Adult Learning Theory

Adult Learning Theory

If you can understand the learning style or learning pattern of your learners, then definitely it becomes easier to impart knowledge in a better way which can be more effective. The learning styles of adults are not as simple as children and so, it would be an interesting question to point out that how do adults learn as children do have a systematic pattern of learning? Children have foundation level of knowledge which directs them to learn further or move to the next level. But this is not so for adults and their learning concepts are different. Adult learning theory or andragogy was developed by Malcolm Knowles in the year 1968 to show the concepts of adult learning and how does it differ from child learning, which made it clear which learning style is best suited for them to make their leaning more effective. The theory emphasizes five key assumptions of learners and four principles of andragogy.

Five assumptions of Malcolm Knowles theory

The core part of this theory focuses on how adults want to be trained and how do they receive knowledge and perceive learning.

Self concept

As individuals grow, they start thinking independently and develop their maturity level. This expedites them to direct their own learning and they prefer to follow that.

Learning based on experiences

One of the important phases of life for adults are their experiences. They learn out of their experiences and what they do. The result or conclusion they draw from their experiences convert them in the form of knowledge to them which are the most superior learning for adults.

Readiness to learn

Adults prefer learning when they can figure out a reason which shows the value of learning. That means if they can see any knowledge or learning can promote their work or put them in a better position, adults move on with that learning smoothly.

Practical reasons to learn

Adults are more practical and look forward to leaning approaches which are problem centric and which will help them with a solution for any situation. They would be inclined to learn if that learning can make them work in a better way by gaining practical skills.

Internal motivation

Children keep on learning as that is the process of learning they have been taught by the external factors like parents, schools etc. But adults learn because of their own reason, that could be personal interest, work promotion, to compete in the present market or to enhance their knowledge or increase their confidence .

Four principles of Andragogy

Based on these assumption, Malcolm Knowles developed four principles suitable for adult learning or teaching:

  • Adults are self directed , so they don’t only want to participate in any learning rather they want to be a part of each and every single aspect of that learning. They want to know what content they are going to learn, what will be the learning period and how are they going to impart that learning.
  • Adults can activate their prior knowledge by reviewing their past experiences and learning can happen spontaneously by adding new knowledge. Their learning should be more focused by adding knowledge to the previous learning which has been drawn from experiences.
  • As adults believe in practical approach and look for solution that solves problem in real situation. Adults are not a good follower of paper-based facts and information but prefer taking information which has relevance to their work or their personal life.
  • Adults look forward to implement learning in the real-life situation, so what they learn, they also look forward to how they can implement that information immediately to make learning more effective.

How can you use Knowles theories in corporate training platform?

Definitely you can make your teaching or training effective by implementing these theories properly while training adults in corporate environment as well. E-learning is one of the popular platforms of training; can these theories be useful for such platform? So, here are some guidelines:

Adult learners acquire new information and build upon existing knowledge much more effectively if they are encouraged to explore a topic on their own. E-learning comes with a variety of tools and support system which give them the opportunity to learn at their own pace with proper guidance. You can also organize the practical application of training which would be best suited and relevant for your participants.

It would be always better to engage your participants in every stage or aspect of training, as adults are mature and more diverse, especially in terms of backgrounds, experience levels, and skill sets. All of this must be considered when designing and developing your eLearning courses and eLearning activities.

Survey your audience beforehand, talk to them and take their opinion. By doing this, you will also be able to create eLearning experiences that are informative and engaging, rather than too challenging or boring. On completion of training take feedback of everything starting from the content, software, activities involved and their experiences. This will boost its effectiveness and make it more immersive.

Now-a-days as people are more independent, so they look for learning which they can do at their ease. Years ago employees had to attend trainings allotted to them in spite of their wish. Big credit goes to this new age technology, now people can do training sitting at their home or from anywhere they prefer. E learning platform gives this opportunity to select suitable course for them and do it according to their comfortable time.

Adult learners, essentially, need to know the why and when before they actively engage in the eLearning process. They need to acquire specific information about what can be applied in the immediate future. However, mature learners prefer to engage in eLearning experiences that help them to solve problems they encounter on a regular basis. So, emphasize how the subject matter is going to help them, solve problems immediately by offering maximum number of real-life examples and scenarios.

Practice makes a man perfect, so it is always better to keep on adding something new to your training to improve it. These adult learning principles and assumptions can be applied to any eLearning deliverable in order to offer your adult learners a wide range of benefits.

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