Adult Learning Principles: A Quick Refresher


If I were keeping score, I’d say I’ve had at least 3 conversations this week about adult learning principles. If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you might remember a post about how I migrated to the adult learning world from teaching kids. Over the years, I’ve learned that quite a few of us didn’t start our careers here. In fact, this awesome post from my friends over at Learning Rebels is precisely about that.

On the drive to work this morning, this was further confirmed as I was listening to a morning radio show. The topic was, “Who is in a career that is completely different from what you grew up wanting to be?”

I was intrigued, so I paid attention as listeners called in. I could relate; after all, how many of us grew up with dreams of being a “L&D Professional” when we were little? Teacher, maybe…but “Corporate Trainer?” “Instructional Designer?” “HR Manager?” Doubtful (written with a giggle).

So, my point…and I do have one:

Are you new to the L&D world? Has “training” (or variations of it) fallen onto your desk by way of other duties as assigned?

Here’s a quick refresher, whether you’re a novice or a veteran: Adult learning is different, particularly in a workplace setting. You’re not exactly “teaching”, but you are providing knowledge and information for learners to acquire new skills.

With that in mind, here are 5 basic adult learning principles to remember:

Adult learners want to learn. Most realize that participating in training and other opportunities is a critical factor in their performance and ultimate success.

Adult learners need to be assured that the material is relevant. Many participants have juggled tasks, projects and other responsibilities to make your session a priority. Reciprocate that priority by being mindful of the content.

Adult learners appreciate a forum where they can ask questions, challenge the status quo and practice in a safe environment.

Adult learners seek feedback on their performance. Adults appreciate an opportunity to share feedback.

Adult learners bring a variety of life and professional experiences with them – leverage that experience to engage learners and create a collaborative environment!

Notice those action words: Want. Need. Appreciate. Seek. Bring. Adult learners are active learners. Sitting passively, listening to someone read them a PowerPoint doesn’t cut it. What are you doing to create an engaging environment for your adult learners?

Your turn: Whether you are an “accidental trainer” or have been among the L&D ranks for many years, what have you learned about adult learners? Share your findings in the comments below!


Know of someone new to the wonderful world of Adult Learning who could benefit from this post? Be kind and share it!


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