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Published on October 1, 2019

How to Apply the Adult Learning Theory to Learn Faster

How to Apply the Adult Learning Theory to Learn Faster

Each day provides us with an opportunity to learn. However, as we grow and transition from a child to an adult, our ability to grasp things and learn concepts goes through a radical shift.

Why, you ask?

This is because, we, as adults, get inspired by our previous experiences, surroundings, company, and other factors, which in turn, play an important role in the entire adult learning process.

In this article, you will learn about the Adult Learning Theory, and how you can apply it to learn faster.

What Is Adult Learning Theory?

Adult Learning Theory is a field of research that studies various reasons behind the differences between the way adults and kids learn. It suggests ways through which adult learning could be made more effective.

According to the US Department of Education, there are various adult learning theories in the research literature, these include:[1]

Andragogy

Andragogy is a theory related to educating adult learners. This theory was developed by educator Malcolm Knowles in the 1950s.

It is based on five assumptions, and four principles which work in harmony to promote self-directed learning.

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The five assumptions include:

  • Self-concept
  • Adult learner experience
  • Readiness to learn
  • Orientation to learning
  • Motivation to learn

And the four principles of Andragogy are:

  • Adults should take part in the planning and evaluation of their learning instructions.
  • Experience serves as the foundation of learning.
  • Adults are inclined towards learning subjects that have immediate impact on their job and career.
  • Adults learning is not content-centered, but problem-centered.

This theory emphasizes the importance of adults’ experiences. These experiences will serve as the foundation for future learning experiences. The theory also focuses on the importance of problem-centered learning which is relevant to the adult learners.

Transformational Learning

Developed by socialist and professor, Jack Mezirow, Transformational Learning is a theory that focuses on the meaning of the learning experiences.[2] The theory consists of 10 steps, each step reflects on the experiences of an adult learner at various levels:

  1. Experiencing a disorienting dilemma
  2. Undergoing self-examination
  3. Critically assessing assumptions
  4. Recognizing a connection between one’s discontent and the process of transformation
  5. Exploring options for new roles, relationships, and actions
  6. Planning a course of action
  7. Acquiring knowledge or skills for implementing one’s plans
  8. Trying new roles on a provisional basis
  9. Building competence and self-confidence in new roles and relationships.
  10. Integrating the changes into one’s life

Experiential Learning

Experiential learning theory was developed by David Kolb. It focuses on learning through reflection and experience. This theory states that adults can learn through their experiences without needing a teacher.

How Differently Adults and Children Learn?

Adults learn differently when compared to children. There are various important factors that play an important role, some of them being:

Adults Get Inspired from Their Wealth of Experience

We, as adults, have seen the world. We have a network of friends, relatives, colleagues, neighbors, and each of these individuals leave an impact on the learning experience of adults. As a result, we are able to relate our learning to our past experiences.

Adults Need Better Opportunities to Self-Reflect Their Learning

When compared to children who behave socially in classroom settings, adults are not as much vocal about their learning experience. So we need seek for better learning opportunities so that we can interact, self-reflect, and retain the information.

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Adults Are Not Good in Taking Directions Without Knowing the Behind Motive

Teaching children is easy. They tend to follow the instructions and learn things related to their distant future without questioning why.

However, this is not the case with adults. We won’t retain the information provided until and unless we find it suitable and relevant to our end-goals.

Adults Have a Predetermined Idea About Learning Styles

Although children are open to exploring new styles of learning, adults have stringent requirements. As adults, we prefer learning in a certain way irrespective of how conducive it might be for our needs.

To overcome our learning behavior and to retain the information learned, it is necessary to try varied learning styles and analyze what works best for ourselves.

Adults Are Sensitive Towards Failures

Most of the time, adults are not receptive to failures, and this is what makes us restricted. Unlike children, they are not willing to experiment due to social filters.

To stay interested in the learning process, try to build the information on small pieces and gradually support it with extra learning.

Adults Learning Habits Are Inspired by Their Immediate Relevance

Children engage in education with the sole motive of learning things, the implementation comes after. A fifth-grader who has not decided their career path won’t know that their biology lessons will play an important role in his career as a doctor.

On the other hand, adults have a predefined career path; and more often than not, our learning is inspired by its immediate implication to our career, daily life and so on.

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How to Benefit from the Learning Theory to Learn More Effectively

As is evident, the ways in which adults learn is fairly different from the ways in which children learn. However, you can leverage your need to connect with experience to learn effectively and effortlessly. Here is how you can do that:

1. Make the Best Use of Technology

Adults like learning on their own. Thus, making the right use of technology could be your best bet here. Choose to learn in a format which is easy to navigate, doesn’t provide redundant information, and encourages you to learn more.

YouTube, for instance, keeps you hooked for hours as it allows you to browse various topics, and provides you with relevant suggestions based on your likings. What’s more, it allows you to hit on the next episode as soon as you are done. This keeps your interest alive.

2. Choose Visual-Based Learning

A study conducted by UC Santa Barbara revealed that adding complementary visuals to text provides 89 percent advantage of learning outcomes.[3] This works particularly when you have a little background about the topic and are learning it from scratch.

However, striking the right balance is of the key here. Too many visuals can prove to be overwhelming and might also hamper your learning experience.

3. Use Audio

If you have encountered a complex issue, and are finding it tough to learn and grasp its concepts, making use of audio descriptions can help.

Audio clips explain the concept better, help in segregating the two related topics, and are also convenient in highlighting an important point or bullet.

4. Get Actively Involved in the Learning

Although theoretical exercises can be interesting, adults learn the best when they are involved in the learning.

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Instead of simply memorizing facts and figures, you can learn effectively by getting involved in role-playing activities. Look for opportunities where you can implement your learning. This will help you in bridging the gap between the theoretical and practical concepts.

Practicing and doing practical experiments not only helps you in learning better, but it also helps you in retaining your knowledge.

5. Exercise a Bit of Ownership

What makes adults learning significantly different to the kids learning is the fact that, kids like to follow the instructions provided. However, this is not the case with adults who like to exercise a bit of control over their learning activities.

This is perhaps why you will feel more comfortable while learning from online courses as they allow you to learn at your own pace, and at the comfort of your home.

6. Make Use of Supplementary Materials

It is essential to judge your requirements pretty well. While some people might find learning by listening highly effective, there are others who like to take notes and review the written material afterward.

Our learning needs vary greatly based on our personal preferences and learning habits, and this must be taken into account.

Final Thoughts

Although all the factors that we mentioned above might not be applicable to everyone, it will not be wrong to say that a large spectrum of people encounters similar experiences.

To make your learning experience all the more pleasurable and unforgettable, understand your requirements, analyze what works for you and what doesn’t, and take the right steps!

More About Learning

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Reference

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Published on June 22, 2020

7 Characteristics of a Smart Auditory Learner

7 Characteristics of a Smart Auditory Learner

I spent five years as a middle and high school teacher, and I would often hear people talking about learning styles. “Betty is a visual learner. Sam is kinesthetic. Emma is an auditory learner.”

I hadn’t read any research about learning styles at the time, but on the face of it, it makes sense. Some people seem to learn better when they see things, others when they’re active, and some when they hear things. I know that I really struggle when someone spells a word aloud. I have no idea what word they’re spelling. I’ve always just made the excuse that I’m a visual learner and will need them to write it down for me. But is there any truth to learning styles?

Before we delve into the characteristics of a smart auditory learner, let’s take a step back and explore what research says about learning styles more generally.

Debunking Learning Styles

In the 1990s, a New Zealand school inspector named Neil Fleming[1] came up with a questionnaire to measure people’s preferred learning style. Now called the VARK questionnaire, it’s still used today to discern whether people are Visual, Auditory, Read/Write, or Kinesthetic learners.

Fleming’s learning styles theory gained popularity over the decades, but no studies have confirmed its legitimacy. In a study by Polly Husmann and Valerie Dean O’Loughlin[2], they found that people who used their preferred learning style did not see any improvements in learning outcomes. In short, there was no correlation between learning style and actual learning.

Another study by Abby R. Knoll, Hajime Otani, Reid L. Skeel, and K. Roger Van Horn[3] also found that learning style had no relationship with recall. Participants who preferred visual learning did not recall images they saw any better than words they heard.

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There’s no evidence that learning styles help people learn or recall. Instead, they should be thought of as a learning preference. I prefer when people write things down for me, but there’s no evidence that this improves my recall.

7 Characteristics of a Smart Auditory Learner

Having a preference for auditory learning means you gravitate toward verbal communication. Audiobooks and lectures might be your cup of tea instead of the charts and graphs of a visual learner.

So what if you think you’re an auditory learner? Let’s say you have a knack for processing audio communication and can close your eyes and pick up all the important details of a lecture or audiobook. The following list is for you. Here are 7 characteristics of smart auditory learners—people who use their auditory preference to their advantage.

1. They Take Learning Styles With a Grain of Salt

This bears repeating. There is no evidence that people’s learning styles impact their learning, so a smart auditory learner definitely takes learning styles with a grain of salt.

Think of it as a preference. Smart auditory learners know they prefer audiobooks and hearing things out loud, so there’s no harm leaning into that preference.

Just don’t assume it’s going to improve your test scores.

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2. They Get Rid of Distractions

Just because you’re an auditory learner doesn’t mean you can sift through lots of auditory inputs at once. No matter your learning preference, make sure you put effort into limiting distractions.

An auditory learner might struggle to study while listening to music or have difficulty working with the TV on because they’re so receptive to auditory information. Therefore, you should find a quiet place to learn, so you can focus all your energy on whatever it is you’re trying to retain.

3. They Match Learning Task With Learning Style

The real secret to improving your retention and recall is to match the learning task with the learning style. A smart auditory learner knows the best time to rely on auditory learning. They don’t always fall back on listening. Instead, they strategize the best approach for each individual learning challenge.

For example, I might know that I favor visual learning, but if I need to memorize my lines in a play, I might be better served recording the other characters’ lines, so I can practice saying my lines when I hear my cues.

Maybe I’m more kinesthetic. That doesn’t mean that I have to move to learn. Instead, I have to be strategic about when and how I add movement to my learning process. It might make sense for me to memorize countries or states by drawing a giant map and running to the right spot when someone yells out that geographic location. However, it doesn’t make much sense to dance around while I’m reading Foucault. The learning style should be in service of whatever it is that’s being learned.

Instead of catering to people’s learning preferences, we should be matching the learning style with the task at hand. Ask yourself, “What’s the best style (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, reading/writing) for this particular learning task?”

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4. They Use Their Voice

Auditory learners might need to read things aloud or listen to audiobooks instead of silently reading. Adding your voice can help turn reading/writing into an auditory exercise.

Get creative with it. If you consider yourself to be an auditory learner, think of different ways to add an audio element to your learning. Sing it. Yell it. Turn it into a poem. Just don’t get stuck in the reading/writing learning style when you prefer to be hearing and listening.

5. They Practice Listening

Smart auditory learners don’t take listening for granted. Just because you prefer auditory learning doesn’t mean you’re great at it. Instead, smart auditory learners take their preference and improve it over time.

Practice your listening skills. Give people your undivided attention, clarify what you’ve just heard, and challenge yourself to be as active and present a listener as possible.

Asking clarifying questions and repeating back what you’ve just heard can help you assess how accurate your listening is[4]. You should also transfer what you’ve heard to other learning styles. Write it down or draw it as pictures, charts, and graphs. That brings us to the next characteristic of smart auditory learners.

6. They Use All Learning Styles

Smart auditory learners use all the learning styles. They may have a preference for listening, but using all types of inputs helps improve retention and recall.

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If you’re studying for an exam, don’t just record your notes as audio or listen to online lectures. Use flashcards, read your notes out loud, quiz yourself, create an active game that requires you to move around, and teach the concepts to your roommate. This gets as many parts of your brain and body involved in the learning as possible, which increases your odds of retaining the information and acing the exam.

7. They Reflect on What Works and What Doesn’t

Smart auditory learners are also reflective and self-aware learners. After you try a learning strategy, assess and reflect on how it went. Did you retain as much information as you’d hoped? Build off your successes and change strategies when a learning style isn’t working for you.

Smart auditory learning is really just smart learning. Create a game plan that uses multiple, appropriate learning styles. Then, follow through by removing distractions and studying your heart out. After assessing how much you’ve retained, reflect on what worked and what didn’t. Then, refine your game plan for more success next time.

Final Thoughts

It would be magical if learning styles were a silver bullet for learning. I’d love to be able to say I’m a visual learner and then be able to recall every single piece of information just by seeing it represented visually. Unfortunately, that’s not at all how learning styles work.

Learning is complex and messy. Just because we prefer one learning style doesn’t mean it helps us learn better. What we really need to do is experiment with all the learning styles and try to match the right learning styles with each specific task.

Knowing your learning style is important. It’s good to know how you prefer to receive information. Just don’t stop there. Use your preference for auditory learning strategically and when it makes sense to do so.

More Tips for When You’re an Auditory Learner

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Reference

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