How to apply the adult learning theory to learn faster

How to apply the adult learning theory to learn faster

How Understanding The Adult Learning Theory Benefits eLearning Development

Referred to collectively as andragogy, adult learning is not a one-size-fits-all model. Just as children need a variety of techniques to engage them, adults also require different approaches. In truth, expecting adults to sit in a classroom paying attention to multiple presentations is just as ineffective as it would be for a toddler. Adult learning theory is a way into the minds of adults—and getting there can help you create better eLearning.

How Do Adults Learn Differently From Children?

The principles of teaching adults acknowledge the different ways adults learn. Designing eLearning experiences for adults is not the same as lesson planning for kids. Here are 5 major ways adults learn differently from children:

1. Adults Require Autonomy

Because everything is so new for children, they require high levels of guidance and supervision. This is not true for adults.

Many adults bristle at being told what to do and micro-managed every step of the way. Design your eLearning with plenty of autonomy and opportunities for independent thinking for maximum (willing) participation and best results.

2. Adults Have Experience

From the boardroom to the mailroom, the adults in your company have lived complex lives. Your eLearning needs to acknowledge and incorporate the importance of their experience.

3. Adults Need Tailored eLearning

Adults will approach a training more enthusiastically if they can see how their skills will grow as a result. This is especially important as it relates to building their social and professional network in meaningful ways.

4. Adults Need Application

While this is true for children as well, adults, in particular, want to know how learning applies to their job.

Adults will put more energy into something with a payoff at the end. This includes learning opportunities that:

  • Make their job easier
  • Help them move towards promotion
  • Assist them in completing a high-profile task

5. Adults Need To Be Motivated

Maybe adults are just taller versions of their childhood selves. Just as children can’t seem to stop asking, “Why?” adult learners also need to know why they are participating in eLearning. If there is no good reason that they can see, they are more likely to abandon the training before it is completed.

Understanding these differences and keeping them in mind as you design your eLearning is crucial to employee buy-in and participation.

What Are The Major Types Of Adult Learning Theories?

There are 4 major types of the adult learning theory, including:

  • Transformational
  • Experiential
  • Self-directed learning
  • Neuroscience

Let’s look at these in more detail.

Transformational

The transformational learning theory (also referred to as transformative learning theory) seems tailor-made for adult learners.

This theory propounds that a person’s experience, and the examination of it, is crucial to creating meaning and learning something new. Essentially, an old understanding is re-examined in light of new evidence, and the learning (and learner) transforms. A paradigm shift occurs.

Learning of this type involves task-based assignments in which a learner has room to communicate their own needs and wants. The forums and discussions in eLearning are a collaborative way to apply transformational learning theory.

Experiential

Experiential learning satisfies the adult need for proper motivation and application of new learning. Designed as an immersive experience, experiential learning requires adults to apply their newly learned skills to a set of problems or towards a common goal.

This type of learning uses simulations and scenarios to engage the learner. These are followed by reflective observation of case studies or other applicable demonstrations. Adult learners then look at abstract scenarios before actively experimenting with applying their new knowledge.

This experiential learning honors adults for what they bring to the table. It gives them ample opportunity for practice and refinement of practical, applicable skills. Examples of this might be training on a new computer design software by leading learners through a completed, set design (e.g., a building schematic that already exists) before allowing them to experiment with their own designs.

Self-Directed Learning

Self-directed learning, as stated in Self-Directed Learning: A Key Component of Adult Learning Theory is “a process in which individuals take the initiative without the help of others in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating goals, identifying human and material resources, and evaluating learning outcomes.”

Think of the last time you learned something because you were interested in it. Maybe it was small engine repair, computer programming, or knitting. There was no one standing over you, forcing you to read a manual or practice. Self-directed learning is powerful for adults because the motivation to learn comes from the learner.

Considering how to incorporate self-directed learning into your eLearning course design may be as simple as offering choices in the mode of delivery, the order of the learning, or the subject matter. Once you conduct a training needs analysis, you will be able to see areas where self-directed learning can be incorporated.

Neuroscience

Finally, the very best eLearning designers consider the actual structure and function of an adult brain when designing their eLearning courses.

This theory of adult learning examines the manner in which the brain functions to maximize an adult’s ability to learn. Just as you would not try to force a baby to walk before they could support their head, the neuroscience theory of adult education take into consideration what a brain is ready for. This might mean tailoring the time, method of delivery, and configuration of the eLearning to enhance its benefits.

Understanding how adults learn differently and applying adult learning theory in different situations affects every part of your eLearning offerings. These factors can help you choose an appropriate mode of delivery as you tailor your information, activity, and assignments to your adult learners.

How to apply the adult learning theory to learn faster

How to apply the adult learning theory to learn faster

  • B.A., English, St. Olaf College

Teaching adults often looks very different from teaching children. Adult educators can make assumptions of their adult students that they would not make of children because adults have had vastly different life experiences and come with their own unique sets of background knowledge. Andragogy, or the practice of teaching adults, studies the best methods and approaches for effective adult education.

Malcolm Knowles’ Five Principles of Andragogy

Those teaching adults should understand and practice the five principles of andragogy espoused by Malcolm Knowles, a pioneer in the study of adult learning.

Knowles posited that adults learn best under the following circumstances:

  1. The learning is self-directed.
  2. The learning is experiential and utilizes background knowledge.
  3. The learning is relevant to current roles.
  4. The instruction is problem-centered.
  5. The students are motivated to learn.

By incorporating these five principles of andragogy into instruction, adult educators and learners alike will experience greater success in the classroom.

Self-Directed Learning

One of the most important differences between teaching children and teaching adults is the self-concept of adult learners. While young students tend to be dependent on their teachers to guide their learning and provide opportunities for application, adult learners are the opposite.

Adult learners are usually mature and self-confident enough to know how they learn best, what their areas of strength and weakness are, and how to go about learning. They don’t require much help acquiring resources or developing goals for learning because, in most cases, they have done this before and already have reasons for being in school again. Adult educators need to grant their students plenty of space and be there to support rather than guide.

Another benefit of self-directed learning is that students can design their studies around their preferred learning style—visual, auditory, or kinesthetic. Visual learners rely on pictures. They benefit from the use of graphs, diagrams, and illustrations. They learn best when they are shown what to do or what something looks like. Auditory learners listen carefully when they are learning and draw the majority of new knowledge through their ears. Things make the most sense to them when they are told how something should be. Tactile or kinesthetic learners need to physically do something to understand it. By performing something for themselves through a degree of trial and error, these learners will experience the most success.

Using Experiences as a Resource

Adult educators need to utilize each set of background knowledge in their classroom as a resource. No matter how old your adult learners are or what type of life they have led thus far, every one of your students will have acquired an extensive cache of experiences that you can draw on to make the most of what everyone brings to the table.

Rather than behaving as if the classroom should be a level playing field and ignoring irregular stores of background knowledge, use them to enrich instruction. Your students could be coming from vastly different walks of life. Some will be experts in an area that your whole class could benefit from learning about or will have experienced something very unfamiliar to the rest of your students.

The moments of authenticity and spontaneity that come from sharing with each other will prove to be some of the most powerful. Tap into the wealth of wisdom of your class as much as possible.

Relevance of Material

Adult students are most likely to want to learn about subjects that will have immediate pay-offs in their life, especially as it pertains to their social roles. As adults start to navigate marriage, parenthood, career positions, and other complex roles, they begin to orient themselves exclusively to them.

Adults have little use for material that is not relevant to the roles they already occupy and this is another reason for allowing students to play a part in designing their own curriculum. For example, some of your learners will want to learn about career advancement, but some, perhaps retirees or stay-at-home parents, will not need this information.

The job of adult educators is to get to know students well enough to be able to teach to their roles. Always keep in mind that your older students are there to accomplish something and probably have busy lives. The goal of adult education is to fit the needs of your students, who are more often than not opting to be there because they identified an area of need for themselves—ask and listen to them about what they want from this experience.

Problem-Centered Instruction

Adult learners do not desire to learn about material that doesn’t fit into their lives and they do not usually want their learning to be abstract either. Adults are practiced, knowledgeable, and flexible learners that have a lot of problems to solve. Unlike young students, they do not usually need long to think about unfamiliar subjects before trying a skill out for themselves because they exercise their problem-solving skills every day and learn more each time.

Adult educators need to tailor their instruction to specific problems that their students face rather than approaching their teaching one subject at a time. Andragogy is about spending more time doing than learning and the quality of instruction is much more important than topic coverage.

Motivation to Learn

“When the student is ready, the teacher appears” is a Buddhist proverb that applies well to all areas of education. No matter how hard a teacher tries, learning only begins once a student is ready. For most adults, returning to school after several years can be intimidating and a certain degree of apprehension should be expected in adult learners. Getting past the initial uneasiness of adult learners can be a challenge.

However, many adult educators find that their students are eager to grow their knowledge. Adults that have chosen to go back to school are probably already motivated to learn or would not have made the choice to continue their education. The teacher’s role in these cases is simply to encourage this motivation and help your students maintain positivity toward learning so they can move past any discomfort they may feel about their situation.

Listen carefully for teaching moments and take advantage of them. When a student says or does something that cues a new topic, be flexible and discuss it, even briefly, to show your students that their interests are important.

Once their motivation has been established, they absorb information in a cognitive manner, and retain such information as a result of critical reflection.

I believe adult learning is a process, rather than an end product.

The rationalization of what occurs while learning takes place is called a learning theory. In my opinion, the humanist, cognitive, and critical reflection theories most accurately illustrate the adult learning process.

The position of the Humanist is that a person has the capacity for self-awareness; that he has control over his behavior. The Humanist allows that a person has freedom of choice, self-determination and is responsible for his self-direction.

Further, the Humanist’s position — free will — bases on the belief that these free will attributes mature or “actuate” in an upward direction, that this progression of personal growth, and upon reaching an optimum level, result in maturity and positive self-awareness.

In cognitive learning and development, the individual learns by listening, watching, touching, reading, or experiencing and then processing and remembering the information.

Cognitive adult learning might seem to be passive learning, because there is no motor movement.

However, the learner is quite active, in a cognitive way, in processing and remembering newly incoming information.

Critical reflection is a process designed to promote the examination and interpretation of experience and the promotion of cognitive learning.

It is “a process by which service-learners think critically about their experiences,” of looking back on the implications of actions taken (good and bad), determining what has been gained, lost, or achieved, and connecting these conclusions to future actions and larger societal contexts.

Through reflection students analyze concepts, evaluate experiences, and form opinions. Critical reflection provides students with the opportunity to examine and question their beliefs, opinions, and values.

It involves observation, asking questions, and putting facts, ideas, and experiences together to derive new meaning. The progression from the initial humanist drive, to cognitive learning and development, ending with critical reflection most accurately demonstrates the adult learning process.

Application

In accordance with the Humanist learning theory, most adults are in continuing education courses to become self-actualized, mature, and autonomous.

Even so, it is often the responsibility of the facilitator to tap into the motivation that will help the adult learning process to be successful.

The best way to motivate adult learners is simply to enhance their reasons for enrolling and decrease the barriers.

How to apply the adult learning theory to learn fasterAs a facilitator of adult learning classes, I must learn why my students are enrolled (the motivators). Next, I must plan my motivating strategies. No one can motivate anyone to do anything, but facilitators can create circumstances in which adults motivate themselves.

I will create such circumstances by setting a specific feeling or tone for the class, setting an appropriate level of concern, and setting an appropriate level of difficulty.

I will try to establish a friendly, open atmosphere that shows the participants I will help them learn. Next, I will set an appropriate level of concern.

The level of tension must be adjusted to meet the level of importance of the objective. If the material has a high level of importance, a higher level of tension/stress should be established in the class.

However, people learn best under low to moderate stress; if the stress is too high, it becomes a barrier to learning.

Lastly, I will set an appropriate level of difficulty for the adult learning process.

The degree of difficulty should be set high enough to challenge participants but not so high that they become frustrated by information overload. The instruction should predict and reward participation, culminating in success.

In order to cater to adults’ cognitive learning needs, I plan to actively involve participants in the adult learning process and serve as facilitators for them.

Specifically, I will get participants’ perspectives about what topics to cover and I will let them work on projects that reflect their interests. I will allow participants to assume responsibility for presentations and group leadership.

It is important that I act as a facilitator, guiding participants to their own knowledge rather than supplying them with facts.

Adults are relevancy-oriented. They must see a reason for learning something. Adult learning has to be applicable to their work or other responsibilities, to be of value to them.

Therefore, I plan to identify objectives for adult participants before the course begins. This means, also, that theories and concepts must be related to a setting familiar to participants. This need can be fulfilled by letting participants choose projects that reflect their own interests.

Effective critical reflection depends on appropriate contexts. The culture of my class community will be one in which adult learners feel included, respected, and safe.

Students are helped to feel respected and included in the class community through small groups in which they can exchange concerns, experiences, and expectations. Additionally, the dialog between me and adult learners must be meaningful.

Meaningful dialogue is facilitated by ensuring that topics and experiences are relevant to students and over which they have some control.

In an attempt to promote effective critical reflection in my class, all adult learners will be made to feel included, respected and safe.

Planning and implementing motivating strategies, actively involving participants in the adult learning process, and creating opportunities for critical reflection are all essential in my efforts to apply the humanistic, cognitive, and critical reflection learning theories in my prospective classroom.

Doing so will provide opportunities for adult learners to reach their potential.

Rebecca Friedman earned her M.Ed. in Teacher Leadership and Teaching the Adult Learner, and a post-Masters certificate in School Administration and Supervision from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Education. Mrs. Friedman is currently a 5th grade teacher at Ohr Chadash Academy, a 3 rd & 4 th grade teacher at Beth Am Religious School, and an Adjunct Professor for Baltimore City Community College, all located in Baltimore, Maryland.

She has presented Professional Development workshops on using American Sign Language in the classroom at Hopkins, Beth Am, and Ohr Chadash. She has also presented at the Baltimore Convention Center on this topic at the annual AIMS and MANSEF conferences during Fall of 2011.

How to apply the adult learning theory to learn faster

The ways that different people learn has been an ongoing interest to educators. Individuals have different aptitudes, attitudes, perspectives, and preferred learning styles that affect the learning process. They also have different backgrounds and experiences they bring to the learning experience. These elements and factors exist no matter the age of the learner. However, there can be a generalization that children and adults learn in fundamentally different ways. Additionally, by understanding how a particular segment learns, educators and trainers can design courses that will enhance the learning experience and maximize the effectiveness of the session for a particular group.

It is important to note that even though the approach to teaching adults and children should be done in different ways to optimize the particular group’s learning potential, much of the basic principles of learning are the same for both groups.

Listed below are some of the fundamental differences of children learning and adult learning.

Children Learning

  • Rely on others to decide what is important to be learned.
  • Accept the information being presented at face value.
  • Expect what they are learning to be useful in their long term future
  • Have little or no experience upon which to draw – clean slate
  • Little ability to serve as a knowledgeable resource to teacher or fellow classmates.
  • Dependent on educators learning
  • Encourages convergent thinking
  • Use specific concrete thought
  • Rote learning
  • Subject centered
  • Motivated by external
  • rewards/punishment
  • Uniform by age level and curriculum

Adult Learning

  • Decide for themselves what is important to be learned.
  • N eed to validate the information based on their beliefs and experiences.
  • Expect that what they are learning to be immediately useful.
  • Have much past experience upon which to draw – fixed viewpoint
  • Significant ability to serve as a knowledgeable resource to the trainer and fellow learner.
  • Learning and teaching roles are blurred
  • Encourages divergent thinking
  • Use generalized abstract thought
  • Active learning
  • Task or problem centered
  • Motivated by internal
  • Incentives/curiosity
  • Develops from life tasks and problems

How to apply the adult learning theory to learn faster

How to apply the adult learning theory to learn faster

  • B.A., English, St. Olaf College

Kolb and Frye, two leaders in adult educational theory, say that adults learn best through active participation and reflection. This form of learning is called “experiential” because it involves hands-on experience and observation as well as discussion and other forms of learning.

What Is Experiential Learning?

In a sense, experiential learning is simply learning by doing — but there is more to the process. Not only do learners take action, but they reflect on, learn from, and take new action based on experience. Kolb and Frye describe experiential learning as a four-part cycle:

  1. The learner has concrete experience with the content being taught.
  2. The learner reflects on the experience by comparing it to prior experiences.
  3. Based on experience and reflection, the learner develops new ideas about the content being taught.
  4. The learner acts on her new ideas by experimenting in an experiential setting.

When the new ideas are put into action, they become the basis for a new cycle of experiential learning.

Examples of Experiential Learning

It’s important to understand that experiential learning is not identical with hands-on learning or apprenticeship. The purpose of experiential learning is not simply to learn a skill through practice, but also to think critically about the practice and to improve upon it.

For a child, hands-on learning might involve mixing baking powder and vinegar and watching it bubble and rise. This activity is good hands-on fun, but it doesn’t necessarily provide the child with a full understanding of the chemical interaction between the two materials.

For an adult, hands-on learning might involve working with a trained carpenter to learn how to build a chair. In this case, the learner has gained some skills — but has not taken part in experiential learning. The next step would involve taking time to reflect on the experience and compare chair-building to other building projects. Based on reflection, the learner would then develop new ideas about how best to go about building a chair and return to chair building with new insights and ideas.

Pros and Cons of Experiential Learning

Experiential learning can be very powerful for adults because they have the life experience and cognitive ability to reflect, develop new ideas, and take positive action. It also provides adults with the real-world experience they need to place their new skills in context and to develop new ideas about how to implement their skills. This is particularly true when real-world skills are taught in a classroom context. For example, a classroom experience with providing CPR is very different from a real-world experience in the back of an ambulance.

On the other hand, experiential learning has very specific limits. It is only useful when the content being taught is content that will be used in a real-world setting. So, for example, it is very difficult to provide experiential learning relative to literature, history, or philosophy. Yes, it is possible to take field trips to relevant locations or museums — but field trips are quite different from experiential learning.

How to apply the adult learning theory to learn faster

No two students are alike, and the way every person learns will vary. Our brains are all unique, and our experiences all contribute to the different ways we learn. Psychologists have spent countless hours performing tests to better understand how students learn.

Current and aspiring teachers need to have education to be prepared for teaching students every day. And an important part of teacher education is understanding different ways of learning. There are many solidified learning theories that teachers can learn from as they prepare to help students in the classroom. Teachers who understand learning theories can use different techniques in their classroom to cater to different kinds of learning. This can help all kinds of students find success in learning.

There are five educational learning theories that educators can utilize to help them enhance their classroom and make it a better learning environment for all students.

Cognitive learning theory.

The cognitive learning theory looks at the way people think. Mental processes are an important part in understanding how we learn. The cognitive theory understands that learners can be influenced by both internal and external elements. Plato and Descartes are two of the first philosophers that focused on cognition and how we as human beings think. Many other researchers looked deeper into the idea of how we think, spurring more research. Jean Piaget is a highly important figure in the field of cognitive psychology, and his work focuses on environments and internal structures and how they impact learning. The cognitive theory has developed over time, breaking off into sub-theories that focus on unique elements of learning and understanding. At the most basic level, the cognitive theory suggests that internal thoughts and external forces are both an important part of the cognitive process. And as students understand how their thinking impacts their learning and behavior, they are able to have more control over it.

The cognitive learning theory impacts students because their understanding of their thought process can help them learn. Teachers can give students opportunities to ask questions, to fail, and think out loud. These strategies can help students understand how their thought process works, and utilize this knowledge to construct better learning opportunities.

How to apply the adult learning theory to learn faster

The motivations to learn evolve as you become older; and for an adult educator, teaching can be even more difficult without a basic understanding of adult learning theory.

Malcolm Knowles, a pioneer in adult education, popularized the concept of five teaching strategies for adults, which states that students learn best when:

  1. Adults understand why something is important to know or do.
  2. Adults have the freedom to learn in their own way.
  3. Learning is experiential.
  4. The time is right for them to learn.
  5. The education process is positive and encouraging.

This post breaks down each principle outlined above, and details why it’s an important method of teaching adults effectively.

Make sure adults understand why something is important to know or do.

When we step into adulthood many of us choose to take classes to meet personal and/or career goals. Adult students are special because they step foot into a classroom with the desire to learn. They are there to learn something new or become certified in a particular field.

This principle is not about why adults are sitting in your class looking to feed off of your knowledge, but rather why each component of the course you’re teaching is an important part of the learning process.

Adults have the freedom to learn in their own way.

Many adults can remember having only one type of learning style growing up; this is mainly determined by their teachers’ preferred teaching method. However, as an adult learner you may find out that you prefer a different learning style, or a combination of all three.

Visual learners prefer to be shown a lesson through graphs, diagrams, and illustrations. They rely on what the instructor is doing and often sit in the front of the classroom to avoid visual obstructions. The best form of communication is providing worksheets, white boarding, and leveraging phrases such as, “Do you see how this works?”

Auditory learners listen carefully to all sounds associated with the lesson. “Tell me,” is their motto. They will pay close attention to the sound of your voice and all of its subtle messages, and they will actively participate in discussions. You can best communicate with them by speaking clearly, asking questions, and using phrases like, “How does that sound to you?”

Tactile learners need to physically do something to understand it. Their motto is “Let me do it.” They trust their feelings and emotions about what they’re learning and how you’re teaching it. Tactile learners are those students who will get up and assist instructors with role playing in the classroom.

You can best communicate with tactile learners by involving volunteers; allow them to practice what they’re learning, and use phrases like, “How do you feel about that?”

The type of learner that makes up your classroom can easily be identified by conducting a short learning style assessment at the beginning of class. This assessment will benefit you and the students and will allow you and your students to be successful. This information will be as valuable to the student as it is to you.

Learning is experiential.

Experiential learning experiences can take multiple forms. Activities that get your students involved enhance your students’ learning experience. Examples of learning activities include small group discussions, experiments, role playing, skits, building something at their table or desk, or writing/drawing something specific. Learning activities also keep people energized, especially activities that involve stepping away from their desks.

Honoring the life experiences your students bring to the classroom is another component of experiential learning. It’s important to tap into that wealth of wisdom of your classroom whenever it’s appropriate.

The time is right for them to learn.

No matter how hard a teacher tries, if a student isn’t ready to learn, they won’t. Luckily, adult students chose to be in your classroom, which means they have already determined that the time is right.

As an instructor, listen carefully for teaching moments and take advantage of them. When an adult learner says or does something that triggers a topic on your agenda, be flexible and teach it right then.

The education process is positive and encouraging.

For most adults, stepping back into the classroom can be intimidating, which is understandable if they haven’t taken a class in years. Students may be apprehensive about what the course will be like and how well they’ll do.

As an instructor of adult students, it’s important to exude positivity, encouragement, and patience. Establishing motivation in the classroom can facilitate effective learning for students. Give your students time to respond when you ask a question. They may need a few moments to consider their answer. Recognize the contributions they make, even when small.

Give your students words of encouragement whenever the opportunity arises. Most adults will rise to your expectations if you’re clear about them.

How to apply the adult learning theory to learn faster

The motivations to learn evolve as you become older; and for an adult educator, teaching can be even more difficult without a basic understanding of adult learning theory.

Malcolm Knowles, a pioneer in adult education, popularized the concept of five teaching strategies for adults, which states that students learn best when:

  1. Adults understand why something is important to know or do.
  2. Adults have the freedom to learn in their own way.
  3. Learning is experiential.
  4. The time is right for them to learn.
  5. The education process is positive and encouraging.

This post breaks down each principle outlined above, and details why it’s an important method of teaching adults effectively.

Make sure adults understand why something is important to know or do.

When we step into adulthood many of us choose to take classes to meet personal and/or career goals. Adult students are special because they step foot into a classroom with the desire to learn. They are there to learn something new or become certified in a particular field.

This principle is not about why adults are sitting in your class looking to feed off of your knowledge, but rather why each component of the course you’re teaching is an important part of the learning process.

Adults have the freedom to learn in their own way.

Many adults can remember having only one type of learning style growing up; this is mainly determined by their teachers’ preferred teaching method. However, as an adult learner you may find out that you prefer a different learning style, or a combination of all three.

Visual learners prefer to be shown a lesson through graphs, diagrams, and illustrations. They rely on what the instructor is doing and often sit in the front of the classroom to avoid visual obstructions. The best form of communication is providing worksheets, white boarding, and leveraging phrases such as, “Do you see how this works?”

Auditory learners listen carefully to all sounds associated with the lesson. “Tell me,” is their motto. They will pay close attention to the sound of your voice and all of its subtle messages, and they will actively participate in discussions. You can best communicate with them by speaking clearly, asking questions, and using phrases like, “How does that sound to you?”

Tactile learners need to physically do something to understand it. Their motto is “Let me do it.” They trust their feelings and emotions about what they’re learning and how you’re teaching it. Tactile learners are those students who will get up and assist instructors with role playing in the classroom.

You can best communicate with tactile learners by involving volunteers; allow them to practice what they’re learning, and use phrases like, “How do you feel about that?”

The type of learner that makes up your classroom can easily be identified by conducting a short learning style assessment at the beginning of class. This assessment will benefit you and the students and will allow you and your students to be successful. This information will be as valuable to the student as it is to you.

Learning is experiential.

Experiential learning experiences can take multiple forms. Activities that get your students involved enhance your students’ learning experience. Examples of learning activities include small group discussions, experiments, role playing, skits, building something at their table or desk, or writing/drawing something specific. Learning activities also keep people energized, especially activities that involve stepping away from their desks.

Honoring the life experiences your students bring to the classroom is another component of experiential learning. It’s important to tap into that wealth of wisdom of your classroom whenever it’s appropriate.

The time is right for them to learn.

No matter how hard a teacher tries, if a student isn’t ready to learn, they won’t. Luckily, adult students chose to be in your classroom, which means they have already determined that the time is right.

As an instructor, listen carefully for teaching moments and take advantage of them. When an adult learner says or does something that triggers a topic on your agenda, be flexible and teach it right then.

The education process is positive and encouraging.

For most adults, stepping back into the classroom can be intimidating, which is understandable if they haven’t taken a class in years. Students may be apprehensive about what the course will be like and how well they’ll do.

As an instructor of adult students, it’s important to exude positivity, encouragement, and patience. Establishing motivation in the classroom can facilitate effective learning for students. Give your students time to respond when you ask a question. They may need a few moments to consider their answer. Recognize the contributions they make, even when small.

Give your students words of encouragement whenever the opportunity arises. Most adults will rise to your expectations if you’re clear about them.

Last Updated: April 2, 2021 References Approved

This article was co-authored by Ronitte Libedinsky, MS. Ronitte Libedinsky is an Academic Tutor and the Founder of Brighter Minds SF, a San Francisco, California based company that provides one-on-one and small group tutoring. Specializing in tutoring mathematics (pre-algebra, algebra I/II, geometry, pre-calculus, calculus) and science (chemistry, biology), Ronitte has over 10 years of experience tutoring to middle school, high school, and college students. She also tutors in SSAT, Terra Nova, HSPT, SAT, and ACT test prep. Ronitte holds a BS in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, and an MS in Chemistry from Tel Aviv University.

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In order to adapt more quickly to the rapidly changing environments in which we live, we need to learn more effectively and efficiently. This article is intended to describe some basics for meta-learning, or learning about learning, to help make it easier for you to find and use techniques to increase the quality and speed of your self-directed learning. This approach can be applied to any task in life where we are taking on the challenge of increasing our knowledge, including some basic tasks that assist us in making the most of our brain power. You can help your brain to absorb information more accurately and efficiently, sometimes by just changing how you take care of your body. Using meta-learning (learning about learning) techniques can help you learn how to take better care of your body in the most efficient and effective way.