5 Assumptions of Adult Learners

trainingCreating an effective elearning course requires that you know a little about your audience. Depending on the profile of the course taker, you can tailor the content accordingly.

One of the most basic (and often not thought about) classifications is whether the course is for an adult or a child. If you are creating elearning for your company, the answer to this question is probably quite obvious.

However, it does help to understand the adult learner a bit more thoroughly so as to create training that is optimized to produce positive results.

In 1980, Malcolm Knowles (1913 – 1997) hypothesized four assumptions about the adult learner. These four assumptions are a good reminder to how adults generally perceive training content – and with them in mind you can develop your content accordingly.

Knowles 5 Adult Learning Assumptions

1. Self Concept – When we get older, our concept of who we are (self-concept) shifts from dependence towards independence and self-direction.

2 Adult Learner Experience – As we grow and experience more life, we accumulate knowledge based on this experience that then becomes a more valuable resource for future learning. By the time we are adults, we have an abundance of experience to draw upon across a variety of contexts.

3. Readiness to learn – Our readiness to learn becomes more oriented to the developmental tasks of our social and work related roles.

4. Orientation to Learning – As adults, our perspective changes from one of postponed application of knowledge to immediate application, and as such our orientation shifts from one of subject-centered to one of problem-centered.

5. Motivation to Learn – As we mature, the motivation to learn is internal (Knowles 1984:12).


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About the Author:

Justin Ferriman is the co-founder and CEO of LearnDash, the most trusted WordPress LMS for major universities, continuing education providers, and entrepreneurs world-wide. Justin has made a career as an elearning consultant where he has implemented large-scale training programs for Fortune 500 companies.

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