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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!

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Featured photo credit: Avel Chuklanov via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on October 16, 2019

12 Surprising Benefits of Learning a New Language

12 Surprising Benefits of Learning a New Language

Learning a new language is a big deal.

You’re learning a completely new form of communication, and it enables you to communicate with people you never could have before.

But there’s benefits to learning a language that you might not have expected when you started the journey. I’ve personally experienced this having learned 3 languages in my life (Korean, English, and Spanish).

Think about the effect that losing weight has on someone’s life. While most people get into it for a healthier lifestyle, there can be surprising benefits like increased confidence, being more outgoing, and increased mental clarity.

The same thing can apply to language learning.

In this article, we’ll share the 12 surprising benefits you’ll experience when you learn a language.

1. Learn Anything Faster

Learning a new language is mental agility training at its best. The exercise in cognitive problem solving can without a doubt be applied to almost any problem we want to solve in other areas.

Your memory retention is also improved when learning a new language.[1] Absorbing and retaining more information can significantly shorten your learning curve, because you can spend more time learning new information instead of re-learning something you’ve already learned before.

But it doesn’t stop there. Once you learn a new language, not only are you able to learn other languages faster (simply due to understanding the process), but you’ve already retained key skills for learning several other languages without even knowing it.

For example, if you recently learned how to speak Spanish, you’ve automatically entered the world of languages from the latin root, such as Portuguese, Italian, French, and Romanian. In fact, between these languages there are over a thousand words that are exactly the same, if not very similar to each other.

Screen-Shot-2016-03-07-at-8.00.09-AM

    Notice the similarity of the words between these languages.

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    2. Improve Your Math Skills

    For those of us who didn’t grow up with natural talents in mathematics, no need to fear.

    A study was done at Massachusetts in 2007, where The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages stated that:[2]

    “Children who study a foreign language, even when this second language study takes time away from the study of mathematics, outperform students who do not study a foreign language and have more mathematical instruction during the school day.”

    In another study published in the University of Michigan’s Language Learning journal (Armstrong and Rogers, 1997), students who studied just one semester of a foreign language for just 90 minutes per week scored significantly higher in maths and language arts.

    If you think about it, it makes sense. Learning a language involves a structural and logical process, which is the same type of thinking that makes you thrive in mathematics.

    3. Become a Better Listener

    This is a skillset that comes in handy for any situation throughout our lives.

    If you’re trying to build a real connection with anyone, there’s nothing better than intentional listening without interruption. This is one of the key elements taught in Dale Carnegie’s, How to Win Friends and Influence People.

    When learning a language, there’s no choice but to train yourself to listen carefully, because you’re trying to make out every accent, pronunciation, and tone used by the other person. And if you’re just starting out, you’re forced to listen because you can’t speak the language!

    Most importantly, learning a new language helps you step into the shoes of people different to yourself and see the world in a completely different way— therefore developing empathy for others.

    4. Enhances Your Focus

    In a study, published online in the journal, Brain and Language, individuals who spoke more than one language were observed through an fMRI, while performing word comprehension tasks.[3] This is a far more powerful than the best drugs which only delay the symptoms by 6–12 months.[4]

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    The American Academy of Neurology has performed studies showing that speaking more than one language increases the amount of neural pathways in the brain, allowing information to be processed through a greater variety of channels.

    7. Improve Your Native Language

    We discussed how learning one language can help you pick up not only other languages, but familiarize yourself with languages originating from the same root.

    What most people don’t mention enough, is that it can also help you improve your native language.

    According to an Impact of the Second Language Education study, studying a second language alone will significantly improve your first language skills in areas relating to grammar, reading, vocabulary, and speaking skills.[5]

    This makes sense because learning a new language allows you to understand the structures and breakdown of a language, whereas this is something you likely intuitively picked up when you learned your native language.

    8. Increase Your Creativity

    Language learning is a lot like putting together the pieces of a new puzzle.

    You understand several, but not all of the words that are thrown at you, so you have to force yourself to be creative and fill the missing gaps on your own.

    creative-brain2

      This research concludes that bilingual individuals have a more “out of the box” thinking approach than monolingual individuals.[6]

      While most creativity training occurs in waves (meaning on and off), there’s no taking breaks when you’re having a conversation with someone. You either have to force yourself to become creative in your interpretation and speaking skills, or you’ll need to face up to the awkward silence that follows.

      9. Culturally Knowledgeable

      Language learning is not only about communicating in a foreign language, but it’s about experiencing a new culture.

      The first reason is that meeting foreign people is embedded in the core of language learning. In order to practice and improve your new language, you’ll need to work with a language teacher, use conversation exchanges, or attend language meetups. This is similar to how you need to just ride the bicycle instead of watching videos about it: it’s just part of the process.

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      The majority of conflicts between people in the world come from a lack of understanding of the other side. Studying a new language not only helps you understand where the other person is coming from, but the cultural knowledge you gain can help others feel more connected to you.

      10. Open up New Career Opportunities

      In the past decade, we’ve experienced a rapidly growing trend of globalization. With the Internet era, there is no such thing as doing local business. Nearly every business that opens up today is an online business, and has the ability to reach a global market in seconds.

      Big corporations are working fast to expand internationally to Asia, Europe, and South America, and understanding a foreign language will in the future likely become as standard as knowing Microsoft Word.

      Irene Missen, a language specialist at a top recruitment agency, Euro London, says that languages can open doors for you, and estimates a language can add between 10% and 15% to your wage.[7]

      When it comes to advancing your career, it’s critical to leave no doors closed. Learning a new language takes time, and it’s far better to learn it before you need it than to be unprepared at your next job interview.

      11. Experience a New Way of Traveling

      This is a big one, and often one that’s hard to understand unless you know another language.

      For example, learning how to speak Spanish before you visit Spain for the first time, will give you an entirely different travel experience versus not knowing the language.

      When you can speak the language of the place you’re traveling to, you’re no longer dependent on the typical tourism tips that you’ll get from Tripadvisor. You can build relationships with the locals, and discover restaurants, hot spots, and excursions that tourism websites will never be able to share with you.

      You get to experience the new culture from the eyes of a local, instead of a tourist.

      12. Deepen Your Relationships

      Almost everyone who comes from a different cultural background can probably empathize with this point. With my limited ability to speak Korean, I struggled growing up with Korean family members.

      Luckily, I was able to improve my skills over time (surprisingly, from learning Spanish). But I constantly see people who struggle to have that connection with their family members, friends, or even life partner, because of this language barrier.

      As we shared in this post, the majority of the world’s problem comes down to communication problems. And there’s no bigger barrier to communication than the languages we are able to speak with each other!

      Featured photo credit: Dan Gold via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Science Direct: Working memory development in monolingual and bilingual children
      [2] Daily News Minder: The benefits of learning a foreign language
      [3] AAAS: Bilingual brains better equipped to process information))

      Results showed that multi-lingual individuals were better at filtering out competing words than one-language speaking individuals. This ability to tune out competing words benefits in blocking out distractions to focus on the task at hand.

      As your listening skill improves, it only makes sense that it enhances your focus as well. Just like learning any new skill, learning a language requires your full, undivided attention. One slight distraction can mean the difference between one meaning and a completely different one.

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      Over time, your brain will be trained to maintain this level of focus.

      5. Boost Your Confidence

      When we set out to achieve something and find success, it boosts our confidence levels — no matter how small the progress.

      Even being able to carry a 30-second conversation with a native speaker can make you more confident, because you know it’s something you wouldn’t have been able to do before.

      “Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” — E.E. Cummings

      I still remember the “aha moment” I experienced when I was living in Medellin, Colombia. I was living with a roommate who couldn’t speak a word of English when I first moved in. After a few months of using an online app to learn Spanish, I was able to get to a conversation level of fluency. It amazed me how I was suddenly able to speak to someone that I couldn’t have fathomed speaking to before.

      Needlessly to say, as the language barrier disappeared, our positive perception of each other increased dramatically, and so did our friendship.

      This confidence boost only pushed me to learn more, engage with more native speakers, and it translated into more confidence in every aspect of my life.

      Author of Lean Forward, Eric Holtzclaw, states that it is powerful how even a tiny change in perspective can pull you out of a funk and give “you the boost you need to take on that next challenge.”

      6. Prevent Potential Brain Diseases

      Improving our health is something that should be a priority for every one of us, no matter how old we are. Most of us consider improving our health in a few major areas, like our physical appearance. But we tend to miss out on the most important part that runs our entire body — the brain.

      We are nothing without the vital functions of our brain, and we need to prioritize its health like we would with any other vital organ in our body.

      brain-languagemap

        When it comes to the brain, learning a new language can prevent or delay Alzheimer’s disease and dementia by 4.5 years.((Neurology: Bilingualism delays age at onset of dementia, independent of education and immigration status

        [4] Alzheimer’s Association: Medications for Memory
        [5] Rype: 8 Science-Backed Benefits of Learning a New Language
        [6] Cerebrum Dana Foundation: The Cognitive Benefits of Being Bilingual
        [7] Guardian: Learning a foreign language: Now you’re talking

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