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How Adults Learn!

Communicating for Successful Results: Coaching • Mentoring • Teaching • Facilitating • Presenting

By Thomas Sechehaye

Copyright
Copyright 2005 by Milly Sonneman and Thomas Sechehaye. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, by any means, (electronic, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the authors. No liability is assumed with respect to the use of the information contained within. Although every precaution has been taken, the authors assume no liability for errors or omissions. Neither is any liability assumed for damages resulting from the use of the information contained herein.

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Table of Contents
1. Why Adult Learning Matters……………………………………..p. 4 2. Learning Modalities …………………………………………… .p. 6 3. Adult Learning Principles Overview……………………………p. 9 4. Adult Learning: What’s Your Approach?………………………p. 10 5. Adult Learning: Score Yourself...............................................p. 12 6. How to Activate: Tell Show Do................................................p. 13 7. How to Activate: Balance……..................................................p. 15 8. Step-by-Step for Activating Each Principle…………………....p. 17 9. Ongoing Focus on Learning………………………………….....p. 27 10. Application is Everything!.......................................................p. 28

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Why Adult Learning Matters!
Do you speak? Do you write? Do you coach? Mentor? Do you teach? Do you facilitate meetings? Do you present to your peers, colleagues and staff? Do you mediate disputes? Manage conflict? Plan strategies? Run community forums? Townhall meetings? Board retreats? Organize projects….OK, you get the idea. Just how many hours do you spend communicating with other adults? Many people we speak with spend the majority of their work life in meetings. If they aren’t in meetings, they are preparing for them. Or recovering from them. Still think that ‘how adults learn’ doesn’t affect your life? Could you use this to talk with your parents? Your spouse? Your neighbor? With members on a homeowners board, chamber of commerce or town council? Your doctor or lawyer? You bet! While this information may seem especially helpful for educators, professional communicators and coaches…there’s no doubt that if you interact with other adults—you’ll need to know what sticks! You could use this information to speed information exchange, promote learning, ease communication, streamline decisions and yes, even have some fun in daily exchanges. It is critically important for professional communicators—coaches, mentors, trainers, facilitators, teachers and presenters—to know how people learn. This knowledge influences the quality of all communication in these areas: • • • • • The presentation of information The generation and processing of data The use of participant’s resources The use of different medias The user’s ability to apply the information into action

All learning involves taking in information, processing information, gaining understanding or insight, and retaining what has been learned, and of course, being able to apply it! In individual and group exchange there are repeating phases of processing data, communicating information and synthesizing knowledge. As a learning human being you are regularly engaged in these processes: • Gathering data • Generating data • Organizing data
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• Analyzing data • Managing information • Creating solutions, alternatives and explanations • Enhancing understanding among individuals and team members • Evaluating options • Designing strategies • Making decisions • Moving towards consensus • Establishing commitment • Measuring results • Verifying results • Re-inventing for improvement For effective coaching, mentoring, teaching, facilitating and presenting—learning must occur continuously. Understanding principles of adult learning helps you to fulfill the critical role of effective communication. This means you’ll use these principles before and during a session—designing and conducting so that learning, understanding and taking action can happen. It is most important to remember: • • • People learn in different ways Different methods facilitate learning for different people Learning effectiveness depends on the design the session.

It’s equally important to remember that all these skills are learnable! That’s good news because… • You don’t have to have inherited talent. • You don’t have to already demonstrate a “natural” ability to communicate. • You don’t have to have previous ability or skill. You can find out how to communicate with adults. And you’re in the right place to understand the principles and to discover practical tips to use what you’re learning right away!

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Learning Modalities and Information Processing
Modalities. Processing. Principles… Gosh—what does all that mean? Don’t worry—you’re about to find out just what’s essential in learning. Learning theory and brain research are more complex than can be discussed here, but there are a few basic basics that can help you radically increase your effectiveness as a coach/facilitator/trainer. An old Chinese proverb describes adult learning in a nutshell. I hear and I forget I see and I remember I do and I remember. What’s a Learning Modality? Learning modalities are preferred ways of taking new information. These preferred styles become extremely strong when an individual feels stress. And when you’re learning something new—consider it a stress situation. So, keep in mind for your own learning and when others are learning—these preferences are more noticeable and when used, can reduce the stress of learning. Think about your own learning preferences for a moment. What helps you jump up and say, “I get it!”? Do you like to learn by hearing? Do you prefer to learn by seeing? Do you prefer to learn by doing? Do you like a combination of methods? Think of this as “preferred learning modalities.” People have habits, preferences and styles in just about everything. And learning is no exception. Use the core modalities to help each person experience data from different viewpoints. This helps each indivudal choose the style of learning in which they’re most comfortable. The three most important learning styles are: Auditory Visual Kinesthetic In general, adults learn and communicate in all three modes: but individuals differ in their preference for, or strength in, each mode.
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You probably know some people who cannot grasp a concept until they can see a visual representation of it. You may know others who must get their hands on a model and try something before they can understand it. To account for these differences and to maximize learning and absorption in your coaching work, or any communications, it is best to involve all modalities. This is a “catch all” — you’ll reach every type of learner. How can you reach everyone? The best “insider secret” is to do the following: • • • Tell—people what they must learn, so they can hear it Show— people what they must learn, so they can see it Do—people need to try out what they must learn, so they can do it

This simple combination: Tell, Show and Do can become a repeating message in your mind as you design a coaching session, plan a training or create an agenda for a meeting. Keep asking yourself if your design and delivery is addressing each of these three ways that people learn. What’s Information Processing? People also differ in how they process information. Some people need to work with the data, engage in conversation about it, and discuss it what it means: others need to think about it, and put the pieces together in their mind. This dimension of processing information is often associated with popular theories of personality that distinguishes between internal (introvert) and external (extrovert) preferred methods of processing. Individuals differ widely in how they learn and how they process information. To communicate and coach effectively, it’s helpful to learn as much as possible about receiver or coachee as you can. The real secret is balance! Balance how you help your coachee, trainee, and employee absorb information. Design exercises and activities to appeal to more internal processing such as reading, writing, and journaling. Organize other activities to appeal more to external processing such as full group discussion, partner debriefs and small group presentations. However, even if you know little about your participant’s personal preferences, you can assume that there will be a mix of preferences. Based on this, you can
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design and conduct coaching sessions with a variety of methods, and use alternatives to respond immediately to your coachee, student, or client. Increase your effectiveness! Look at all the times in a day—both professionally and personally—that you communicate with adults….think of how much more effective you’ll be when you apply the principles of how adults learn. You’ll notice that your sales may increase. That your writing effectiveness improves. That your trainings get higher evaluations. That your coaching clients get better results. No matter where you are communicating, and whom you are communicating with—you’ll have a chance to experiment, apply, review and refine your personal applications of adult learning principles. Keep in mind that this is a process. Adapt it to your unique situation. Be sure to take the time to make it your own. Make it Real: Pick a presentation, coaching session, training, meeting or planning session that you have coming up. Go on—pick one that you’re not looking forward to, or maybe don’t feel prepared for. That’s OK. Have this session in mind as you ask yourself:  Where can you apply the insider secret: Tell, Show, And Do?  Where can you balance internally focused activities with ones that are more externally focused? You don’t have to have all the answers right away. Just by asking the question, you’ll get your brain cells firing in a new way. Read on and find out what else you can do to make your next communication session really soar!

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Overview: Characteristics of Adult Learners
Unlike children—who are fascinated with learning and willing to engage with learning purely because it’s fun, new and different—adults like to learn when it makes a difference in their lives. Adult learners…

 Resist change
The change process for adult learners is often complex and involves unlearning patterns of thinking and behaving.

 Are self-directed
Adults typically have strong needs to accomplish their own learning agendas.

 Are problem-focused
Adults are anxious to experience success in reaching solutions to problems in an atmosphere of cooperation.

 Need to see relevance
Adults learn best when they see immediate relevance to their personal life or work life.

 Prefer a variety of teaching methods
Adults like variety and find satisfaction in making decision about their learning experience including tasks, break and schedules.

 Need to integrate learning with own experience
Adults want to reflect on new information and integrate their life experiences and background knowledge.

 Respond well to active/interactive learning
Adults often respond well to a learning atmosphere that is purposely active, but with out wasting time.

 Desire immediate opportunities to apply
Adults learn best when direct application is not incidental but is planned, deliberate outcome with opportunity to practice.

 Learn best in safe environment
Adults often learn best in a trusting, safe environment where they can Risk change.

 Prefer working with peers to process/practice
Adults prefer working with peer groups to process and rehearse new Skills.
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Adult Learning: What is Your Approach?
There is no single method of coaching or teaching that is right for everyone in every situation. However, there is a considerable body of research that suggests that there are some attitudes and techniques that encourage adult learning better than others. By completing this questionnaire you will find out more about yourself. You’ll discover whether your own attitudes and approaches are, in fact, geared towards adult learners. For each question, circle the number to the right that represents your level of agreement with the statement. Strongly Disagree = 1 Disagree = 2 Undecided = 3 Agree = 4 Strongly Agree = 5 1. Adults learn best from experiental techniques like problem Problem solving cases, simulation exercises, experiments, etc 1 2 3 4 5 2. A formal classroom setting reminds adults of the seriousness of learning and helps them learn better. 1 2 3 4 5 3. Adults learn best in a respectful, collaborative and supportive environment 1 2 3 4 5 4. An adult learner’s educational needs and learning goals can best be assessed and determined by the trainer or supervisor. 1 2 3 4 5 5. Program or course content should be organized around the learner’s need and experience. 1 2 3 4 5

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6. Adults learn best in a competitive environment. 1 2 3 4 5 7. For adults “readiness to learn” depends primarily on their own life experiences, i.e. when they experience in their life a need or desire to know about something. 1 2 3 4 5 8. The evaluation of an adult’s learning is solely the responsibility of the trainer/coach. 1 2 3 4 5 9. An adult’s own experience is the most important resource in their learning. 1 2 3 4 5 10. Grades, scores, job advancement, and other external motivators are the most effective way to encourage adults to learn. 1 2 3 4 5

OK—You’re doing great! But don’t stop yet…It’s time to score yourself. Don’t worry…there’s no incorrect score. This is a learning investigation so you can find out what works in your communication style and what you can do about it.

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Scoring Your Adult Learning Preference Test
Determine Your Score: 1. Add up the numbers you circled on all odd numbered items.

Sum on odd items = ___________= Score A

2. Add up the numbers you circled on all even numbered items. Sum on even items = ___________= Score B 3. Subtract the second sum from the first to obtain your final score

Score A ______ - Score B _______= Final Score ________

4. Plot your final score on the continuum.

I . . . . I . . . . I . . . . I . . . . I . . . . I . . . . I . . . . I . . . .I

-20
Directive Teacher Approach

-10

0

+2

+10

Adult Learning Approach

If your score falls on the side of the scale describing a “directive teacher” approach, these questions can serve as the basis for further reflection and discussion on how you might want to improve the adult learning experiences for which you are responsible.

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How To Activate Tell, Show and Do!
Now that you know what works…it’s time to put it to use. The principles of how adults learn only work if you use them. The next sections are all about application. Use the session you have in mind and think of this as a tune-up, an upgrade, and an enhancement…your chance to take theory and test how it works in your very next session, meeting, report, or coaching session or conference call. As you look at the samples under each category, you may feel that certain ones are just right for your upcoming needs. Others may not be exactly suited for your unique environment. Adjust any of the examples so that it works for you and for the people you are communicating with.

To Do List
 Look at your session plan or agenda.  Organize exercises into mini-rounds of Tell• Show • Do.  If you usually focus on one of these areas, ask colleagues for additional ideas for expanding your personal toolkit. Keep the flow going and add variety!

TIPS
Tell  Tell a story that sets the stage  Describe the learning process  Play a recording of a subject matter expert or descriptive example  Conduct the session by phone  Listen to an example describing a sequence of steps Show  Show an overview map with key steps  Reveal a timeline that shows a learning process  Draw a chart of key points in the descriptive example  Show a video or map with sub-text of each part of the phone call  Demonstrate how the sequence of steps works Do  Have the participant tell his or her own story  Encourage the participant to describe the process in a skit or song  Share a story of their experience  Role-play a phone call following key steps  Perform the sequence of steps
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Here’s how the cycle of Tell•Show•Do plays out in two situations. The first example is for goal setting, and sets the stage for a coaching, mentoring or supervisory conversation. Here’s how it works… Goal setting:  Describe the process of setting goals  Show how to use a goal sheet for short term, mid-term and long-term goals.  Have the coachee fill out the goal sheet The second example relates to learning tasks, and could be used to teach, train employees, and in a supervisory conversation to increase comfort with learning and applying new skills. Learning a new task/skill:  Tell how a several step task is performed from start to finish  Draw a timeline showing the task elements from start to finish  Have the coachee/employee perform the task and …this can move into another round of tell, show, do:  Describe the key focus of each step  Draw a diagram of the key focus of each step  Show another person how to do each step Get the idea? Take This with you: Think of your next session. Perhaps it is one of or similar to one of these: • Presentation • Coaching session • Training session • Information exchange • Report • Facilitation session • Group meeting • Mentoring session • Sales session • Educational seminar Where can you use the cycles of Tell• Show • Do? Get specific. Plan for interaction and engagement. Help your participants remember what you will be discussing.

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How To Activate Balance: Internally and Externally Focused Activities
You’re doing great! Now, turn your attention to balancing internally and externally focused activities, exercises and methods of taking in new information. Your clients, peers and people you speak with will appreciate the variety of methods that you use. You’ll find that some people will notice and respond to one activity more than another. And that’s why it’s important to have a wide and varied mix. Pay special attention to your personal preferences. You’ll want to include the things that work for you AND stretch into methods that might not be your favorite—but work wonders with your clients!

Internal
 Take a survey  Score yourself on skills  Write down ideas, plans and actions  Record feelings in a journal  Keep a log over a period of time  Read a sample story  Take a test  Role play in front of a mirror  Describe in words or draw a metaphor privately  Vote using dots

External
 Build a model with a partner or team  Do a skit about a project  Present skills in front of a group  Give live feedback to a partner  Perform a song or activity  Teach back a task or new learning  Role play a call or interactive skill in front of people  Act out a metaphor, with props and drawings  Vote and debate the basis for the choices Take This With You: Think of your next communication session…Look at your plan or design and plot the activities on the chart. Are you leaning towards external activities? Are you weighted on internally focused exercises? What can you do to create more balance and flow?

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Balance Chart: Looking at Design
Check your session design. Look at each activity and plot what activities you’re doing that are more internally focused and what activities you’re planning for that are more externally focused.

Balance Chart: What Really Happened
Check your session delivery. Look at a recent session through the lens of “what actually happened.” Did you stay true to your balanced plan? Did you go in a different direction that seemed to work better than what you planned?

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Step-by-Step Instructions How To Activate How Adults Learn
As you get down to the nitty-gritty of putting adult learning principles into action, keep a specific session in mind. Write notes to yourself so that you can capture immediately applicable ideas related to each principle. Put the principles to work right away and they’ll become second nature to you.

 Resist change
The change process for adult learners is often complex and involves unlearning patterns of thinking and behaving.

TIPS
 Make it OK to talk about or express resistance  Anticipate that resistance is part of learning something new  Create a safe environment to discuss the challenges of learning

Questions to Ask Yourself
 How can you prepare for resistance?  How can you make room for resistance?  What can you do to make room for expression of resistance?  What could go wrong if I don’t anticipate resistance?

Take This With You
How can you use this principle in your next session?

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 Are self-directed
Adults typically have strong needs to accomplish their own learning agendas.

TIPS
 Build the agenda for the session with participant/s  Ask participants to set their own goals and expectations  Show options for process and let participants select their favorite  Provide choices for learning modalities and follow their lead  Tie back activities to individual requests

Questions to Ask Yourself
 How could you increase self-direction in your session?  When could you hold a survey and re-design based on results?  Where could you get feedback and input about preferences in agenda?  What question can you ask to discover the learning agenda and priorities for your participant/coachee?

Take This With You
How can you use this principle in your next session?

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 Are problem-focused
Adults are anxious to experience success in reaching solutions to problems in an atmosphere of cooperation.

TIPS
 Discover what problem your coachee/participant needs to solve  Anchor motivation to positive outcome, “ How would it be if you solved this ____ problem?” “ Would it be worth it to you to solve this?”  Have testimony from someone who has solved the problem.  Tell a story where you had a similar problem and now share the benefits you experience from having solved the problem.

Questions to Ask Yourself
 How can you discover their most pressing problem(s)?  What can you do to realistically re-enact the problem?  What can you anticipate about the problem solving process?

Take This With You
How can you use this principle in your next session?

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 Need to see relevance
Adults learn best when they see immediate relevance to their personal life or work life.

TIPS
 Use language, key words, acronyms and slang that they use  Use examples and stories that are from their industry or company  Speak about related examples as a story  Build on experiences that they share with you

Questions to Ask Yourself
 What can you do to learn and match their expression?  How can you gain more depth and experience of what they are facing?  What can you do to reduce speaking in your own “code” language?  How can you use a diagram to show direct relevance?

Take This With You
How can you use this principle in your next session?

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 Prefer a variety of teaching methods
Adults like variety and find satisfaction in making decisions about their learning experience including tasks, break and schedules. Combine from these tools—vary for your unique situation: • Presentation • Demonstration • Activities • Games • Diagrams and charts • Discussion • Personal experiences • Role-plays • Scoring and surveys • Tips • Reviewing sample work

TIPS
 Add variety by cycling through tell-show-do types of activities.  Change tools and teaching/presentation/coaching methods.  Build agenda and plans with the participant/coachee.

Questions to Ask Yourself
 Where can you add more variety of methods?  How can you get them up out of their seat?  When can you add movement and physical activity?  Where can you stretch into a new debriefing method?

Take This With You
How can you use this principle in your next session?

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 Need to integrate learning with own experience
Adults want to reflect on new information and integrate their life experiences and background knowledge.

TIPS
 Encourage them to speak about how new relates to what they know.  Provide time in session and between sessions for self-reflective journaling.  Ask how this new information relates to their life experiences.  Provide a diagram to map new information with past/current knowledge.

Questions to Ask Yourself
 How can you support integration in materials and tools?  How can your session design support integration of new with known?  Where can you include more self-reflection time for participant/coachee?  What have you found valuable in self-integration that you want to apply to your next session?  How else can you determine what would work for this individual?

Take This With You
How can you use this principle in your next session?

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 Respond well to active/interactive learning
Adults often respond well to a learning atmosphere that is purposely active, but with out wasting time. Studies on training effectiveness show that people remember the most when they use all their senses: seeing, hearing, speaking and doing! Keep focusing on how else you can provide opportunities to get, “hands-on!”

TIPS
 Relate activities to real-application situations.  Tie exercises closely to specific repeatable skills.  Use metaphors that relate to your client’s work/life.

Questions to Ask Yourself
 What can you do to create a hands-on activity for a specific skill?  How can you translate “X” into a game?  How can you translate the learning with a prototype?  What props can you use to make this activity realistic?

Take This With You
How can you use this principle in your next session?

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 Desire immediate opportunities to apply
Adults learn best when direct application is not incidental but is planned, deliberate outcome with opportunity to practice. Steps

TIPS
 Identify opportunities to apply that can happen in the next 24 hours.  Prepare for specific practice opportunities.  Organize a check-in system for feedback after next practice session.  Prepare for self-reflection of the practice session with a checklist, log or journal.

Questions to Ask Yourself
 How can you tie theory to immediate practice opportunities?  What else can you do to focus on practical and immediate application?  How can you make a role-play into a first opportunity for skill practice?

Take This With You
How can you use this principle in your next session?

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 Learn best in safe environment
Adults often learn best in a trusting, safe environment where they can risk change.

TIPS
 Small things make a big difference. Start on time. End on time. Eliminate the possibility of interruptions.  Be genuine and listen fully. Listen with undivided attention.  Practice being totally present. Your undivided focus creates safety.  Listen and ask open-ended questions. Watch out that you don’t interrupt or cut the other person off.  Write down and/or make a map of what the other person is saying. This demonstrates that you’re listening fully.  Pay extra special attention to the beginning and end of meetings. This is what people remember the most.

Questions to Ask Yourself
 What can you do to increase the safety of the environment?  Have you eliminated all potential disruptions? (phone calls, pagers, interfering noises, unexpected noises or interruptions)  How can you increase the trust level in this conversation?  Have you taken care of confidentiality issues?

Take This With You
How can you use this principle in your next session?

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 Prefer working with peers to process/practice
Adults prefer working with peer groups to process and rehearse new skills.

TIPS
 Give clear instructions that are easy to follow.  If you are working one-on-one, practice the skills live.  If you are in a group, pair up peers to rehearse new skills.  Set up trios, to encourage peer practice and observation.  Assign peer practice as a post-session activity.

Questions to Ask Yourself
 How can you increase peer practice opportunities?  If you are working long distance, how can you encourage peer practice and then have report-outs?  What activity are you currently “talking about” that can be adapted to peer rehearsal?

Take This With You
How can you use this principle in your next session?

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Ongoing Focus on Learning
As you’ve seen, there are many ways that you can activate these principles into your communication, in a wide variety of situations. Pick a recent session and evaluate how well you included each principle. Repeat this daily, weekly or as frequently as you like. After a period of time, compare your charts. Are you noticing patterns? Are there certain principles that you, “just never seem to address?” If so, refer back to that principle—use the tips and adjust them to your situation. Ask yourself questions that get you thinking about how you could stretch to include this principle. Remember, it’s a process. Some sessions will have more variety, address all principles, and be highly balanced. Others, well—there’s room for improvement. Be patient and be persistent. This is a skill you can learn by doing it. Keep observing what you DO and what you DON”T do. You’ll learn from both ends of the spectrum! Keep going—you’re doing great work! Keep learning and exploring what you can do to make all your interactions—your trainings, coaching sessions, meetings and presentations highly engaging. You’ll find articles, research, tools and techniques that you can use right away at: www.coachmaps.com www.better-stress-advice.com www.visual-learning-magazine.com

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Score yourself: Application is Everything!
For each principle, circle the number that represents how frequently you applied this principle to create engagement and learning in your session. 1= Never 2= Seldom 3= Half of the time 4= Often 5= As much as possible Resist change Session is self-directed Activity is problem-focused Need to see relevance Variety of teaching methods Integrate learning with experience Active/interactive learning Immediate opportunities to apply Established a safe environment Working with peers to practice 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5

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