Adult Learning Theory
I have a graduate degree in Adult Learning, so I could go on and on about this. The most important thing is the model that is used in most US schools is not a model that works well for adults. We are not empty vessels that need to be filled with subject matter expertise.
Malcolm Knowles was an educator who spent much of his academic career articulating and studying the difference between pedagogy, which is the art and science of teaching children, and androgyny, which is the art and science of teaching adults. His research showed the following to be true about adult learners:
- Adults need to know why they are learning something.
- Adults have a deep need to be self-directing.
- Adults have a greater volume and different quality of experience than youth.
- Adults become ready to learn when they experience in their life situation a need to know or be able to to do in order to perform more effectively and satisfyingly.
- Adults enter into a learning experience with a task-centered, problem centered, or life centered orientation to learning.
- Adults are motivated to learn by both extrinsic and intrinsic motivators.
Implications for design
Traditional teaching, coming from the pedagogical model, puts its focus on a content plan.
- what needs to be included
- how can it be broken into chunks
- what order do they need to be put in
- what are the most effective methods to transmit the content
Andragogy is concerned with creating a process which facilitates learning the content.
- Designing a climate that is conducive to learning
- Creating ways to invite participation in decisions
- Assessing learning needs
- Creating learning objectives
- Designing a series of learning processes
- Evaluating if the objectives have been met
Reference: Malcolm S. Knowles on Adult Learning, Chapter 9 from
Craig, Robert.,ed. Training and Development Handbook: A guide to Human Resource Development. 3rd ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 1987.
How Adults Learn by Marcia Conner
Groups and teams are very similar. You have to support the creation of the same elements for a group to function well. The interactions will affect the learning atmosphere, so it can be helpful to pay attention to how you can set things up in a more positive way.
We developed a whole program for Building Great Teams. There are suggested prompts and sample agendas you can use. Of course, most of this was designed to be used with groups who are going to be together for a while, but much of it applies to groups that come together for shorter periods also. Here are links to the pages on the VisualsSpeak section of the community.
- Building Relationships
- Enhancing Communication
- Developing Trust
- Managing Conflict
- Embracing Transitions and Change
- Understanding What We Are Doing Together
Are they Actually Doing Your E-course? Helpful post by Sophia Mohr about the kind of support you may want to offer to help people actually get something from your courses.
Four Types of Learners in your Forum Post by Ainslie Hunter describing the types of participant you can have in your classes/session/forums and how to engage each one differently.