Each day provides us with an opportunity to learn, and as we grow and transition from a child to an adult, our ability to absorb concepts and grasp things goes through a radical shift. Adults get inspired by their experiences, surroundings, and company, which play a crucial role in the entire adult learning process. In this article, we will explore the Adult Learning Theory and how to apply it to learn faster.
What is Adult Learning Theory?
The Adult Learning Theory is a field of research that studies the differences between the ways adults and children learn. It suggests ways to make adult learning more effective. The US Department of Education suggests various adult learning theories, including Andragogy, Transformational Learning, and Experiential Learning.
Andragogy is a theory related to educating adult learners. Malcolm Knowles introduced this theory in the 1950s. It is based on five assumptions and four principles of adult learning that work in harmony to promote self-directed learning. The five assumptions include Self-concept, Adult learner experience, Readiness to learn, Orientation to learning, and Motivation to learn. The four principles of Andragogy are that:
1. Adults should take part in the planning and evaluation of their learning instructions.
2. Experience serves as the foundation of learning.
3. Adults are inclined towards learning subjects that have an immediate impact on their job and career.
4. Adult learning is not content-centered, but problem-centered.
Andragogy highlights the importance of adults’ experiences, which serve as the foundation for future learning experiences. It also focuses on problem-centered learning, which is relevant to adult learners as much of their work often involves problem solving.
Transformational Learning is a theory developed by socialist and professor Jack Mezirow. It focuses on the meaning of learning experiences. The theory consists of ten steps, and each step reflects on the experiences of an adult learner at various levels:
1. Experiencing a disorienting dilemma
2. Undergoing self-examination
3. Critically assessing assumptions
4. Recognizing a connection between one’s discontent and the process of transformation
5. Exploring options for new roles, relationships, and actions
6. Planning a course of action
7. Acquiring knowledge or skills for implementing one’s plans
8. Trying new roles on a provisional basis
9. Building competence and self-confidence in new roles and relationships
10. Integrating the changes into one’s life
Experiential Learning theory was developed by David Kolb. It focuses on learning through reflection and experience. This theory states that adults can learn through their experiences without needing a teacher.
How do Adults and Children Learn Differently?
Adults have different learning styles when compared to children. Several factors play an important role, including:
1. Adults Get Inspired From Their Wealth of Experience: As adults, we have seen the world and find internal motivation through those life experiences. We have a network of friends, relatives, colleagues, and neighbors that impact our learning experience.
2. Adults Need Better Opportunities to Self-Reflect on Their Learning: When compared to children who behave socially in classroom settings, adults are not as vocal about their learning experience. Therefore, we need better learning opportunities to interact, self-reflect, and retain the information.
3. Adults Are Not Good at Taking Directions Without Knowing the Motive: Adults won’t retain information without knowing why it is relevant for their end-goals.
4. Adults Have a Predetermined Idea About Learning Styles: Adults prefer learning styles that are suitable for their needs.
5. Adults Are Sensitive Toward Failures: Unlike children, adults are not willing to experiment due to social filters.
6. Adult Learning Habits Are Inspired by Their Immediate Relevance: Adults have a defined career path, and their learning is inspired by its immediate, real-world impact on their career and daily life.
How to Benefit from Adult Learning Theory to Learn Effectively
The ways in which adults learn are different from children, and you can leverage your needs to connect with experience to learn effectively and effortlessly. Here are some ways to do that:
1. Make the Best Use of Technology: Adults prefer learning on their own. Thus, making use of technology could be your best bet here. Choose to learn in a format that is easy to navigate, doesn’t provide redundant information, and encourages you to learn more.
2. Choose Visual-Based Learning: Adding complementary visuals to text improves learning outcomes by 89%. This works particularly well when you have limited information on the topic and are learning it from scratch.
3. Use Audio: Audio descriptions help explain complex concepts better, and they highlight important points.
4. Get Actively Involved in the Learning: Learn by getting involved in role-playing activities. This will help you bridge the gap between theoretical and practical concepts.
5. Exercise a Bit of Ownership: Exercise control over your educational experience to get the most out of it.
6. Make Use of Supplementary Materials: Judge your requirements well and use any supplementary material that best resonates with your learning habits.
To make your learning experience pleasurable and unforgettable, understand your requirements and analyze what works for you. As adults, we have different learning styles, and finding the one that suits us can be a game changer. With the Adult Learning Theory, you can leverage your wealth of experience to learn effectively and effortlessly.