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I created "Motivational Mentoring 101". I am a former teacher of incarcerated adolescent male offenders. Experienced in job coaching & job development for ex-offenders. I have mentored many youthful & adult offenders into socially accepted careers.
Therlon Harris | Therlong

The Adult Learner

Jul 2nd 2010 at 9:32 AM

The Adult Leaner



1)      Adults seek out learning experiences in order to cope with specific life-change events (Marriage, divorce, a new job, a promotion, being fired, retiring, losing a loved one moving to a new city are examples).

2)      The more life-change events an adult encounters, the more likely he or she will seek out learning opportunities. The motivation to cope with change through engagement in a learning experience increases. Learning is a coping response to significant change. Those who most frequently seek out learning opportunities are people who have the most overall years of education.

3)      The learning experiences adults seek out on their own are directly related to the life-change events that triggered the seeking.

4)      Adults are generally willing to engage in learning experiences before, after, or even during the actual life-change event. Once convinced that the change is a certainty, adults will engage in any learning that promises to help them cope with that change.

5)      Adults who are motivated to seek out a learning experience do so primarily because they have a use for the knowledge or skill being sought Learning is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

6)      There seems to be “teachable moments” in the lives of adults. Wisdom is a separate intellectual function that develops as we grow older.

7)      Adults tend to prefer single-concept, single theory courses that focus heavily on the application of the concepts to relevant problems.

8)      Adults need to be able to integrate new ideas with what they already know if they are going to keep –and use-the new information.

9)      Information that conflicts sharply with what is already held to be true is integrated more slowly.

10)  Information that has little “conceptual overlap” with what is already known is acquired slowly.

11)  Fast-paced, complex or unusual learning tasks interfere with the learning or the concepts or data they are intended to teach or illustrate.

12)  Adults tend to compensate for being slower in some psychomotor learning tasks by being more accurate and making fewer trial-and-error ventures.

13)  Adults tend to take errors personally, and are more likely to let them affect self-esteem. They tend to apply tried-and-true solutions and take fewer risks.  1st The presentation of new information should be meaningful, and it should include aids that help the learner organize it and relate it to previously stored information. 2nd It should be presented at a pace that permits mastery. 3rd The presentation of one idea at a time and minimization of competing intellectual demands should aid comprehensions. Finally, frequent summarization should facilitate retention and recall. Not only do adults’ needs and interests continually change, but their values also continue to grow and change.

14)  The curriculum design should require a change in the way people think and value.

15)  Programs need to be designed to accept viewpoints from people in different life stages and with different value “sets”.

16)  A concept should be “anchored” or explained from more than one value set and appeal to more than one developmental life stage.

17)  Adults prefer self-directed and self-designed learning projects over group-learning experiences led by a professional. Furthermore, the adult learner often selects more than one medium for the design. Reading and talking to a qualified peer are frequently cited as good resources. The desire to control pace and start/stop time strongly affect the self-directed preference.

18)  One piece of research found non-human media such as books, programmed instructions and television are very influential in the way adults plan self-directed learning projects.

19)  The need for applications and how-to information is the primary motivation for undertaking a learning project.

20)  The self-professed, self-directed learner, lectures and short seminars get positive ratings especially when these events give the learner face-to-face, one-to-one access to an expert. The adult learner is a very efficiency-mined individual. “What is the cheapest, easiest, fastest way for me to learn to do that?” and then proceeds independently along this self-determined route. The adult trainee has to have a hand in shaping the curriculum of the program.

21)  The learning environment must be physically and psychologically comfortable. Long lectures, periods of interminable sitting and the absence of practice opportunities are high on the irritation scale.

22)  Self-esteem and ego are on the line when they are asked to risk trying a new behavior in front of peers and cohorts.

23)  Adults have expectations, and it is critical to take time up front to clarify and articulate all expectations before getting into content. The trainer/facilitator and trainees need to state their expectations. Problems should be acknowledged and a resolution negotiated.

24)  Adults bring a great deal of life experience into the classroom, an invaluable asset to be acknowledged, tapped and used. Adults can learn well-and much- from dialogue with respected peers.

25)  The facilitator should concentrate on using open-ended questions to draw relevant trainee knowledge and experience.

26)  Feedback about how the new fits or fails to fit with the old has to be integrated with previous knowledge; that means active learner participation.

27)  We seem best able to establish control when we risk giving it up. When we shelve our egos and stifle the tendency to be threatened by challenge to our plans and methods, we gain the kind of facilitative control we seem to need to affect adult learning.

28)  The instructor has to protect minority opinion, keep disagreements civil and unheated, make connections between various opinions and ideas, and keep reminding the group of the variety of potential solutions to the problem. Just as in a good problem-solving meeting, the, the instructor is less advocate than orchestrator.

29)  Integration of new knowledge and skill requires transition time and focused effort.

30)  The trainer of adults needs to take an eclectic rather than a single theory-based approach to developing strategies and procedures. Adults want their learning to be problem-centered, personalized and accepting of their need for self-direction and personal responsibility.


Compiled from

30 things we know for sure about adult learning

By Ron and Susan Zemke

Training/HRD June 1981

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