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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

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on November 4, 2020

The Importance of Self Improvement No Matter How Old You Are

The Importance of Self Improvement No Matter How Old You Are

Ever since we were young, we were told to excel in academics, focus on getting good grades and ace our exams. In schools and colleges, the learning has always been more directed towards academic courses but what about aspects like self-improvement and personal development that play an equally important role in people’s lives?

The importance of self-improvement often goes unnoticed. We are either conveniently brushing our shortcomings under the carpet, refusing to face them or are just happy being ignorant. Truth is – you cannot run away from yourself. The farther you run, the deeper a grave you dig because there will come a time when all those unresolved emotions will surface, leaving you overwhelmed.

So, what should you do? Start with consciously becoming more self-aware, observing your thoughts, emotions and responses and deciding to make self-improvement an integral part of your life.

Just the way learning should never stop, the same applies for self-improvement. The idea should be to focus on continuous self-development at every stage in our life and become better versions of ourselves.

Here are 12 reasons why self-improvement is important irrespective of your age:

1. Increase Self-Awareness

We spend so much time getting to know other people and solve their issues. If only we spent that much time knowing ourselves, things would have been so much more different. Isn’t it?

The first step of self-improvement requires you to become more self-aware and get to know yourself better. It makes you question yourself and face reality for what it is, however harsh it might be.

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Self-awareness is an ongoing journey – as life progresses, you are met with different experiences and challenges, which make you more aware of your personality, thoughts and feelings. So, in order to be on the path of self-improvement, it is important to never lose touch with yourself.

2. Enhance Strengths

Self-improvement lets you identify your personal strengths and play on them. From relationships to careers – knowing your strengths is important for every sphere of your life.

It gives you a better understanding of what you are seeking and where you are likely to thrive and excel. It helps you set life goals and make them happen. After all, you can only achieve what you want when you KNOW what you want.

By nurturing and playing on your strengths, you are more likely to attain success and move towards shaping a happier and more productive life.

3. Overcom Weaknesses

While identifying strengths is an important aspect of self-improvement, so is coming to terms with your weaknesses. Don’t be ashamed of them, look at them as areas of improvement. We all have strengths and weaknesses that shape our personality. It is these imperfections that make us human.

The goal of improving yourself should be to look beyond those weaknesses that are stopping you from achieving greatness. Accept your weaknesses, identify where they stem from and be determined to overcome them.

It’s not easy but it’s certainly not impossible. Let your journey of self-improvement turn every weakness into a strength and only take you upward.

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4. Step out of Comfort Zone

The ‘comfort zone’ is a dangerous place to be in. It surely feels good, but it also denotes stagnancy and where there is stagnancy, you can never find growth.

Choosing to work on improving yourself requires you to step out of your comfort zone. It lets you face your fears, try new things, take risks and challenge yourself. There will be times when you will discover a new side of your personality but there will also be times when you will fail.

Don’t let those failures bog you down. The fact that you tried should motivate you to never get complacent and too comfortable in familiar spaces because as they say, life begins outside your comfort zone.

5. Improve Mental Health

One of the biggest importance of self-improvement is the positive impact it has on mental health. When you work on yourself, you get to know yourself better which lets you deal with your thoughts and emotions more effectively. You begin to understand why you are experiencing certain emotions and learn how to tackle them with time.

Someone who is not self-aware and not focused on improving themselves will have absolutely no control over their reactions which can lead to added stress and anxiety. Being in denial is never the answer.

6. Heal Relationships

When you work on improving yourself, you automatically improve your relations with those around you. For example, if your short-tempered nature has always been a cause of concern in your relationships, by consciously working on that aspect of your personality, you learn how to tame your anger and become calmer. This positive change reflects in your personal and professional relationships and enhances them.

The key to combat conflicts and build meaningful relationships starts with looking inward and developing yourself first. Moreover, when you strive to become a self-sufficient person and have a positive self-image, you are bound to nurture healthy relationships.

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7. Motivating Factor

Imagine climbing up a mountain – every hurdle you cross, motivates you to go higher. The same analogy holds true when it comes to self-improvement. Every fear and weakness you overcome motivates you to continue on the path of self-improvement and evolve further.

Self-improvement and motivation go hand in hand. When you see yourself developing as a human being, you are filled with optimism and the drive to push yourself to do better. It is a continuous cycle that needs you to maintain your motivation levels and be committed to continuous growth.

8. Better Decision Making

We are required to make decisions at every step in our lives and every decision has a repercussion. Moreover, it is not about making decisions as much as it is about being confident about the decision taken.

Good decision making skills come from a place of clarity, self-awareness and confidence which is a direct result of self-improvement. When you know what you want to achieve out of a situation and set your goals accordingly, you are able to make better, informed decisions.

9. Sense of Purpose

Deciding to walk the path of self-improvement and personal development gives your life purpose and meaning. Why is that important, you ask? It’s because it helps you stay focused on your life goals, makes you feel alive and keeps you motivated. It improves mental and physical well-being by keeping you on the right track.

With a sense of purpose, you learn to accept all the challenges that come along the way because you have your eyes set on what really matters – the ‘bigger picture’.

10. More Clarity

With all the distractions one is bombarded with, mental clarity is a tough state to attain. However, when you make self-improvement the primary goal of your life, you begin to start becoming more authentic and removing the clutter from your life.

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Gaining clarity lets you stay focused and not engage in anything that takes you away from your goal. That said, there will be moments of confusion and indecisiveness but with experience, you will grow to become more surer of yourself while gaining clarity about your life.

11. Instill a Learning Attitude

People who are invested in their continuous self-improvement come with an extremely positive attitude towards learning. It shows that they are aware of their shortcomings and are open to receiving feedback in order to improve.

Instead of being ignorant and escaping from their problems, they make it a point to learn from their mistakes to grow and succeed.

This is a wonderful quality to have as having a learning attitude is instrumental in achieving success.

12. Cultivate Self-love

Last but not the least, self-improvement cultivates self-love and compassion. By seeing yourself grow with every passing day, you build on your confidence and self-esteem.

Many might debate that if you love yourself why must you want to change but that’s not true. Self-improvement is not changing yourself out of frustration. It is more about focusing on what matters to you and overcoming any mental hurdles that might be stopping you from reaching your highest potential .

Bonus: Books to Help You Improve Yourself

The Bottom Line

Take this enriching journey of self-improvement in a positive light. The idea is not to get demotivated along the way and lose hope. You should instead take full responsibility of yourself and strive to go beyond your preconceived notions that might be limiting you and this can only be achieved with constant self-improvement.

So, whether you are a retired 65-year old or a 26-year old who is just starting off his/her career  – remember that you will always be work in progress and there can never be an end to learning about yourself. That is what makes life purposeful and fun.

More Resources About Self Improvement

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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