Educational Theories: Adult Learning Theory


There has been comparatively little writing, research and thinking on the area of adult learning. This is an inquisitive fact bearing in mind that adult education has been of interest in human life for a long period though the adult student has been neglected. Conventionally, people have understood more on how animals learn rather than the children. In addition, how children learn is more understood than the way adults learn.

Probably this is the case because the method of learning was adopted by the practical psychologists whose standards needed the management of variables. In addition, the rules in which animals study are simply controllable than the conditions of the children and those of the children are much easily managed than those conditions that adults use to learn. Basically, learning theories are only important to adult learning practicians if they are implemented in order to assist adults in learning (Knowles, Holton & Swanson, 1998, p.30). In light of this, this paper will address adult learning theory.

Streams of inquiry

Starting with the establishment of the ‘American Association for Adult Education’ in the year 1926, followed by the supplying of the significant financing for the study and publishings by the ‘Carnegie Corporation of New York’, two forms of examination are noticeable. One of the streams is referred to as scientific stream while the second one is called intuitive/reflective or artistic stream.

The scientific one attempts to find out modern and innovative technology through thorough study. Alternatively, the artistic one seeks to find out modern technology through intuition and the evaluation of experience and has interests in the way adults learn. Learning calls for sacrifices to achieve. For one to be in a position to doing some work in each section of an organization, it needs much to be known and understood for one to perform within the expected goals. Though adult learning is comparatively a modern field of learning, it is as important as conventional education and probably has greater success. Moreover, the adult participant gets involved in learning with certain anticipations. Thus, the best encouragers for adult participants are selfish and interest benefits (Knowles, Holton & Swanson, 1998, p.119).

Mode of approach to adult learning

The mode of approach to adult learning is through the route of circumstances and not subjects. The academic setting has developed in a reversion manner; subjects and instructors comprise the beginning point while learners are secondary. In traditional learning the learner is needed to change to a designed syllabus; in adult learning the program or syllabus is designed depending on the needs of the learners and their interests.

Every adult individual gets himself or herself in certain circumstances that are related to his/her job, leisure, family life and society life and these circumstances need modification. Introducing knowledge to the syllabus brings in a lot of work since the standards of adult studying can be utilized in the form of knowledge-based guidelines in order to make it more efficient or successful. Higher learning has offered an opportunity to the incorporation of technology into the syllabus. Therefore, Knowles’ principles and theory of andragogy highlights efficient methodologies that are used for adult studying.

When this andragogy theory is incorporated into the structure of knowledge-based learning surroundings, it makes it easier to form courses, which can serve the requirements of the learners to utilize the newest technology and also center on their needs as grown up individuals. The theory of androgogy consists concepts like adult’s willingness to study, the responsibility of the adult student’s encounters, teachers as a learning facilitator and the predilection of the adult to studying and the self idea of the participant. Therefore, androgogy refers to a set of suppositions on the manner in which adults learn (Merriam, 2008, p. 94-97).

Distinctive adult learning theories embrace the primary conceptions of experience and character alteration. The area of adult learning was established by Malcom Knowles. He recognized the following features concerning the adult students; firstly, adults are independent and self-directed. They ought to be free in order to direct their movement. Their instructors should dynamically engage adult learners in the education procedure and act as catalyst or facilitator for them.

Basically, the teacher should get the learners’ viewpoints on what topics to study and give them the opportunity to tackle the projects, which mirror their focus. The adult learners should be permitted to take up the roles foe group leadership and presentations. Therefore, the teachers must ensure they act as excellent facilitators, directing the learners to their own skills and competence instead of providing them with the reality (Lieb, 1991, par. 1).

In addition, adults have gathered adequate knowledge and life experiences, which might include family roles, past education and work-associated activities. Thus, the adult learners ought to tie their learning to this base of life experiences and knowledge. In order to assist them accomplish or achieve this, the teachers ought to be draw out learners’ knowledge and life experience that is appropriate to the topic. These involve relating concepts and theories to the adult learners and identify the importance of experience in studying (Lieb, 1991, par. 2).

Adults are known to be goal-oriented, thus on enrolling in a certain course they always understand what objectives they should achieve. Hence, they understand an educational project, which is planned and have evidently explained the components that are need to meet the requirements of the educational programs. Therefore, the teachers should show the learners the manner in which such classes will assist them attain their objectives in life.

In addition, adults are known to be relevancy-oriented. This means that the adults must understand the reason why they have to learn. Thus, learning should be appropriate to their roles or work in order for it to be of importance to them. For them to see the relevance of the learning, the teachers should recognize the goals for the adult learners prior to the beginning of the course. This indicates that the concepts and theories should be associated to a system that is familiar to the learner. These requirements can be achieved by allowing the learners to select the projects, which mirror their concern or interest (Westover, 2009, p. 436-438).

Similarly, adults are practical in life, they center on the area of the course that is most important to them in what they do. They might not be focused in technology for nothing. Therefore, the teacher should inform the learners clearly the way in which the course is of importance to them in their work. Just as others learners, adults demand to be respected. Teachers should appreciate the richness of experience, which the adult learners bring to the study area. Hence, the adult learners ought to be handled as equals in knowledge and life experience and be permitted to raise or express their views unreservedly in class (Lieb, 1991, par. 5-6).

Adult learning theory brings in a dispute to still construct an aptitude to the homogeneous weaknesses of traditional learning and the hypothesis that limits informative facilities to an academic rank. Several individuals who support the status quo in learning mostly say that most adults are never concentrated in learning, instead they are encouraged in the way they can upgrade their learning and if they owned the bonuses, they could probably take the benefit of the huge gratis educational chances offered by the public organizations.

Adult learning is a trial to find out a modern and innovative technology and form a modern enticement for studying; its significances are qualitative rather than quantitative. Adult participants are specifically those individuals whose intellects desires are less likely to be awakened by the inflexible, sturdy needs of stylized, classic institutions of studying (Knowles, Holton & Swanson, 1998, p.38).


In conclusion, in order to aid adult learning by utilizing androgogy theory when training with technology, there is need to utilize technology maximally. Arguments regarding the utilization of the technology involve statements such as the flexibility and capability of the participants to go through the course at any time, any place and at their desired speed. In addition, adult learners have special needs that require to be addressed in order to set up an environment that is conducive for them to learn. This is because adults have several roles, which they need to attend to rather than the responsibility of learning. Therefore, these many roles act as hindrances for the adult learners to fully participate in learning.

Reference list

Knowles, S., Holton, E., & Swanson, R. (2005). The adult learner (6th Ed.). New York: NY: Elsevier Publishing.

Lieb, S., (1991). Adults as learners. Principles of adult learning. Web.

Merriam, S. (2008). Adult Learning Theory for the twenty-first century. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education.

Westover, J. (2009) Lifelong Learning: Effective Adult Learning Strategies and Implementation for Working Professionals. International Journal of Learning, 16: 435-443.