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Adult Learning Principles

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Here you can explore links to information regarding the way that adults learn. Some of the information is theoretical in nature.


The Theory into Practice Database - Contains brief summaries of 50 major theories of learning and instruction. Very theoretical, this is for those interested in exploring the psychological underpinnings of learning.

How Adults Learn - Good information with links, this is part of the Ageless Learning website.

The Ageless Learner - Great site with alot of information.

Seven Characteristics of Highly Effective Adult Learning Programs

Guidelines for Working with Adult Learners - This is from the Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC)

Learning Theories - Knowledge base and webliography

List of Various Adult Learning Principles (Dewar):

    • Increasing and maintaining ones sense of self-esteem and pleasure are strong secondary motivators for engaging in learning experiences. (Zemke, 1988)
    • New knowledge has to be integrated with previous knowledge; that means active learner participation. (Zemke, 1988)
    • Adult learning must be problem and experience centered. (Gibb, 1960 as quoted in Brookfield, 1986)
    • Effective adult learning entails an active search for meaning in which new tasks are somehow related to earlier activities. Prior learning experiences have the potential to enhance or interfere with new learning. (Knox, 1977 as quoted in Brookfield, 1986)
    • A certain degree of arousal is necessary for learning to occur, whereas stress acts as a major block to learning. (Brundage and MacKeracher, 1980)
    • Collaborative modes of teaching and learning will enhance the self-concepts of those involved and result in more meaningful and effective learning. (Brundage and MacKeracher, 1980)
    • Adults will generally learn best in an atmosphere that is nonthreatening and supportive of experimentation and in which different learning styles are recognized. (Smith, 1982)
    • Adult learning is facilitated when the learner's representation and interpretation of his own experience are accepted as valid, acknowledged as an essential aspect influencing change, and respected as a potential resource for learning. (Brundage and MacKeracher, 1980)
    • Adults experience anxiety and ambivalence in their orientation to learning. (Smith, 1982)
    • Adult learning is facilitated when teaching activities do not demand finalized, correct answers and closure; express a tolerance for uncertainty, inconsistency, and diversity; and promote both question-asking and -answering, problem-finding and problem-solving. (Brundage and MacKeracher, 1980)
    • Adult skill learning is facilitated when individual learners can assess their own skills and strategies to discover inadequacies or limitations for themselves. (Brundage and MacKeracher, 1980)
    • Adult learning is facilitated when the teacher can give up some control over teaching processes and planning activities and can share these with learners. (Brundage and MacKeracher, 1980)

    Go to Adult Learning Online, where this list came from, for more information.


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