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Empower Your Learning Journey: Master and Apply Adult Learning Principles


Do you want to know about the adult learning principles? Let’s talk about it! Education ought to be a lifetime endeavor. You learn something new every day, as the phrase goes. However, far too frequently, we associate learning with official settings like schools and other establishments from our early years. 

With this structured environment, adult learning can happen organically with consideration of the most beneficial methods of approaching and organizing it. 

What Are Adult Learning Principles? 

adult learning principles,define andragogy, Empower Your Learning Journey: Master and Apply Adult Learning Principles

American educator Malcolm Knowles recognized in the mid-1970s that the education of adults is significantly different from that of children. The difference with adults is that they have lived longer and, therefore, already have experience and motivation.

The antithesis of pedagogy, which deals with early learning, is Andragogy. Adult learning theory, therefore, investigates the various ways in which adults retain new information. Knowing this helps educators and trainers create materials and classes to benefit a larger student group.

Define Andragogy

The Greek terms andra, which means “man,” and agogos, which means “leader of,” are the source of the word Andragogy. Andragogy means “leading man” or “man-leading” when translated literally.

“Knowles saw that adults learned differently from children, something that seems obvious now, but he was able to articulate this difference with the concept of andragogy,” according to Enablers of Change. 

These days, it might seem obvious that children and adults learn differently. Nonetheless, this was a massive advance during Knowles’ time. 

To elaborate, Knowles’ idea of Andragogy was “an attempt to develop a theory specifically for adult learning,” according to Instructional Design. Knowles emphasizes that adults want to be in charge of their own decisions and are self-directed. Programs for adult learning must take this essential factor into account. According to Andragogy, adult education must emphasize the process more than the subject matter being taught.

As a result, Knowles delineated four broad concepts that characterize adult education. These are the following: 

  • Adults need to be in charge of organizing and assessing their education.
  • Adult learning activities are based on experience, including mistakes.
  • Adults are primarily interested in topics directly related to their personal or professional lives.
  • Instead of being content-centered, adult learning should be problem-centered. 

As a result, Knowles’ idea of Andragogy is built around autonomy, relevance, and self-directed learning. Adult learning focuses on the ‘why,’ or the processes and reasoning that drive a specific learning activity, as opposed to childhood learning, which often focuses on the ‘what,’ such as learning basic facts and skills.

Put, adult learning should seek to answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” Furthermore, adult learners should be aware of the goals and objectives of a specific learning activity and, ideally, participate in determining these results. Finally, the content should apply to the learners’ lives and previous experiences.

In addition to Andragogy, several more similar adult learning theories exist, including:

  • Transformative learning: This approach seeks to “change” the student by first employing experiences that are relevant to the student, followed by activities that challenge those experiences and provide other points of view.
  • Self-directed learning: This theory recognizes that learning is a personal journey, and students must take the initiative to determine their goals, needs, and learning tactics.
  • Experiential learning: Experiential learning is a philosophy that combines experiences with knowledge. Students learn through hands-on activities such as role plays and simulations.

In short, as Knowles puts it, “An essential aspect of maturation is developing the ability to take increasing responsibility for one’s life, to become increasingly self-directed.”

Why Are Adult Learning Theories So Important?

adult learning principles,define andragogy, Empower Your Learning Journey: Master and Apply Adult Learning Principles

The significance of adult learning theory is straightforward: without it, educators cannot provide an optimal learning environment for their adult pupils, who, in the case of a corporation, include everyone. There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for adult learning since people retain information differently. However, adopting adult learning principles gives pupils the best opportunity to flourish.

  • Incorporating adult learning strategies into your company’s training and development strategy boosts chances for upskilling while reducing the danger of unneeded stress.
  • In addition, there are numerous more benefits to using adult learning principles at work. It gives kids a newfound enthusiasm for learning, increasing their engagement.

Applying The Adult Learning Principles 

Now that we’ve defined the adult learning principles of Andragogy and explained why they’re important, let’s examine these concepts more closely. 

As part of his work, Knowles identified six adult learning principles. Let’s look at these six adult learning principles and how to apply them in an L&D situation. 

Need to know

First and foremost, folks must comprehend why they are learning something. Adults will soon lose interest and disengage if they need help understanding why they are studying. 

While youngsters are like sponges, soaking up tremendous amounts of knowledge, adult learners are significantly more selective. They can tell the difference between knowledge they need and information unrelated to their current needs.

Before constructing a learning module, ask yourself, ‘What are this activity’s major objectives and desired outcomes?’ Consider the learner’s perspective and ask yourself, ‘What’s in it for me?’

If you can answer these simple questions, your learners will likely find the learning activity relevant and exciting.


As a child, everything is new and thrilling. You are discovering things for the first time and gaining new experiences. Adults, on the other hand, have more experience learning. They’ve been to school, informal learning, workplace training, and everything else. 

The eLearning Industry states, “As a person matures, they accumulate a growing reservoir of experience that becomes an increasingly valuable resource for learning.” So, even if an adult learner are unfamiliar with a particular topic or subject, they can use it to inform their learning process by relating it to other abilities and life experiences. 

This richness of experience should inform adult learning activities. As a learning designer, you must complement this experience with additional materials to enhance learning. In the words of Maestro Learning, “Finding ways to integrate this experience with discussion groups and debriefs can be a neat way to help your learners feel like you see the value they bring, too.” 


Adult learners thrive on autonomy. They already understand what they need to study. It would help if you collaborated with them to facilitate their learning. Given this, adult learners should be in charge of determining their own learning goals and objectives. Give your students real choices and watch them thrive. They should also feel like they own their education. They can determine when, where, how, and whether they need to learn anything. As a result, offering chances for self-directed learning is critical.

As Knowles put it, “adults believe they are responsible for their own lives.” “They must be seen and treated as capable and self-directed.”

Readiness to learn

Adults learn best when the subject matter enables them to solve a pressing, real-world problem. 

Children absorb knowledge as it is provided to them. However, adults are significantly more selective. Unlike children in school, adults are rarely forced to learn, allowing them to choose what they want to know. 

So, when grownups decide to study something, they are prepared. Adults are ready to learn, so no roadblocks or obstacles should exist. Consider this: you are up for a significant promotion that depends on acquiring a new talent. In this situation, you are eager and motivated to study. 

Andragogy in a Nutshell

adult learning principles,define andragogy, Empower Your Learning Journey: Master and Apply Adult Learning Principles

Adult learning concepts should be used to convey information successfully throughout a company, whether through a particular training program or a broader corporate learning initiative. Adults learn differently than children, and firms that successfully follow these concepts will profit from more knowledgeable staff. In addition to these concepts, several adult learning theories can assist firms in enhancing their training programs. This essay is based on those theories and will explain how to apply them in your organization’s training programs.

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