Understanding Adult Learning

When it comes to seminars and workshop, people often ask what adult learning is. Seldom do people realize that the way we learn as children and adolescents is very different from how we do as adults. This is because as adults, we are usually able to make our own decisions independently and we can be responsible to our own success. We use the information we have in order to make these decisions and choices.

Adult Learning

In 1985, Malcom Knowles who pioneered in adult learning has observed that adults learn better given certain conditions. He also made assumptions that learning in adults is based on 5 assumptions. First, he mentioned that as an adult matures, he moves from a dependent personality to being a self-directed human being. Second, the person’s experience becomes a very healthy source of valuable information that grows over time. Third, the adult learner becomes more oriented toward developing and learning things that are relevant to their role in the society. Fourth, the adult learner wants to immediately apply what they learned rather than delay its application. Fifth, that the person’s interest and motivation toward learning is innate.  

Let us attempt to understand these conditions so that we can see how we can create better training programs for our adult learners.  

Adults need to understand the importance of learning the information. Adults tend to retain information which they see as valuable to the things they do on a daily basis. During learning events, it is important to discuss how the new information can be used in practically at work. By discussing these, it motivates the adult learner to remember the information that is shared. It also helps them make an active decision to learn.

Adults need to learn using a method that is appropriate to them. There are different types of learners and you need to create a program that can touch base with most of these learners. Most learners are either Kinesthetic, Visual, or auditory. But there are many other learning styles for adults.

Experiential learning is always more powerful. Experiential learning is when adults apply what they have learned. You will notice that workshops allow adults to have an opportunity to test out what they learned through exercises. Sometimes, it even requires role-playing activities to experience the learning firsthand. The application is usually immediate so that the adult learner is able to retain the lessons longer and more effectively.

Timely learning. You need to allow the participants to learn something that is appropriate to their needs. Timing is important. When you schedule the learning session, put it at a time that they are thinking actively. If you have a choice between morning and evening after work hours, the former may be the better option as they are not yet tired. This gives more readiness for them to learn. Lessons related to recent life events also prove to be learned faster.

Positive Encouragements. It is very important for adults to feel encouraged to do the task. Boosting their confidence always works better than shaming them in class. You need to make adults realize that they have the power to apply change because most of them rely on habits. Validating that they have done the task successfully based on standards help them feel ease in getting out of their comfort zone and trying new things. 

Adult learners are never to be treated like the younger students. They should be given some level of autonomy. To see the contrast, we should realize that teacher-centred learning is never applicable. Adult learners cannot just be quiet listeners who will do what they are told; they have to be involved, encouraged, and motivated so that they can comprehend and retain information long-term.   

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