Adult Learning Theory. What is it?
In our last blog, we mentioned the adult learning theory. You may have no idea what this even is! We’re going to go through that with you, as it’s an important part of understanding how adults learn. As well as what you can do to facilitate that learning. The learning theory has been around for years. It is relatively simple to grasp, so we’re going to tell you why its principles are important to apply in training.
So, what is the adult learning theory? Also known as andragogy, it highlights the distinct ways that adults respond to learning. Malcolm Knowles developed this theory. Don’t worry we’re not going to drag on about his life! To learn about it, it’s important to know who made it.
This theory is the art and science of adult learning and how adults differ from children, and how they learn. The theory wants to show how adult learning is distinct and identify learning styles that will suit them best. Over the years, the theory has been added to, but its core assumptions remain the same.
5 Assumptions of the Adult Learning Theory
This contains 5 assumptions about the characteristics of adult learners. Each of these assumptions outlines how adults perceive learning and how they prefer to train. So what are these theories?
- Adult learner experience
- Readiness to learn
- Orientation of learning
- Motivation to learn
Now, this may seem like nothing to you, so we’re going to go through what each one means.
This is how as we get older, we make a shift in becoming independent. This means that how we prefer to learn changes to be a more self-directed approach.
Adult Learner Experience
This theory is all about the life experiences that adults already have. That they draw upon when they’re learning to draw knowledge and references. What they take from these experiences and what they learn from them.
Readiness to Learn
Adults generally want to learn when there is a reason for it. When the goal is to advance a career, develop a career, or progress within a field.
Orientation of Learning
As adults, we generally want what we are learning to apply to our lives. We want relevance. In a generalized topic area, there has to be something to which it can be related. So as adult learners they want practical skills to solve problems and to work better.
Motivation to Learn
Adults tend to be more self-motivated, as they would understand the value of education. As well as this, adults tend to be self-motivated in their careers. They would have a solid goal or set goal that they want to get too in mind. So they know where they need to get to they just have to have the education to get there. In contrast to children, they aren’t forced to learn, they have chosen to do so.
4 Principles of Andragogy
This is the balance of art and science to help adults learn. It is imperative to apply these four principles for adult learning to be more effective. If not, the learning will be ineffective. They need:
- Adults need to be involved in planning and evaluating their education
- Adults learn better from experience (even if they make mistakes)
- They are more interested in learning subjects that have immediate relevance and impact their job or personal life
- Problem-based learning is more important for adults than content-based learning.
Therefore, andragogy may be best suited to highly motivated adults. As a result, they might have a clear understanding of what they want and how to get it.
As this is something you should know as an Assessor, Teacher or Trainer. How the adult theory works and what it is. As well as how it can be applied in your teaching or training. Oftentimes, it is very obvious how to apply this. To use andragogy in your training, you should think about creating a space that opens the door to collaboration.
The materials should be relevant to what your learner needs. Explain why the content is important and use real-life examples of how it would benefit your learner, it adds relevance to their life. This starts to become more valuable for the learner. Their learning should come through the act of doing rather than memorising or repetition. You could provide common problems they may find in their role as a teacher/tutor or assessor, and how they go about developing solutions to the problems.