The Science of Learning: What Do We Know About How Adults Learn Best?

While it’s easy to assume that learning works the same regardless of a person’s age, that isn’t the case. Adults have far different needs in comparison to children and teens. As a result, educational approaches designed for younger people may not be ideal for adult learners. Luckily, quite a bit is known about how adults learn best. If you want to make sure that you’re using the right approach in your training, here’s what you need to know about learning in adulthood.

Relevance Is Crucial

Adult learners won’t stay engaged for long if it isn’t clear why they need to know the presented material. As a result, it’s vital to show a strong connection between the information being taught and how it will benefit the adult learner’s life. By doing so, you create a clear value proposition, increasing the odds that the learner will remain focused and attentive.

Respect What They Know

In most cases, adult learners already have a strong foundation of knowledge before they start participating in training. If you want to keep them open-minded, then respecting what they already know is essential. Along recognizing their existing expertise, you need to focus on building upon it instead of laying a new foundation. That way, the learners won’t tune out after being presented with something they already understand or that doesn’t provide them with clear value.

Relate New Material to Existing Knowledge

Adult learners are often at their best when new material is related to existing knowledge. It lets them build up their understanding logically, ensuring each piece of information fits nicely with what’s been shared beforehand. Additionally, creating roadmaps that highlight the connections is helpful. It allows learners to see the full path and how it all works together, giving them a crucial overview that can keep them focused and engaged.

Use a Mix of Methods

Overall, there are three main learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Every learner typically prefers one method over another in general. However, different situations could call for varied approaches, too. Ideally, you want to use a range of methods when teaching adults. Combine discussions with hands-on activities or review case studies and host brainstorming or role-play sessions. Introduce visual aids to support written material and play trivia games to reinforce knowledge. By using a wider range of scenarios, you introduce a mix of learning methods. As a result, there will be a bit of something for everyone, increasing the odds that every participant will get what they need from the experience.

Need Updated Training That’s Designed for Adult Learners?

Adjusting your training to make sure it addresses the needs of adult learners is critical. By using approaches that focus on their needs and preferences, your program becomes far more effective overall. At Clarity, we have nearly 30 years of experience in L&D, giving us the knowledge and expertise to update your training approaches efficiently. Plus, if you’re trying to expand your internal L&D team, Clarity can be your candidate search ally, connecting you with top talent right when you need them.

Contact Clarity

For nearly 30 years, we’ve managed projects touching every element of learning and talent development.