Best Learning Methodologies For Adults Academyocean Blog

Adult motivation to learn far from trivial questions. Is it curiosity or necessary to know information or obtain skills to be competitive in the labor market? Various theories on adult education offer multiple answers to this question. Neither is entirely correct or wrong. Adults are too complex individuals to have a single solution suitable for everyone. Today, we will cover adult learning basics and analyze the best learning methodologies for adults.

Companies face the challenge of creating and designing adult learner teaching strategies when training their workers. Most adults have strict working schedules and often lack the time devoted to learning. Another aspect to consider is the financial situation. Adults may not have the excessive financial resources to invest in education. Training remote workers require knowledge of adult learning theory and modern technical means of implementation. 

Adult Education Academyocean Blog

Understanding the adult learner the crucial for educational institutions and small and large-scale business entities. Adult involvement in learning can be the key to personal and company success. It leads to the sustainable development of a global economy. It is hard to overestimate the importance of motivating adults to seek continuous education.

Talking about the models of adult learning, it is necessary to cover the main principles of encouraging adults to extend their knowledge, obtain new skills and grow problem-solving attitudes. A significant aspect of such motivation is to convey to people the importance of education that helps to build their lives. Today, we explore the main principles and basics of adult learning and its effect on companies, educational institutions, and human beings.

What Is An Adult Learning Theory?

Adult learning is a subject that regulates the training and education of mature people. It includes acquiring new knowledge and mastering additional skills and competencies. Learning can be formal or informal. The main peculiarity of this type of learning is that obtained skills must be relevant and usually put to use instantly.

Before discussing the best practices for teaching adults, let's establish the age group we are dealing with. It is hard to estimate this group, as the terms of adults differ worldwide. Yet, the U.S. Department of Education stated in 2018 that people could be considered adult learners if they are 25 years old or older. The majority of these people have working experience or jobs alongside education.

Adult learning theory was created back in 1968. It touches on the concept of learning and differences depending on the age of learners. The theory indicates that adult education should be treated differently from other age groups. Malcolm Knowles developed it with time, being changed and adapted, but the main ideas of this theory remained rigid. The Adult Learning Theory is universal and can be used by educational institutions and business entities that need training or learning coursed to develop professional skills.

Child Vs Adult Learning

Adults have emotional baggage, hidden motivation, a set system of beliefs, vast experience, and personal traits. It adds a layer of challenges for adults on their way to learning. In this part of the article, we will cover the fundamental differences.

Differences in the main goal

Children's education aims to provide basic knowledge on certain topics to develop their thinking and skills. In turn, adult learning focuses on continuous learning, developing existing skills, and obtaining new ones in a narrow professional field.

Personal choice

Children are obligated to learn, resulting in a lack of motivation to study under certain circumstances. Adults have a transparent motivation system for their learning - I learn, I get new skills, I become more productive, and I progress in my career.


Children need a supervisor to be in charge of their education, while adults can work independently with a vast degree of freedom.

Teachers and guides

Teachers are a must for effective children's education as they deliver knowledge, guidance, and control. Adult education also implies having mentors, trainers, coaches, etc. Their duties are shortened and less feasible.

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Difficulties Of The Adult Learning Process

Considering a vast life experience, adults often face certain difficulties on their way to continuous education. Specialists developing online courses must know these difficulties to help adults avoid barriers to their learning.

The big picture

Explaining their position and perspective in a company is crucial. Lacking a perspective, they may consider training unnecessary or a burden. Workers must understand why they need to improve their skills and understand their impact on the company.


Adults face a lack of time and are forced to choose what activities they prioritize. Workers may have other priorities than attending training or courses. The challenge here is to draw their attention and focus on learning, so they make it their priority.

Offering a purpose

A clear idea of how new skills improve their lives is the best way to motivate adults to learn. It sets strict requirements for the usefulness of training courses and for meeting the audience's needs.

Am I an imposter?

Not knowing something important for holding a position can burden any adult. Unhealthy criticism grows this fear to an enormous size making a person doubt they can get new knowledge or be effective.

Adult Learning

Adult Education Theories

The First education theories began to appear in the 60s. Back then, scientists began working on new approaches to define adult learning. They built models and distinguished differences between adults and children. The following ideas focus on personal growth as the central aspect of any education.

Andragogical Learning Theory

This theory refers to the following ideas related to adult learning: motivation, orientation, current experience, desire to learn, and the central concept. Knowles distinguished these aspects as the most important aspects of adult learning. To make the adult learning process effective, educators must consider each element. Learner-centric education is the basis for effective learning.

Experiential Learning

This theory focuses on a person's active participation in the learning process. Assumes that learning can only be effective when learners show high involvement levels. Learners should be the center of the process. The use of gained knowledge is also a cornerstone of this adult learning technique. Applying fresh skills motivates workers to learn new ones, as they see how new knowledge improves their lives.

Action Learning

This adult learning technique was developed in 1982. It assumes that a learner when facing a problem needs to take specific steps to resolve it and see the results of their actions. It requires setting the problem, delivering it to the learner, and giving them space to make decisions resolving them. It can be applied to groups or individuals online or offline. A coach must monitor the problem-solving process to make it more effective.

Self-directed Learning

Professional instructors are not a must for the learning process. Adult learners can take responsibility for their learning process. Self-education has become more common these days as people have access to vast sources of information. It sets requirements for motivation, planning, and focusing on learning. Modern models of adult education emphasize informal learning with next to unlimited access to educational content.

Project-based Learning

This method focuses on offering learners to participate in a project. When engaged in it, students actively develop new skills and gain knowledge. The critical factor here is to ensure that project is relevant and meaningful to every learner participating in it. This method will be effective and productive, developing critical thinking, communication skills, and team collaboration. It is related to cognitive learning theory for adults, as it involves social factors, including mental and cognitive internal thinking processes, instead of focusing on external stimuli.

Transformational Learning

This adult learning technique came live by Jack Mezirow, who established it as a way people approach themselves and their surroundings. The main idea behind this theory is that it encourages people to use critical thinking by challenging opinions and beliefs about the world. It enables learners to adjust their thinking based on new information. The focus on adults is explained by the fact that children don’t have the experience to get the same transformation in terms of learning experiences and attitudes.

How To Amplify Adult Learning Theory To Corporate Learning?

So, how to teach adult learners as a company owner? Every aspect of these learning theories can be adjusted to improve corporate training. In this digital age, making engaging employee training requires applying numerous technologies. The classic approach to learning has been drastically changed. It applies to training your employee, educating customers, and introducing people to your products. Let's take a look at advice, methods, and techniques on how to use theory in teaching adults to benefit your company.

1. Credible trainers

Don’t involve unknown specialists in training your employees, as this may lead to losing trust. Experienced and credible specialists will help to keep the audience engaged.

2. Self-Directing options

During in-person training, such options may make one feel as if they are losing control. E-learning is quite a different thing. Adults learn better with the possibility of self-directed learning, one of the main aspects of e-learning.

3. Maintaining involvement

Adult learning is only effective when people are involved in the process. Give them a chance to learn the material and ask about materials they see fit to learn more about on this topic. Providing these opportunities ensures the relevance of the information and learners’ engagement.

4. Previous experience matters

Adults have particular life baggage, and their experience can be practical for their learning and your business. You let your learners share their experiences in a group call so they can relate them to your learning program.

5. Highlight benefits

Adults don’t have much time to spare. It is crucial to explain why a particular training or learning course benefits them as professionals. Analyze your worker’s needs and offer useful for your company and employees courses, showing benefits.

Final thoughts

Judging from AcademyOcean's experience, adults that strive for continuous learning are more efficient in their positions. Focusing on adult education is crucial for any company. Making a valuable and exciting learning course for adults requires analyzing their experiences and personal conditions. Adult learning theory can help greatly with it when you apply it right.

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