Any educator strives to inspire, change attitudes, and charge for high results. However, when students are adults, they have a store of knowledge and ideas about what works for them and what does not. They are busy, have no time to waste, and through training, they want to achieve their goals. There are several theories of adult learning, such as andragogy, empirical learning, transformational learning, and others. All theories have one goal: they help to create effective learning processes for adults.
For example, the theory of andragogy is based on the characteristics of adult learners, as well as the idea that they rely on their accumulated experience in the learning process. There are six key differences between adult learners and children: the need for knowledge, motivation, desire, experience, independence, and attitude to learning (Brockett & Hiemstra, 2018). Adults have the experience, which trainers should use to help them understand the relevance of knowledge and gain inspiration. For such people, problem-oriented learning is relevant, which they can apply in their work. As part of such education, their ability to solve problems is trained.
The transformational theory is based on the belief that learning occurs when new knowledge is superimposed on old experiences, or old ideas are viewed in a new light. It explains how adults learn through inspiration that allows them to look at reality from a different angle (Brockett & Hiemstra, 2018). Trainers should try to create such moments in learning since they help to evoke strong emotions and leave an unforgettable experience. Often such moments can radically change the way of thinking, the point of view, as well as the attitude to the issue, and patterns of behavior.
Empirical learning theory argues that adult learning is about making sense of practical experience. People constantly reflect on their experiences, which allows them to learn lessons and gain knowledge. Therefore, after practical training, they need some time for reflection to analyze the processes and procedures (Brockett & Hiemstra, 2018). To do this, educators may use demos, case studies, and exercises with a clear script. The secret to the success of empirical learning is that the student begins to derive abstract concepts, generalize ideas, and realize their connection with reality. Role-plays and other hands-on activities allow such students to apply their knowledge and truly learn through action.
Adult trainers have to know the theories of adult learning to meet the needs of the learners and select learning strategies taking into account the real learning context. They should use methods and apply strategies that take into account modern learning characteristics, such as digital technology and student mobility. Adult learning theories are not just a collection of terms, concepts, and ideas about how adults learn. They help to competently build courses at all stages, from concept creation to implementation, so that learning will be as effective as possible.
Brockett, R. G., & Hiemstra, R. (2018). Self-direction in adult learning: Perspectives on theory, research and practice. Routledge.