Designing basic skills training

Guidelines for designing effective training courses in basic skills

Research on learners has shown that adults learn differently from younger students. Adults have accumulated experience and can compare and contrast new knowledge against past learning. Adults have different needs as learners and these needs should be taken into consideration when planning training. Here is some advice on how to create training experiences that will enhance the learning of participants.

Tailored training

Embedded learning integrates or links basic skills learning into a broader curriculum, making it relevant to the real world and participants’ everyday lives. Tailored training has proven to be a motivating factor in adult learning and the course content should be based on topics that are related to individuals’ everyday life, such as work, other education, voluntary work, follow-up of children, personal finance and leisure activities.

Adapted courses

Training adults with different background when it comes to employment, family situation, interests, etc. can be challenging in many ways. A good approach is to create courses based on specific topics to gather adults with similar interests in the same course.

Relating basic skills training to professions is meaningful and motivating for the participants. Courses that focus on work-related topics from one sector, e.g. kindergarten, health and care, restaurants, etc. makes the training more relevant for adults that are searching for a job or already work in that specific sector.

Parents with school children is another target group for basic skills training. Many parents discover that things have changed since they were school children themselves, and therefore may want to freshen up their basic skills to be able to help their children with homework.

Learning goals

Sense of achievement and accomplishment is important for the learners' personal development. Setting realistic and achievable goals is motivating and contributes to strengthen the individuals’ confidence in their ability to learn. The learning goals should be tailored to the learners' needs and learning progression during the course. The trainer should facilitate the achievements by adapting content and challenges in the learning situation to the learners' needs.

The teacher should collaborate with the individual course participant to set adequate and explicit learning goals. This is especially important for motivating learners enrolled in courses that are not exam-oriented. Learning goals are also needed to develop learning plans and to measure individual progress. It may be appropriate to involve others in the work of defining learning goals, such as employers or supervisors at the employment office.


One of the key factors for successful recruitment includes accessibility for all. The training should be organized and offered at suitable hours and in approachable places. Training in the afternoon or evening is convenient for adults that are working during daytime.


As training should be relevant to the real world and adult’s everyday lives, information about training courses should also be made available in arenas where adults’ daily life unfold; as a parent, an employee, a member of an association, a job seeker, etc.

Recruiting channels

  • information leaflets, posters, etc. in various arenas, e.g. parent meetings at school, health centers, libraries, employment offices, local workplaces, associations, etc.
  • information meetings
  • information on the Internet
  • networking
  • key persons

Read more about basic skills training (in Norwegian only)