched deep divots fly through the air in your follow through, you know how important repetition and patience is to this type of training.

Learners are expected: 

  • To acquire knowledge holistically by exploring a real-world issue; 
  • To work on a problem for an extended timeframe. They are expected to investigate, develop, and test solutions.  Instructors give feedback regularly. 

How is this type of learning conducted? 

Organizations can integrate this learning style into their training programs by creating an environment where groups can meet to solve real problems within the company. This is the expansion of a learning circle into an affinity group. 

Who is this adult learning theory suited for?

Organizations that seek to develop long-term project management skills for their management teams, and improve processes (especially in research & development, as well as those in software and technology) benefit from transforming learning circles in to practice groups like these.

This isn’t recommended for… / What to watch out for 

Some members of the group may be tempted to exploit the collaborative nature of the group and “slack off”.   If the instructor isn’t careful, some participants may even take credit for someone else’s hard work. This was why Megan started her collaborative education process with reading about collaboration followed by group behavior norm facilitation.  Group behavior norm facilitation creates the commitment and accountability that  resists the slack off.


This type of learning is heavy on simplifying solutions. Developed in 1982 by Reg Revans, learners: Probe and examine a problem by asking questions. They then identify the best one, and take action;

  •  After taking a course of action, learners reexamine the results, question the process, and find ways to improve;
  • Are expected to gain the COLLABORATIVE ability and better understand cohesiveness and group dynamics throughout the process.

TIGERS Planning and Problem Solving training actually facilitates team projects in this way.

 How is this type of learning conducted? 

In addition to the grouping process, the participant must be given enough time to reflect on the process after the action has been taken.  Nothing should be rushed as the desired learning will not take place.

This type of learning can be included in training plans by grouping people to solve hypothetical problems.  Guidelines are given by facilitators, who supply knowledge and information when needed. 

Who is this adult learning theory suited for? 

This is a learning method suited for most types of organizations who desire cross-functional or agile teams to resolve organizational issues. 

This isn’t recommended for… 

Organizations that desire to teach a skill but fail to empower trainees with the opportunity to take action. This is best for the development of teams to deliver on change steps, pr resolve problems as noted above.

Employees who perfect team operations like these serve flatter organizations and are high potential employees for future leadership positions.


Behaviorism was developed in the 1940’ by B.F. Skinner. It proposes that learning takes place by using stimulus, reward, or punishment.  Learners are expected to:

  • Gain information by responding to stimuli, reward, or punishment;
  • Benefit from instruction that repeats and reinforces information;
  • Be passively receiving information;
  • Need a demonstration of the positive or negative consequences.

This is another example of how learning circles can merge with micro training so that information is reinforced.

How is this type of learning conducted? 

Presentation of the concept that needs to be learned, plus the consequences if such rules are obeyed/disobeyed. For example, when group behavior norms are developed in an organization with bottom up ideas provided by employees, new employees are onboarded with training that reinforces the group behavior norm agreements. These agreements can also be used for performance hiring.  

Who is this adult learning theory suited for?

This traditional learning method is common in training programs where a standard outcome is desired such as  health & safety demonstrations, company or policy seminars.

This works best for situations where learners’ participation isn’t expected. However, if used during onboarding, the new employee comes up to speed faster when there are discussions, too, with their supervisor on what was learned.

This isn’t recommended for…/ What to look out for 

This shouldn’t be the only training provided to learners.  Many find this learning theory “disengaging”.  Vital information may not be retained.


Cognitism is a rejection of Behaviorism. This learning theory proposes that the learner: 

  • Is an active participant in their learning process;
  • Acquires knowledge holistically, by combining old and new information; and
  • Processes information and organizes it according to existing knowledge (which helps with recall and retention). 

How is this type of learning conducted? 

Information is presented to the learner in such a way that it becomes meaningful to them.  The more they can relate, the easier it is for the learners to retain what is taught.  Metaphors, analogies, and concept mapping help.

Who is this adult learning theory suited for?

This training is suited  most types of learners

This isn’t recommended for…/ What to look out for

Cognitive overload can happen when too much information is given.  To avoid this, learners must be given ample time to process the material.  This is how TIGERS micro-training platform is constructed. One clear thought at a time with coaching handouts and problems to solve.


This learning theory proposes that knowledge is created by the learner creating meaning for themselves – NOT a transfer of information from instructor to learner.  Here, the learner 

  • Exploits their personal and cultural experiences to learn new information;
  • Is responsible for learning. They link old information to new ones and then contextualize it.
  • Actively generates knowledge/interpretation from experiences. 

How is this type of learning conducted? 

Employees write self-reviews and learners are grouped or introduced to mentorship programs.   Instructors are expected to be just as active as learners. 

Instructors also act as facilitators.  They ask questions while at the same time provide resources.  Using integration (assimilation) and accommodation, learners tap into their own experiences, beliefs, and knowledge to gain an understanding of new concepts.

Who is this adult learning theory suited for? 

This learning is suitable for most types of learners.


This learning theory is a Behaviorism and Cognitivism hybrid, developed by Albert Bandura in the 1970s. The Social Learning Theory proposes that learners:

  • Observe responses to behavior in the workplace and learn by knowing how to act;
  • Imitate the behavior of people they respect;
  • Gain information by combining personal experiences with seeing rewards/punishment that others receive for their actions

This is why people often replicate the behavior of their leaders. So if the behavior of leaders is genuine and respectful so will the employee’s behavior who copies them.

How is this type of learning conducted? 

Managers act as role models.  They demonstrate what is acceptable behavior and reward employees who follow their lead.  Corrective measures are consistently provided.

Role-playing and training videos are excellent tools for reinforcing expected behavior. 

Who is this adult learning theory suited for?

This learning method is suited for most types of learners.

This isn’t recommended for…/ What to watch out for

The organizational culture must value uniformity.  Participants can easily spot favoritism.  It will not work if negative behavior does not carry any consequence. Instructors must always practice evenhandedness.

The TIGERS® Method takes all your organization’s work culture and your team members’ learning style into their training program. Learning Circles are a method for any organization that wants learning to stick, to apply learning to the job and to transform skills and attitudes into what is required for the 21st Century.

See how our micro-training and leadership series foster cooperation and excellence in the workplace.  Talk to us HERE.

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Copyright TIGERS Success Series, Inc. by Dianne Crampton

About TIGERS Success Series

TIGERS provides a comprehensive, multi-pronged and robust system for improving your collaborative workforce behavior, collaborative work culture, profitability, project management and team leadership success. We license existing coaches, consultants and HR professionals in the use of these tools.

We specialize in building cooperation among employees and collaboration between departments for profitable, agile, and high performance team outcomes.  Scaled to  grow as your organization and leadership performance improves, our proprietary TIGERS Workforce Behavior Profile, Micro-Training technology and group facilitation methods result in your high performance team outcomes and change management success.

Here is a complimentary 30 minute webinar on the TIGERS 6 Principles. Course Certificate for Completion.