Adult Learning is Not Just a Theory…It’s Reality

By Patricia O’Neal, Master’s Candidate, TRDV 499

I attended college for the first time as an adult. After being out of high school for almost 20 years, I finally decided that it was time to earn a college degree. Now, needless to say, I was a bit apprehensive about attending college and subsequently earning a degree. I was scared and felt out of place when I walked into the classroom as the majority of the other students were much younger than me. As the semester went on, I soon discovered that I viewed situations and arrived at conclusions in a slightly different manner than my classmates.

That was back in 2004 and I have since learned that what I was experiencing at that time had a name—andragogy. Andragogy is a theory that was developed by Malcolm Knowles in the 1970s. Knowles believed that adults learn differently than children, and, as a result, should receive different treatment in the classroom. As reported by ASTD (2006), there are five principles that affect the way that adults learn according to Knowles:

  • Adult learners have a need for self-direction and learn best when they have some control over what they learn.
  • Linking learners’ prior experience to learning is an important way to create powerful learning.
  • Learners’ readiness to learn is linked to their perception of its importance in filling their roles.
  • Adult learners seek knowledge they can use immediately to solve a problem or complete a task.
  • Adult learners are motivated to learn by internal incentives and curiosity (as cited in Beich, 2008, pg. 24).

Self-direction and experience are at the very core of learning for adults. Adults take the initiative and are responsible for what they learn and when they learn it. I am now in my final semester of graduate school and I can personally attest to the principles listed above. I learn best when I am able to determine and manage my own learning activities. After reading this blog post, I ask that the next time that you encounter an adult in a learning environment, please remember that adult learning is not just a theory, its reality.

As an adult, how important is it to you to be involved in the way that you learn?

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About Vince Cyboran

Professor in the graduate program in Training and Development of Roosevelt University.
This entry was posted in Guest Student Post, Learning Theory. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Adult Learning is Not Just a Theory…It’s Reality

  1. Annie R. Stubenfield says:

    Adult Learning/Teaching/Training is a necessity when dealing with adults. There is nothing that is more a turnoff then when someone is giving a training and do not apply andragogic techniques. We lose interest because we are driven by our own needs and wants. We know what it is we want and don’t need the fluff that is included with pedagogic training. Not Me! Adult Learning is alive and well!

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