Philosophy of Adult Learning


Adult learning methodology involves the involvement of both the adult learner as well as the instructor. While the learner is well versed with his goals and skill set, it is the instructor who needs to fulfill the educational gap by providing a detailed analysis on the benefits attached with adult learning. The role of an instructor is therefore vitally important while deciding the outcome of an adult learning session.


In case you are aspiring to be an instructor, you need to understand how adults learn. When compared to children and teens, adults have a different learning methodology, which needs to be learnt and then implemented by the teacher. Knowels (1990) was considered as the pioneer in the field of adult learning and has formulated a few characteristics which can be considered as the pillars of adult learning methodology. Adults are free living beings who can direct themselves. The teacher’s role while imparting learning skills to adults is that of a participant. They need to allow adults to complete their projects on their own accord.

They need to be taught through group leaderships and through the means of detailed presentations. Teachers need to act as facilitators and encourage adults to gain knowledge on their own accord rather than by supplying them with facts. Adults need to be presented with a chart, which in turn would be responsible to help them achieve their goals. A personal goal sheet is a suitable example. Adults can therefore be considered as autonomous and self governed towards their learning objectives.

Teachers need to understand that adults have amassed a pool of knowledge which in turn is based upon their life experiences, work related activities, their educational pursuits as well as family responsibilities. It is the duty of the teachers to use adult learning skill set to connect the experience of adults with the academic learning procedures. In order to achieve this goal, teachers need to understand the participant’s knowledge and experience and then relate it to the relevant topic. Adult learning theories and concepts need to be linked with the valuable experiences of the adult participants (Knowles, 1990).

Characteristics of the Adult Learners

As we have discussed above, adult learners are blessed with a fountain of knowledge and experience. Henceforth, teachers who are involved in the overall process of adult learning need to nurture that experience through the means of predetermined concepts and theories so as to further develop the learning skills of adult learners. Here, teachers act as mere participants and are very different in their approach when compared to the teaching methods adopted to educate high school children or kids.

Another characteristic of adults is that they are goal oriented in their approach. It is basically understood through various adult learning theories that adults are well aware of their futuristic goals even before they enroll for a specified adult learning module. A learning module which is organized and following a structured program, is always preferred by adult learners. The goals and objectives of the course need to be explained by the teachers in the early stages of the adult learning cession. Likewise, it is the duty of the teachers to instill confidence amongst the adult learner with regards to the effectiveness of the learning cession towards the achievements of adult goals.

Another characteristic of adult learning is that it is relevancy-oriented. Adults need a reason for learning something new. The learning needs to be of immense value for their personal or professional lives. Hence, it is the duty of the teachers to divulge the details of the adult learning course in the early stages of the class. Theories and concepts must be related with the desires and aspirations of the adult learners and hence, adult learners need to be allowed to choose a subject which is relevant to their goals and personal liking (Lieb, 1991).

Motivating Adult Learners to Enhance Their Skill Set

It is interesting to note that adult learners are practical in their overall approach and they are also focused. Unlike children, they are not interested in the knowledge and hence it is the duty of the instructors to make them aware of the true benefits of the adult learning cession. Instructors need to show their respect towards the adult learners, so that their wealth of experience can be shared with the rest of the class.

A suitable adult learning cession allows the adult participants to voice their opinion freely and share their views without any sort of inhibitions attached. In order to motivate an adult learner, teachers need to allow the development of social relationships, wherein the learner is allowed to make new friends. External expectations too need to be met, wherein the adult learner is asked to fulfill the recommendation of a third party with formal authority. Social welfare is another means of motivating an adult learner. Here, the service to mankind allows an adult learner to understand the true meaning of community leadership.

In order to achieve a higher job status, an adult learner needs to be motivated to stay ahead of his nearest competitor by focusing on personal advancement. The adult worker also needs to be allowed a break from home and routine work. This would stimulate his/her senses and instill enhanced performance. Last but not the least; the adult learner needs to develop cognitive skills, so as to satisfy the needs of a creative mind and to seek knowledge for the sake of his/her enhancing personal as well as professional skills.

A Few Learning Tips for Instructors

Learning is a continual process which happens with each and every individual. While different individuals have different grasping powers, they tend to get nervous when presented with new learning scenarios. This is when instructors need to adhere to the four critical elements of learning in order to ease the pressure on adult learners. Through the means of motivation, reinforcement, retention and transference, instructors can ensure that the adult learners gain knowledge at warp speed.

Using motivational skills, the instructors can establish a feeling or a tone for the cession. Teachers need to create a friendly atmosphere which is conducive to adult learning. Likewise, they also need to regulate the level of tension by paying adequate attention to the objectives. The higher the level of objective, the higher should be the level of stress and vice versa. Similarly, information overload needs to be avoided and higher learning standards maintained in order to avoid frustration and loss of interest. Likewise, instructors need to indulge in regular feedback cessions and the instructors aught to reward performers and coach non-performers in order to maintain the level of interest.

The concept of positive and negative reinforcement is also considered essential in encouraging appropriate modes of behavior and performance. Similarly, it is the duty of the instructors to foresee that their teaching methodology is being retained by the adult learners in an appropriate manner. Lastly, transfer learning needs to be fortified with positive and negative transference techniques. Transference needs to be imparted by the instructors through association, similarity, the degree of original learning and the critical attribute element (Speck, 1996).


Adult learning is a fairly new field of study; nonetheless it has immense potential in terms of heightened success. To be able to achieve success, the role of an adult instructor is of vital importance. Likewise, the adult learners have defined expectations that need to be met through the means of the adult learning course curriculum. Selfish benefits and personal interests are often the biggest motivators which attract adult learners for a particular course. If they find the course beneficial, they would certainly perform in a better way.


Lieb,S.(1991).Principles of adult learning. Web.

Lawler, P. A. (1991). The keys to adult learning: theory and practical strategies. Philadelphia: Research for Better Schools.

Knowles, M.S. 1990 The Adult Learner: a Neglected Species 4th edition, Houston: Gulf Publishing Company, Book Division.

Speck, M. (1996). Best practice in professional development for sustained educational change. ERS Spectrum, 33-41.

Cite this paper

Select style


ChalkyPapers. (2022, February 12). Philosophy of Adult Learning. Retrieved from


ChalkyPapers. (2022, February 12). Philosophy of Adult Learning.

Work Cited

"Philosophy of Adult Learning." ChalkyPapers, 12 Feb. 2022,


ChalkyPapers. (2022) 'Philosophy of Adult Learning'. 12 February.


ChalkyPapers. 2022. "Philosophy of Adult Learning." February 12, 2022.

1. ChalkyPapers. "Philosophy of Adult Learning." February 12, 2022.


ChalkyPapers. "Philosophy of Adult Learning." February 12, 2022.