Adult Learners

Broadly, the term adult learner differentiates the teaching and learning of adults 18 years and older from that of children and youth, suggesting that the developmental period of adulthood affects one’s orientation and approach to learning. Drawing on the philosophical roots of adult education and early studies of adult learners from 1950 to 1970, Malcolm Knowles (1970) summarized a set of interrelated assumptions about adult learners, which he reduced to three general characteristics: adult learners (1) are self-directed, (2) approach learning based on their life experience, and (3) are interested in the immediate application of knowledge. These characteristics also provide a framework for appreciating diversity within the population of adult learners, illustrating how sociodemographic and developmental differences can inform differentiated professional practice.

Understanding adult learners ...

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