Learning Theory in T&D Job Ads: Is there any ‘there’ there?

Vince Cyboran, Ed.D., Chair, Graduate Program in Training and Development

Most ads for Training and Development jobs include at least a token mention of learning theory, particularly as it relates to adults. To anyone with more than a passing familiarity with learning theory—particularly as it relates to adults—the wording of these ads is troublesome. Let’s examine two recently posted ads to determine exactly what they are looking for.

This first ad explicitly mentions ‘Adult Learning Theory.’

My guess is that they are referring to Andragogy and its principles.  They are not referring to Behaviorism/Radical Behaviorism, Cognitivism, or Constructivism or any other theories focusing on how humans learn. While the underlying philosophy of Andragogy appears to be something upon which most T&D professionals can agree (Forrest & Peterson, 2006), the underlying science of Andragogy is problematic (Rachall, 2002).

In this second ad, ‘adult learning theory’ is not capitalized. Further, we see that this employer has lumped ‘the ADDIE model’ with ‘adult learning theory.’

How does the wording about ‘learning theory’ in an ad affect your preparation for a job interview? Should you mention ‘andragogy’ during an interview?


Forrest, J. P., & Peterson, T. O. (2002, May). It’s Called Andragogy. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 5(1), 113-122.

Rachall, J. Andragogy’s Detectives: A Critique of the Present and a Proposal for the Future. Adult Education Quarterly, 52(3), 210-217.

About Vince Cyboran

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

5 Responses to Learning Theory in T&D Job Ads: Is there any ‘there’ there?

  1. J. Vargas says:

    When a job posting clearly mentions the phrase, learning theory I believe it is essential to refresh yourself with those theories you are familiar with. When going into an interview one should only bring up those topics they are comfortable discussing therefore being prepared to discuss specifics learning theories would be a good idea. Since the job ad specifically mentions the ADDIE model I think it’d be very important to at least become familiar with that theory!

  2. When looking at T&D job postings I always assume the job description and post was written by someone in Human Resources because a lot of times they are not familiar with the proper terminology of many defined areas within an organization. If you can identify the main requirements of the job then you can prepare for those specifics as well as elaborate on the different theories during the interview process. I wouldn’t waste alot of time explaining them to someone in HR but I would go into greater detail when I met with the manager or someone else working in the particular area.

    Reading between the lines is your best offense.

  3. Darryl Jefferson says:

    Learning theory in an ad is certainly not an attraction to the interviewing process.
    I strongly believe that the job you may be applying for need to be centered on the
    skills and experience one may have with the knowledge of what they have learned
    about the social learning theories. Organizations or Companies today would like
    canidates who are proficent in the knowledge of these theories, so that they can apply these theories in a problem solving situations, instead of making it the central focus of the job interviewing

  4. kiverson says:

    Since it’s a job interview, I think it’s best to be prepared with a review of several learning theories–not just Andragogy but also Constructivism, Behaviorism, and Social Learning Theory to name a few. The trick in a job interview is to appear well prepared and knowledgeable while not coming off as someone who is overly zealous about theory without also understanding application. Organizations are looking for employees who can add value–with this focus in mind, consider how the application of theory can add value to workplace learning.

    • Terri Moore says:

      You have to be prepared to talk about the various kinds of learning theory during an interview, not just andragogy. I agree with Kathleen that during an interview you want to let the interviewer know that you understand the theory and it’s to your benefit to provide examples of how you have acutally applied the theory on the job or in a school project (if you are new to the field). The outcome of an interview is to be the successful candidate.

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