Adult Learning Theory and Practice, Principles and More

Article by Vera Mirzoyan / Updated at .28 Mar 2024
7 min read
Adult Learning Theory and Practice, Principles and More


The human brain is always in the process of learning something new. Of course, at a younger age, people have more to learn and they do it faster but we don’t have to be a kid to learn new things whether it’s a new profession or a skill improvement. Have you ever thought about what motivates adults to learn? Is it curiosity or a simple need to know? If we consider educational researches and the current behavior of learners, the truth is that adults are more complex individuals. This is because they have already background knowledge and experience so that it becomes more difficult to organize the teaching process.

In this article, I’m going to take into consideration the adult learning theory, what principles there are, and what methods are common.


What is the Adult Learning Theory?


Adult learning is about the situation when adults pursue education. This is usually implemented in a formal setting in higher education, trade school, or apprenticeship that considered to be adult learning centers. However, this can also be done for adults who simply want to learn any skill and pursue education in order to learn that skill or improve. There are many techniques and theories about how to effectively educate adults specifically, making adult learning an important point of study for many experts. Children and adults are very different when it comes to how they learn, so different techniques must be used in order to make learning effective for adults.


What is the Adult Learning Theory


These days, adult learning is mainly focused on online courses. The reason is obvious. Adults are busy. They work and time is very precious for them. So, they prefer to take part in online courses, watch them during breaks, when in transport, etc.


Adult Learning Principles


Sometimes it is difficult to work with adult learners as they have some principles, and as a good teacher, you need to understand them in order to provide expected services. 


- Background knowledge


Adults have an existing base of knowledge and life experience. This makes it more complex to teach them something. They seek out continuous learning based on personal interests, wants, and needs. And, in order to make them value your knowledge, either your content should be from the same approach as they used to know or you should provide enough trustworthy sources and examples so that they believe in it. 


- Obvious requirements


Adults understand why they want to learn. They have specific requirements and needs, or they have some goals that may be achieved with the help of new skills and experience. So, the level of their motivation is naturally high.


Adult Learning Principles


- Self-Directed Learning


This approach to learning is an interesting theory that has been around for hundreds of years. Self-directed learning (that is also known as self-direction learning) is the process where individuals take the initiative in their learning. They are the main decision-makers who plan, carry out, and evaluate their learning experiences without the help of others. Learners set goals, determine their educational or training needs, implement a plan, and do anything possible to enhance their own learning

Knowing their purpose of learning, adult learners consider it beneficial to work things out for themselves and organize themselves. In such cases, the role of “teacher” is more often effectively filled by a mentor, coach, peer, or expert. So, if you are such an education provider, focus on these principles to provide a good experience for the potential adult learners.


- Experiential Learning


The theory of experiential learning is focused on the idea that adults shaped by their experiences, and that the best learning comes from making sense of your experiences. Instead of memorizing facts and figures, experiential learning is a more hands-on and reflective learning style. Adult learners are able to utilize this theory and learn by doing, instead of just hearing or reading about something. Practice is a better solution in learning theoretical knowledge.


Adult Learning Principles


- Project-Based Learning


Learning by doing is an accepted approach in the educational industry. Project-based learning which is also known as problem-based learning is similar to experiential and action learning. In this case, the general idea is to actually do something to help the students learn, instead of reading or hearing about it. Project-based learning is based on real-world scenarios. Accordingly, projects are created for learners so that they can encounter a job in the future. Students get an opportunity to choose their own projects and pursue things they are interested in. Isn’t this a great option for adult learners who need real-world applications from their learning?


Adult Learning Techniques


These days many techniques are available that help adult learners improve the quality of learning, making the process more effective.  I’ll present some of the most common techniques below. Here we are.

Setting goals. Let’s take into consideration one point: learners who have a specific career goal in mind will have a better experience as they pursue their degree program. Such goals are essential as adult learning is more in their own hands than younger learners.

Deciding the why. Having a clear image of the purpose of pursuing education will help adult learners feel confident about their learning process. Understanding the importance of different courses in effectively reaching their goal can make sure they stay motivated.

Review information regularly. As adult brains are less plastic, it is harder for them to create new neural pathways. So, adult learners need to be ready to review their material more regularly. In this way, they will create those pathways easier.

Find experiences to help facilitate learning. Adult learners can greatly benefit from finding ways to get hands-on learning. Finding internships, job shadow opportunities, projects, and other experiential opportunities can help them get a firmer grasp of their learning and be more excited about how it will translate to real life.


Adult Learning Techniques


If you are an education provider who tends to make adult learners getting ready to pursue higher education, understanding different adult learning theories and strategies can help you provide even better material and be successful. Knowing the preferable learning style among the adult learners, understanding the strengths and weaknesses adult learners may have, can help you be a successful trainer.


What is the Best Way to Attract Adult Learning? 


As we have already discussed, adults learn better from experience. They favor a pragmatic approach and must be able to apply learning to solve a specific problem. Adults are most interested in learning things that have immediate relevance. Adults need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction. So, if you have good teacher qualities you will be able to find the best possible solutions and meet the learners’ needs with preferable services, theories, and principles.

The most essential point to focus on is time consideration. Adult learners are busy. They need to learn something, but if your teaching services are in fixed times they cannot attend, it is useless. They will miss it. Therefore, you do not want to miss potential learners. So, offer services taking into consideration the learners’ preferences.

The best way to focus on is the online teaching services. You may offer educational material, as well as practical tasks, on your personal teaching platform. It is easy, safe, and flexible for both sides. Teachers may prepare and publish material like online courses, webinars, live lessons, blog articles, quizzes, and even certificates. Learners get an opportunity to learn from anywhere and at any time.

In the end, I would just like to let you know about Uteach. This is a website builder for any kind of education provider. There are a lot of advanced features that will make the process easier and more fun. And the greatest thing is that you may get a FREE trial for 14 days without attaching any bank card. All the features are available during this trial so that you may choose the best subscription plan for your teaching services. Do not miss an opportunity.

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