Adult Learning Tips & Techniques

Adult Learning Tips & Techniques
Becky S. Corbett, MSW, ACSW, Emily Tevault, MBA, and Hilary Ashmen, M.Ed.

Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” —
Benjamin Franklin, Inventor


How well do you know your team? What engages them in learning? Leaders are educators and lifelong learners. Incorporating adult learning strategies into trainings creates a culture of growth. The role of the adult educator is to remove barriers, give attendees the appreciation for learning, and make available the skills to be successful. The Tips & Techniques below will support you and your team on the journey.

 Know your learners
Assessing your team’s needs and interests allows training to be customized for the group. Enlist feedback and suggestions for topics from team members. Active listening helps the educator to discover where the group is in the learning process; meet them where they are; and assist them in moving forward.

Value experience
Adults learn best when building on what they already know. Throughout a person’s career, they accumulate a reservoir of knowledge which is a rich resource for learning. Acknowledging an individual’s experiences motivates them to continue growing.

Build on strengths
Strengths-based training capitalizes on growth opportunities. Confidence builds when attendees have their strengths validated. Improved confidence builds trust and openness to new information. A culture of collaboration occurs when unique skills and talents are highlighted in training to build a safe, cooperative environment.

Offer different learning modalities
Offering a variety of modalities allows adults to select what works best for their learning style. Executive coaching, Mastermind groups, webinars, in-person trainings, and conferences are all valuable ways to grow. When individuals feel they have a choice of topics and training delivery, it is more likely they will embrace the learning process.

 Explain “why”
Knowing “why” triggers internal motivation for learning. When adults can see improved quality of life, fulfillment, and/or job satisfaction, they are encouraged to engage in the learning process. This creates a team that values growth and develops a desire to seek out further training opportunities.

 Provide immediacy of application
Ask the attendees, “How can the new information be applied today?” When concepts and skills can be immediately applied during and after training, participants make it part of who they are and how they perform within their organization. Adults learn best by doing; provide experiential and active opportunities.

 Develop solutions-centered learning opportunities
Learning needs to be contextual, solve problems and have practical application. Adults learn best when it is solution-based. Teams are prepared to move vision to action when training supports effective strategies.

 Make content digestible
Training objectives must be clear and limited to the length of the training session. Unrealistic expectations can lead to frustration and limit the information received. Understanding a person’s readiness to learn allows the educator to take advantage of the moment that the individual is ready to digest the new knowledge.

 Activate learning with accountability
When training dollars are provided, attendees need to be accountable to their organization for what they learned. To make the experience meaningful, have them review the knowledge with others and apply it in their day to day practice. Reflection, presentations, and train the trainer sessions are ways to bring the information back to colleagues and activate learning.

 Understanding the who, what, where, when, why, and how adults learn best allows you to maximize team growth and development. How will you support lifelong learning in your organization? Share your thoughts and experiences, join the conversation below.

 “The most important attitude that can be formed is that of desire to go on learning.” —John Dewey, Educator

 Adult Learning Resources

Heutagogy and Lifelong Learning: A Review of Heutagogical Practice and Self-Determined Learning by Lisa Maria Blaschke

The 8 Fundamental Principles of Adult Learning that Every Course Creator & Training Professional Should Know by Sarah Cordiner

The Modern Practice of Adult Education: From Pedagogy to Andragogy by Malcolm S. Knowles

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