Adult and Child Learners – Their Influence on Instructional Design

Adult and Child Learners – Their Influence on Instructional Design

Instructional strategy largely depends on the target audience. Instructional designers need to understand their target audience and their learning preferences before designing courses. In this post, let’s explore how adult learners differ from child learners.

Adult Learners:

Adult learners are self-directed, drawing on their experience and don’t normally seek direction from others. They have their own learning styles and are motivated to learn when the learning fulfills a need. Imposing learning by external means may not have desirable results and the urge to learn is best inspired through intrinsic factors such as specific goals to improve their knowledge base. Quite naturally, any learning activity that helps them to reach their goals would attract their interest.

Adult learners expect justification for performing an activity suggested by trainers. They seek proof or validation before accepting any new information that is put forward. They are at their best when encouraged to ask questions or discuss issues. Learning by questioning and participating in discussions comes naturally to them. As they already have hands on experience in diverse areas, learning takes place in the context of their knowledge and experience. Learning has to be complementary to the rich experience that they already have.

Child Learners:

On the contrary child learners receive information passively. They accept information at face value. It is observed that children may not consciously learn for the sake of learning but absorb a lot of knowledge while playing and participating in games. Child learners may not perceive the value of learning but are motivated to participate in the process when directed by someone else in a manner that best suits them. They are not really bothered about the outcome of the learning process and participate in the process as long as it is appealing and enjoyable to them. Learning happens quite unconsciously through various sources – formal as well as informal by observing and by imitating.

Child learners imitate their friends and elders. In the process they learn a lot. Since they have limited experience with respect to any subject matter, they do not have any specific goals. However, as they have fresh and sharp minds they retain information effectively. They respond better to visual aids such as diagrams, posters, 3D objects.

Children perceive the value of learning only to the extent that their classmates, teachers or family members influence them. The unique quality of child learners is that they learn regardless of knowing how it benefits them.

While the basic instructional tools, may be the same whether you design courses for children or adults, there is a fundamental difference in the approach and strategy that is to be adopted. How do you think the instructional strategy differs based on whether the course is meant for a child or an adult? Do share your thoughts and ideas about the same.

  • Understanding personality type is a valuable resource in conducting trainings. Each of us has a learning style based on our personality type. Trainers can conduct their classes using the four major learning styles of personality type and everyone attending will be able to understand and utilize the information taught.