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Isn’t Learning Just Learning? How Adults Learn.

The term “andragogy” can be traced back to 1833, but it wasn’t until later in the 20th century that it became widely used. Malcom Knowles is credited for the popularity of the term as we know it.

According to Knowles, andragogy refers to the art and science of adult learning. Pedagogy, a more familiar term, refers to how children learn. You might wonder, “Isn’t learning just learning? Is there really a difference?” The answer is yes. An instructional designer, must consider these characteristics when creating learning materials.

1. Adults want control over their learning. Whenever possible, learners should be involved in the planning and evaluation of training programs. This may be achieved through:

  • focus group discussions
  • questionnaires
  • or interviewing individuals for whom the training is intended

2. Adults gain experiences as they age, and these experiences become a learning resource. We need to create learning that allows learners to tap into their existing knowledge and form associations with new information or skills. Ideally, we create opportunities for adults to learn from each other – whether this be small or large group in-person discussions, asynchronous discussion boards, or using virtual breakout rooms and video conferencing.

3. Adult learners are practical, and results oriented. They want training that is immediately applicable to their roles and performance. While understanding the “why” of learning is important, the more pressing concerns are “what” and “how”.

4. Along the same lines, adult learning needs to be more problem-centered than content-oriented. Adults don’t want to be mired in theory. It is more effective to provide a problem requiring them to learn and apply their new knowledge and skills than having them memorize several facts.

These are just a few items to think about when designing learning for adults. There are many resources available online using the keywords “Malcolm Knowles”, “andragogy”, or “adult learning”.  You can also reach out and one of our Instructional Designers can assist.

Need assistance creating training for adult learners? We can help!

We have over 25 years’ experience developing successful online training, onboarding, and orientation content from documents, presentations, and videos.

We’ve developed ProcessLMS™, our learning management system specially designed to manage, track, and deliver courses online.

Reach out and we can chat about the right solution for your organization.