Adult Learning: Designing a Curricular and Instructional Plan

Adult learning is a special issue in the sphere of education. Due to the cognitive characteristics acquired over the years of growing up, adults have particular learning ways, different from children. It is a natural development process, that should be taken into account when designing learning paths for adult learners, regardless of the area of education (Kose & Arslan, 2015). This paper aims to introduce a lesson plan that is aimed at teaching adult learners and incorporates various principles and strategies of adult learning theory.

The proposed lesson plan is dedicated to digital marketing basics, specifically developed to be taught online, and covers the first week of learning. The week starts with two activities: a forum post where students introduce themselves and post a short video where they are invited to state their goals and expectations from the course. Moreover, the plan involves an online discussion of a reading, a case study, and a group project’s launch. When designing this lesson plan, it was necessary to apply the principles of adult learning and consider the specifics of the online format.

First, it was crucial to tailor the lesson plan to the adult learners’ needs. Since “many adult learners balance coursework with work and family duties, these students often demand greater flexibility”, it seemed logical to reduce the mandatory live participation (Allen, 2016, p. 26). Therefore, the reading discussion activity presupposes having an online group meeting. However, if unable to attend, a student is offered an alternative written assignment (reflection paper). Moreover, the tasks introduced in the lesson plan were not too technically demanding, as students might have a different set of skills and equipment.

Second, based on the nature of the chosen setting and peculiarities of adult learners, the activities are aimed at problem-solving. It was done because adult learners are characterized by their “innate desire to learn” (Chen, 2014, p. 407). Therefore, the activities offered in the lesson plan were developed in a way that learners had to apply their expertise and logical thinking instead of simple knowledge checking.

Moreover, the plan was developed to ensure a sufficient level of interaction and group participation. It was done following the findings of Khoo and Forret (2011), who state that “active and diverse interaction and participation patterns contribute distributed expertise to the group to develop collective and shared understandings” (p. 138). Therefore, while some of the activities are individual (reading, writing a post, case study), others (discussion, group project task) are based on teamwork. Furthermore, the lesson design aims to encourage transpersonal development that would allow students to reflect on their own learning goals and be open to different perspectives (Boucouvalas, 2016). This will be achieved through the introductory activity of recording short videos done by students.

Finally, the curriculum was designed to make the learning content more relatable and engaging for students. Since it is crucial to align the education process with adult learners’ needs and preferences, it was reflected in assignments’ nature (Tanner, 2016). Thus, a case study offered to students deals with analysing online presence of a company of students’ choice. The same applies to the group project, but the decision is to be made through the discussion among team members.

The proposed curricular and instructional plan will allow instructors to motivate students for self-learning, enriching their knowledge and improving their skills. Moreover, the aim is to encourage them to incorporate their existing experience and expertise in analyzing the most relevant material both individually and in groups. The positive learning outcome is ensured by acknowledging the existing adult learning theory and following its main principles and strategies.


Allen, S. (2016). Applying adult learning principles to online course design. Distance Learning, 13(3), 25–32.

Boucouvalas, M. (2016). Towards transpersonal adult development. Adult Learning, 27(1), 30-37.

Chen, J. C. (2014). Teaching non-traditional adult students: Adult learning theories in practice. Teaching in Higher Education, 19(4), 406-418. Web.

Khoo, E., & Forret, M. (2011). Evaluating an online learning community: Intellectual, social and emotional development and transformations. Waikato Journal of Education, 16(1), 123-142.

Kose, U., & Arslan, A. (2015). Realizing an optimization approach inspired from Piaget’s theory on cognitive development. Broad Research in Artificial Intelligence and Neuroscience, 6(1-2), 14-22.

Tanner, D. (2016). Jean Piaget’s debt to John Dewey. AASA Journal of Scholarship and Practice, 13(1), 6-25.

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ChalkyPapers. (2022, July 8). Adult Learning: Designing a Curricular and Instructional Plan. Retrieved from


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ChalkyPapers. 2022. "Adult Learning: Designing a Curricular and Instructional Plan." July 8, 2022.

1. ChalkyPapers. "Adult Learning: Designing a Curricular and Instructional Plan." July 8, 2022.


ChalkyPapers. "Adult Learning: Designing a Curricular and Instructional Plan." July 8, 2022.