Teaching philosophy for trainers

I was thinking, a training philosophy for trainers is a good idea because it is a directional and instructional lighthouse that keeps trainers progressing in the right instructional direction as facilitators and instructional designers. It ensures you’re always true to yourself and what you believe about the adults in your workshops or training sessions.

It provides the foundation for why you do things a certain way (Galbraith 1999).

Think about it: if someone asked you why you train and create content as you do, would you have an answer? If you know your training philosophy, you would.

Secondly, such a philosophy expresses how you view your adult learners. Do you believe your learners are to be actively involved in the training experience?

Or maybe you believe learners should assume more passive roles in the learning environment.

Trainers and Philosophy – where is the chatter?

I haven’t found many conversations on a teaching philosophy for trainers, so I thought I’d create one or at least share mine to inspire you to work on yours.

A teaching philosophy is the conceptual principles of practice and the rationale for how you approach teaching, training, or facilitation. The four teaching philosophies for adult education are Behaviorist, Radical, Liberal, Humanistic, and Progressive.

I like the way this paper breaks them down and explains them: https://www.jae-online.org/attachments/article/368/43-03-37.pdf. But, you can find information on the teaching philosophies for adult education in a variety of other places on the web as well.

Below is an AMAZING graphic from “The Educational Philosophies of Training and Development Professors, Leaders, and Practitioners” by Linda P. Spurgeon and Gary E. Moore.

You can read the entire breakdown of formal educational philosophy here: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ553242.pdf

training philosophy

I can train countless instructional modules, but I have only one training philosophy

You know, I can be trained to deliver any curriculum. Regardless of the subject, my teaching philosophy will not change. It is part of who I am at my core.

My approach remains the same.

teaching philosophy for a trainer

My strongest educational philosophy is Humanistic and my second is Progressive.

This matches my personality as an ENFP (or True Colors Blue) perfectly!

Each encompasses my personal ideology of valuing the humanity of every single person along with the experiences, previous knowledge, and perspectives they bring to the training environment (Price, 1999).

In my summation, facilitators ought to plan opportunities for learners to share previous knowledge about the content – even if that knowledge is minimal.

It establishes a starting place for the learner to share and exchange existing knowledge. It is a place from which to build.

Think of it this way: a family of four would never invest in a two-seater automobile because they want to have room for everyone, right?

Comparably, in my personal teaching philosophy, I believe facilitators should make ‘room’ for every learner’s involvement in the learning process. 

My teaching philosophy for trainers is rooted in this same theory of making sure everyone has a stake or a “seat” in the training environment.

Me, as a personal training philosophy example

One part of my personal philosophy: Motivating Learners to Share and Learn

As you know, several factors influence adults’ desire or motivation to learn.

For one, it helps to create a climate or atmosphere in which learners know they are valuable to the training or workshop. 

With this awareness, they will be more inclined to engage and participate in the process.

Even if they choose not to, they will have ample opportunities available to them.

Secondly, facilitators must be sensitive to the trepidation some learners may initially feel about actively engaging in the training.

This means consistently doing what is necessary to build a connection with all learners from the moment they enter the session and maintain it throughout.  (Sisco, 1991).

That connection will create a safe learning environment. When people feel safe, they fully immerse themselves in the content.

An Inclusive Atmosphere for Cooperation

This is the second part of my teaching philosophy.

Cooperative learning is a solid way to engage hesitant learners and build a sense of community among the entire group of trainees.  

In the intellectual exchange, learners can bond as they exchange ideas, challenge, question, and immerse in the learning content.  I feel this type of engagement is an antidote for boredom and disengagement because it provides stimulation and a learning journey with fellow learners. 

This can cultivate a synergism and a positive interdependence that can enrich learning (Wlodkowski & Ginsberg, 2009).  As they partake in this “journey”, they will be able to “reconstruct and transform prior knowledge” into something fresh and new. (Littles & Anderson p. 204).

I think this augments the experience for everyone – including me, the trainer. I learn so much when my learners are free to share, poke the content and challenge themselves.

teaching philosophy trainers and facilitators

Constructivism is associated with the Humanistic philosophy (Gogus, 2012).

The ability and freedom to construct one’s own knowledge is the height of autonomy, power, and volition over one’s learning. 

The liberty to associate what is understood and grapple with it to create a new body of understanding is almost mystical to me.

Have you noticed that something remarkable happens when people have a chance to be unreservedly creative? It’s mind-blowing what they can come up with!

Creative autonomy can inspire a positive attitude and a sense of self-efficacy, in my opinion, because it empowers the learners (Wlodkowski & Ginsberg, 2009) to be free, out-of-the-box thinkers.

Freedom from constraints is a breeding ground for creativity.

Benefits of having a Training Philosophy

What teaching philosophies do:

  • “It should guide the educational encounter” (Galbraith 1999)
  • Help you understand the “diversity of adult learners” (Galbraith 1999)
  • Prevent trainers from getting in the way of learning.
  • Solidify one’s instructional and facilitation values.

Michael Galbraith says your attitudes and feelings may change over time. He said this is a very necessary part of the growth and development of the facilitator or what he calls in “Philosophy and the Instructional Process”, a” practitioner of instruction.”

I agree.

Values is an important part of philosophy. I’m not going to go into that here. But, you can take learn more about values and even take a free questionnaire here on Positive Pshychology.com. The link is here.

My conclusive thoughts about learning philosophy

The two values above embody my teaching philosophy. Use it as an example or disregard it altogether.

Either way, I hope you’ll write your own.

Your teaching philosophy is important so you clearly understand how you approach teaching adults in your workshops.

You can take the Philosophy of Adult Education Inventory yourself here: http://www.labr.net/paei/paei.html or if you prefer a paper version you can print, here you go: https://pbea.agron.iastate.edu/files/Philosophy%20of%20Adult%20Education%20Inventory%20%281%29.pdf

Check out a professional development plan for trainers.

What is your teaching philosophy


Galbraith, M. W. (2000). Philosophy and the Instructional Process. Adult Learning, 11(2), 11–13. doi:10.1177/104515959901100204

Gogus A. (2012) Constructivist Learning. In: Seel N.M. (eds) Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning. Springer, Boston, MA. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-1428-6_142

Wlodkowski, R. J. & Ginsberg, M.B. (2017). Enhancing Adult Motivation to Learn. (4th ed.). Jossey-Bass.

Littles-Spigner D. & Anderson, Chalon E. (1999). Constructivism: A Paradigm for Older Learners. Educational Gerontology, 25:3, 203-209. DOI: 10.1080/036012799267828

Price, D. W. (1999). Philosophy and the Adult Educator. Adult Learning, 11(2), 3-5. doi:10.1177/104515959901100202

Sisco, B. & Hiemstra, R. (1991). Setting the Climate for Successful Teaching and Learning. Adult Learning, 3(6), 26–26. doi:10.1177/104515959200300612