Malcolm Knowles’ 6 Adult Learning Principles

Principles of adult learning have been examined extensively. Malcolm Knowles defined the term andragogy in the 1970s as ‘the art and science of helping adults learn.’

From Knowles 1984, he identified the six principles of adult learning:

Adult Learning

1. Adults are internally motivated and self-directed

Adult learning should be self-directed. Adult learners make choices relevant to their learning objectives. They also direct their learning goals with the guidance of their mentors. Students need to be given the freedom to assume responsibility for their own choices. This is a major principle of learning.

The Learning Process

2. Adults bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences

The learning process is about experience. Educators encourage learners to connect past experiences with current knowledge and activities. Educators must know how to relate the sum of the learners experience to the current learning experiences.

Adult Education and Goals

3. Adults are goal oriented

Adult education is about goals. Adult learners aim to acquire relevant and adequate knowledge and for this reason intended learning outcomes should be clearly identified. Once the learning goals have been identified, educators must align the learning activities such that these objectives are fulfilled within a certain period of time.

Instructional Design and Relevance

4. Adults are relevancy oriented

Instructional design should focus on developing relevance. Adult learners benefit by relating the assigned tasks to their own learning goals. If it is clear that the activities they are engaged into, directly contribute to achieving their personal learning objectives, then they will be inspired and motivated to engage in projects and successfully complete them.

Adult Learning is Practical

5. Adults are practical

It is very important for educators to identify appropriate ways and convert theoretical learning to practical activities. Work placement is a way for students to apply the theoretical concepts learned inside the classroom into real-life situations. Learning is assisted when appropriate ways of implementing theoretical knowledge in real life situations is made clear.

Respect for Adult Learning

6. Adult learners like to be respected

Adult learners thrive in collaborative relationships with their educators. Learners become more productive when they’re considered by their instructors as colleagues. When their contributions are acknowledged, then they are willing to put out their best work.

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