Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

Featured photo credit: Avel Chuklanov via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

How To Work Remotely And Stay Productive The Lifehack Show: Yoga to Combat Stress and Improve Your Life with Nicole Lovald How Systems Thinking Makes You a Smarter Person How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology) How to Learn Quickly And Master Any Skill You Want

Trending in Learning

1 How to Learn Quickly And Master Any Skill You Want 2 How to Think Critically: 5 Powerful Techniques 3 10 Tips to Improve Your Learning Curve 4 12 Learning Goals For Personal Growth And Self Development 5 How to Use Mind Mapping in Your Everyday Life

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on March 25, 2020

How to Learn Quickly And Master Any Skill You Want

How to Learn Quickly And Master Any Skill You Want

Have you ever heard of the idiom ‘practice makes perfect’? I’m pretty sure someone would have said that to you at least once in your life! It’s a common saying, often used to encourage someone when they’re learning or doing something that is new to them.

They may need many tries before succeeding and getting it right. It’s like learning to ride a bicycle, learning how to drive, taking up a second language, or cooking for the first time. It’s rare for anyone to ace it on their first try.

Whenever you want to start learning something new, I’m sure you’re always hoping to get good at it quickly. But the reality is, that sometimes it does take days, months or even years before you can confidently master a skill.

That’s simply how learning works. You try, you gain experience, you learn from it, and you try again. And each time, you’re improving and making progress. Every time you repeat this learning process, you’re going through something called a Feedback Loop. You’ll have to go through multiple feedback loops before confidently executing the skill.

What separates a fast learner from a slower learner is not some innate, natural talent. Instead, it’s because the fast learner understands how they learn, and has a systematic way to apply it all the time to learn a variety of things. They know how to effectively use their Feedback Loop to speed up the learning process.

So the good news for you, is that if you’re currently wanting to learn a new skill as quickly as possible, then you just need to learn how to create an effective Feedback Loop.

What is a Feedback Loop?

When we talk about feedback, it simple means getting information about how well you’re performing each time you make an attempt at practicing or applying a skill. Feedback is what tells you what went wrong, or what went right.

Advertising

A Feedback Loop is made up of 3 stages:

  1. Practice / Apply – This is the stage where you put what you want to learn into action.
  2. Measure – This is the stage where you’re acquiring information about your performance. This is also the stage that is most ignored… or done ineffectively.
  3. Learn – This is the stage where you analyze how well you performed, and make adjustments to improve and practice/apply again.

It’s important to recognize these 3 stages and put them into place each time you practice a new skill.

Many people only have Stage 1 completed, and a very unclear or fuzzy process for Stage 2, which leads to poor results in Stage 3.

A good, smooth cycle will help you continuously make improvements with each loop, creating steady progress and upgrading your understanding of the skill.

How to Have an Effective Feedback Loop

To make sure your Feedback Loop is effective, you will have to look at 3 key factors: Consistency, Speed, and Accuracy.

1. Be Consistent

Being consistent means having a regular way to get the same quality of feedback. You need to be able to compare every practice or learning experience in order to measure, learn and make adjustments. If your feedback is not consistent, then you’re going to have a hard time knowing what went wrong or what went right.

For example, say you’re learning to play the guitar. If you play a different song every time you practice, you’re going to get very inconsistent feedback. Because the difficulty, rhythm, and pace of every song is different, you won’t have a reliable way to compare how well you played the current song versus the last. So, the best way to learn would be to play the same song over and over again until you get to a certain proficiency.

Advertising

Seems obvious in this case, but it’s just an example. A lot of times learning is hard because we don’t focus on keeping with a consistent environment or actions.

2. Be Quick

Let’s move on to the second factor: speed. Having speedy or fast feedback is important because the longer it takes to get feedback, the longer it will take to improve on the skill. That’s why some people spend a tremendous amount of time practicing, but make very slow progress.

On the other hand, the best forms of feedback are almost instantaneous. The shorter the time it takes for one Feedback Loop to complete, the better. This is because you’ll have more attempts, which means more improvements within the same timespan.

So, the key to getting fast feedback is to take the skill or knowledge and break it down. Try to breakdown the skill into different components. They could be broken down into steps, subskills or processes, or even by difficulty.

For example, if the skill you want to learn involves a sequence (ie: there is a step by step process), you can break your learning down by each step. Create a Feedback Loop for each step individually instead of the whole process. Isolate the processes into different parts that you can focus and work on individually.

Let’s say you’re learning to cook. You can break this skill into steps, such as finding fresh and suitable ingredients, preparing and handling the ingredients, preparing condiments and sauces, serving and plating, etc.

Or let’s say you’d like to learn how to play soccer. You can identify the sub-skills that make up the larger learning techniques to playing soccer, and create feedback loops for each of them individually. So you could start by learning how to dribble the ball, followed by passing, and then shooting.

Advertising

The third and final factor to an effective Feedback Loop, is Accuracy. This means having feedback that actually reflects your performance accurately. Since you’re relying on feedback to tell you what and where to improve on the next time, this is very important. This is why measuring feedback is a key skill to have for an effective Feedback Loop.

3. Be Accurate

Obtaining accuracy in feedback becomes a common weak point for many learners, because it’s not always easy to define what “accuracy” means.

To get accurate feedback, we have to have a way of measuring it. The reason why we sometimes get poor feedback is because we’re trying to measure our progress without quantifying our performance. Or, we’re using the wrong metrics to quantify the feedback. Worse yet, it might just be that you were never measuring or recording your performance at all! Can you recall yourself being in a similar situation?

In order to find areas for improvement, you have to be able to compare your current performance with your previous performance. This is so that you have a baseline, or something to measure up against, to look for room for improvements.

Quantifying is a way to accurately measure your performance. Quantifying something means attaching a number to it. This helps to give objectivity and consistency when comparing two things. Quantifying feedback can give you constructive information that will help you improve during each cycle of the feedback loop.

Let’s say you’re practicing how to dribble a basketball. The first time you dribble, your coach tells you you’re doing a good job. The second time round, you get better and your coach affirms you by saying you’ve done a great job! Sure, your dribbling skill has improved–you know it, your coach knows it, but by how much? And how can you further improve your dribbling skills? A good job versus a great job doesn’t indicate how well you’ve performed, and how much better you can perform.

But, now in the second scenario, if you manage to dribble the basketball up and down the court 4 times continuously without letting the ball slip, your coach tells you you’ve done a good job. In the second round, your coach now tells you to dribble the basketball up and down the court 8 times continuously without letting the ball slip. You managed to do that and your coach tells you great job! You can now quantify your improvement by the number of times you were able to dribble the basketball across the court.

Advertising

With a quantity attached to your performance, you’re now able to push yourself further by learning to dribble 16 times or more across the basketball court. You can even add in new obstacles like having to dribble across the court with an opponent trying to snatch your basketball. If you’re successful, you can try dribbling across the court with 2 opponents snatching your basketball, so on and so forth. You’re now able to easily quantify your improvement.

Continuously Improve Your Feedback Loop!

So now that you’re familiar with the Feedback Loop, are you ready to put it into practice? What’s a new skill that you’d like to start on?

Try implementing every stage of the Feedback Loop when learning this new skill and see for yourself, whether your learning improves at a quicker rate.

It is essential to continuously improve your Feedback Loop in order to keep up your momentum, and avoid running into the law of diminishing returns. Improving your Feedback Loop means knowing what to measure next, and what questions to ask, to find out.

In fact, the technique you’ve learned from this article is only part of our Learning Course. If you’d like to discover more gems that will help you speed up your learning and push yourself towards the goals that you’ve been striving for, check out our Learn Anything Fast Course.

Or you can find out more learning tips in these articles:

Featured photo credit: Adeolu Eletu via unsplash.com

Read Next