Insights into Adult Learning

Insights into Adult Learning

Insights into Adult Learning

Adults learn in a different way from that of children. Children are like sponges, they tend to learn every new thing from every single moment. On the other hand, adults learn when they feel the necessity to learn. They are more practical in their approach and would be open to learning only when the knowledge they gain is going to provide them substantial benefit.

So how do adults learn?

  • Adults tend to learn in a more self conscious way. They often decide on their own what they want to learn for themselves. Adults cannot be forced to learn something. It is only when, they are sure that something is in store for them would they be open to learning. Their interest will be enhanced when they are told about the positive outcome of learning. It would be very difficult to retain their support if they don’t see any benefit from the process.
  • Another school of thought states that adults learn best by doing. The idea is expressed in the proverb: “What I hear is what I forget; what I see is what I remember; what I do is what I understand”. Any learning that helps the individual apply the knowledge gained to his day to day life makes it relevant and hence has greater acceptability.
  • Adults prefer to learn through a systematic and structured way. This process of learning tends to produce better results.
  • Adults learn from their own experiences and opinions. They bring along with them their own experiences in the learning process. Learning becomes more effective when past experiences are discussed or new experiences are gathered from the practical exercises.
  • Each adult has his own preferences and learning techniques that he is comfortable with. He uses these techniques while integrating the learning concepts.
  • It has been observed that adults learn best in a non-formal atmosphere (safe and comfortable). It is where they feel the presence of “blame free” environment. They feel safe and secure as they feel accepted by the trainers and are free from any fear of criticism.
  • Another method of learning that adults generally love to explore is by solving problems that are relevant to their life. It is based on the practical understanding of their daily problems and finding solutions to it.
  • A good trusting relationship with the teacher is another factor contributing to the adult’s learning process. The continuous support of the teacher is important to gather the courage to ask questions and learn from it.

These are some of the thoughts that come to mind when we talk about the way adults learn. I will be interested to learn your views on the subject. Do share your thoughts on the same.

View Presentation On Experiential Learning - An Effective Learning Method

  • Valerie

    I tend to disagree that adults learn best by “doing”. I’ve come across many audible and visual learners. When designing training, it’s important to include techniques that will pique the learning for all three types of learners, and not just cater to kinesthetic.

    Speaking of kinesthetic learners, though, they are the worstfidgeters in lecturing. To keep them focused, you want to give them something to “fiddle with”. The little koosh balls, hard candies, gum, and pipe cleaners are great tools to keep them paying attention.

  • Nan

    While teaching software classes, your statement “Adults learn from their own experiences and opinions” is SO true. I had a lot of fearful adult learners who had such bad experiences prior to coming to my beginning computer class that they were convinced they would break the computer! In that case, their previous experience hindered their success.

    I had to break down the training into very granular steps so #1, they felt comfortable moving forward, and #2, build up their confidence so they would experiment and explore, and #3, praise, praise, praise them consistently.

    Along the lines of Virginia’s comments, I have seen many cases where working adults would prefer to be given the high level overview of a topic, then go back to their desk and apply it when the situation arises. One example: I had over 100 people waiting for an advanced PowerPoint class. With our current resources, it would have taken months to fulfill the requests.

    So I offered a brown bag lunch for those people who didn’t need hands-on time, but they would just like to observe the key features. My waiting list dropped to about 16 people. I held the brown-bag session and scheduled classes for the other 16. Those who left the brown-bag session were given the opportunity to attend a class, too, just in case they changed their minds and wanted hands-on.

    Obviously, the type and subject of a class will alter the methodology, but so does the experience, level, goals and learning style of the adult.

  • I think everyone learns differently regardless of how old they are. I personally, am a very hands-on learner, so I don’t think there’s a way to just lump all adults into one category when the truth is that we are all original and unique human beings who learn differently.