How Adults Learn

Adults are different from children when it comes to how thy learn.

May 6,2023

How Adults Learn

You might have heard this cliché: you’re never too old to learn something new. And this is true.

Whether you want to pick up a new skill, a new hobby, or a new way of looking at things, you can always keep learning and growing. But how do you learn as an adult? Is it different from how you learned as a kid? What are some of the things that make learning easier or harder for you? And how can you make learning fun and rewarding for yourself? In this blog post, we’ll talk about some of the cool stuff that researchers have found out about adult learning, and give you some ideas and examples of how to make your own learning awesome.

Today I want to talk about how adults learn differently from children and what implications this has for teaching and training.

You might have heard of the term "andragogy", which means "the art and science of helping adults learn". It was coined by Malcolm Knowles, an American educator who developed a theory of adult learning based on five assumptions:

- Adults are self-directed learners who have a need to know why they are learning something and how it relates to their goals and interests.

- Adults have a wealth of prior experiences that they can draw upon and relate to new information.

- Adults are more motivated by intrinsic factors such as personal growth, satisfaction, and achievement than by extrinsic rewards such as grades or certificates.

- Adults are more oriented to problem-solving and practical applications than to abstract concepts and theories.

- Adults have different learning styles and preferences that vary depending on their personality, background, and situation.

These assumptions suggest that adults learn best when they are actively involved in the learning process when they can choose what and how they learn, when they can connect new knowledge to their existing knowledge and experience, and when they can see the relevance and usefulness of what they are learning, and when they can learn at their own pace and in their own way.

So how can we apply these principles to design effective learning experiences for adults? Here are some tips:

- Start with the learners' needs and interests. Find out what they want to learn, why they want to learn it, and how they plan to use it. Then tailor the content and activities accordingly.

- Provide clear learning objectives and outcomes. Explain what the learners will be able to do or know by the end of the session or course. This will help them focus on the purpose and value of the learning.

- Use a variety of methods and media. Use different formats such as lectures, discussions, demonstrations, simulations, case studies, games, etc. to appeal to different learning styles and preferences. Use different media such as text, audio, video, images, etc. to enhance the presentation and retention of information.

- Encourage active participation and interaction. Ask questions, solicit feedback, facilitate group work, promote peer learning, etc. to engage the learners and stimulate their thinking. Provide opportunities for practice and application. Give them tasks or problems that require them to apply what they have learned in realistic or relevant situations. Provide feedback and guidance along the way.

- Respect the learners' autonomy and responsibility. Allow them to make choices and decisions about their learning. Give them some control over the pace, sequence, and depth of the learning. Encourage them to set their own goals and monitor their own progress. Support them in finding additional resources or sources of help if needed.

I hope this post has given you some ideas on how adults learn and how you can design better learning experiences for them. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below. Thanks for reading!

Co-founder, Career Curators

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