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Last Updated on January 29, 2021

How to Apply the Adult Learning Theory to Learn Faster

How to Apply the Adult Learning Theory to Learn Faster
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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 absorb concepts goes through a radical shift. 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, including:[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 of adult learning that work in harmony to promote self-directed learning.

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:

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  • 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 an immediate impact on their job and career.
  • Adult learning is not content-centered, but problem-centered.

The Adult Learning Theory - Andragogy principles

    This theory emphasizes the importance of adults’ experiences[2]. 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 as much of their work often involves problem solving.

    Transformational Learning

    Developed by socialist and professor, Jack Mezirow, Transformational Learning is a theory that focuses on the meaning of the learning experiences.[3] The theory consists of 10 steps, and 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 Do Adults and Children Learn Differently?

    Adults learn differently when compared to children. There are various factors that play an important role in adult learning, including:

    Adults Get Inspired From Their Wealth of Experience

    We, as adults, have seen the world and find internal motivation though that life experience. 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 on Their Learning

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

    Adults Are Not Good at Taking Directions Without Knowing the Motive

    Teaching children is easy, as they tend to follow instructions and learn things related to their distant future without questioning why.

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

    Adults Are Sensitive Toward Failures

    Most of the time, adults are not receptive to failures, and this restricts them more. 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.

    Adult Learning Habits Are Inspired by Their Immediate Relevance

    Children engage in education with the sole motive of learning things, and 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 defined career path, and more often than not, our learning is inspired by its immediate, real world impact on our career, daily life, and so on.

    How to Benefit from the Adult Learning Theory to Learn Effectively

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

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    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 that 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. 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 an 89 percent advantage of learning outcomes.[4] This works particularly well when you have limited information on the topic and are learning it from scratch.

    However, striking the right balance is 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 important points.

    4. Get Actively Involved in the Learning

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

    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.

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    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 adult learning significantly different to the way kids absorb information 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 educational experience.

    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 in the comfort of your home.

    6. Make Use of Supplementary Materials

    It is essential to judge your requirements 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 when it comes to adult learning.

    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 Tips on Learning

    Featured photo credit: Avel Chuklanov via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    More by this author

    Leon Ho

    Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    How to Stop Information Overload and Get More Done

    How to Stop Information Overload and Get More Done
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    Information overload is a creature that has been growing on the Internet’s back since its beginnings. The bigger the Internet gets, the more information there is. The more quality information we see, the more we want to consume it. The more we want to consume it, the more overloaded we feel.

    This has to stop somewhere. And it can.

    As the year comes to a close, there’s no time like the present to make the overloading stop.

    But before I explain exactly what I mean, let’s discuss information overload in general.

    How Serious Is Information Overload?

    The sole fact that there’s more and more information published online every single day is not the actual problem. Only the quality information becomes the problem.

    This sounds kind of strange…but bear with me.

    When we see some half-baked blog posts we don’t even consider reading, we just skip to the next thing. But when we see something truly interesting — maybe even epic — we want to consume it.

    We even feel like we have to consume it. And that’s the real problem.

    No matter what topic we’re interested in, there are always hundreds of quality blogs publishing entries every single day (or every other day). Not to mention all the forums, message boards, social news sites, and so on.

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    The amount of epic content on the Internet these days is so big that it’s virtually impossible for us to digest it all. But we try anyway.

    That’s when we feel overloaded. If you’re not careful, one day you’ll find yourself reading the 15th blog post in a row on some nice WordPress tweaking techniques because you feel that for some reason, “you need to know this.”

    Information overload is a plague. There’s no vaccine, there’s no cure. The only thing you have is self-control.

    Luckily, you’re not on your own. There are some tips you can follow to protect yourself from information overload and, ultimately, fight it.

    But first, admit that information overload is really bad for you.

    Why Information Overload Is Bad for You

    Information overload stops you from taking action. That’s the biggest problem here.

    When you try to consume more and more information every day, you start to notice that even though you’ve been reading tons of articles, watching tons of videos and listening to tons of podcasts, the stream of incoming information seems to be infinite.

    Therefore, you convince yourself that you need to be on a constant lookout for new information if you want to be able to accomplish anything in your life, work and/or passion. The final result is that you are consuming way too much information, and taking way too little action because you don’t have enough time for it.

    The belief that you need to be on this constant lookout for information is just not true.

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    You don’t need every piece of advice possible to live your life, do your work or enjoy your passion.

    How to Stop Information Overload (And Start to Achieve More)

    So how to recognize the portion of information that you really need? Start with setting goals.

    1. Set Your Goals

    If you don’t have your goals put in place, you’ll be just running around grabbing every possible advice and thinking that it’s “just what you’ve been looking for.”

    Setting goals is a much more profound task than just a way to get rid of information overload. Now by “goals” I don’t mean things like “get rich, have kids, and live a good life”. I mean something much more within your immediate grasp. Something that can be achieved in the near future — like within a month (or a year) at most.

    Basically, something that you want to attract to your life, and you already have some plan on how you’re going to make it happen. So no hopes and dreams, just actionable, precise goals.

    Then once you have your goals, they become a set of strategies and tactics you need to act upon.

    2. Know What to Skip When Facing New Information

    Once you have your goals, plans, strategies and tasks, you can use them to decide what information is really crucial.

    First of all, if the information you’re about to read has nothing to do with your current goals and plans, then skip it. You don’t need it.

    If it does, then ask yourself these questions:

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    • Will you be able to put this information into action immediately?
    • Does it have the potential to maybe alter your nearest actions/tasks?
    • Is it so incredible that you absolutely need to take action on it right away?

    If the information is not actionable in a day or two, then skip it.

    (You’ll forget about it anyway.) And that’s basically it.

    Digest only what can be used immediately. If you have a task that you need to do, consume only the information necessary for getting this one task done, nothing more.

    You need to be focused in order to have clear judgment, and be able to decide whether some piece of information is mandatory or redundant.

    Self-control comes handy too. It’s quite easy to convince yourself that you really need something just because of poor self-control. Try to fight this temptation, and be as ruthless about it as possible – if the information is not matching your goals and plans, and you can’t take action on it in the near future, then SKIP IT.

    3. Be Aware of the Minimal Effective Dose

    There’s a thing called the MED – Minimal Effective Dose. I was first introduced to this idea by Tim Ferriss. In his book The 4-Hour BodyTim illustrates the minimal effective dose by talking about medical drugs.

    Everybody knows that every pill has a MED, and after that specific dose, no other positive effects occur, only some negative side effects if you overdose big.

    Consuming information is somewhat similar. You need just a precise amount of it to help you to achieve your goals and put your plans into life.

    Everything more than that amount won’t improve your results any further. And if you try to consume too much of it, it will eventually stop you from taking any action altogether.

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    4. Don’t Procrastinate by Consuming More Information

    Probably one of the most common causes of consuming ridiculous amounts of information is the need to procrastinate. By reading yet another article, we often feel that we are indeed working, and that we’re doing something good – we’re learning, which in result will make us a more complete and educated person.

    This is just self-deception. The truth is we’re simply procrastinating. We don’t feel like doing what really needs to be done – the important stuff – so instead we find something else, and convince ourselves that “that thing” is equally important. Which is just not true.

    Don’t consume information just for the sake of it. It gets you nowhere.

    The focus of this article is not on how to stop procrastinating, but if you’re having such issue, I recommend you read this: Procrastination – A Step-By-Step Guide to Stop Procrastinating

    Summing It Up

    As you can see, information overload can be a real problem and it can have a sever impact on your productivity and overall performance.

    I know I have had my share of problems with it (and probably still have from time to time). But creating this simple set of rules helps me to fight it, and to keep my lizard brain from taking over.

    I hope it helps you too, especially as we head into a new year with a new chance at setting ourselves up for success.

    More Resources About Boosting Brain Power

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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