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The definition of learning is simple. It's the acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, study, or by being taught.  But depending on who you're speaking to, there will likely be disagreement on how the individuals learn best. If you ask a room full of school children and a room full of professional working adults who, what, where, why, when, and how they learn; you're going to get very different answers from the two rooms. School children and working adults learn very differently. Children understand they go to school to be told what to learn.  Working adults are motivated differently. In this article, we'll talk specifically about Adult Learning Theory, a theory that's been around for decades, and what it means for your corporate learning strategy. 

What is adult learning theory?

Adult learning theory is how adults learn and how to determine what learning style is going to be best fit. 

At the core of the theory, there are five key assumptions and also four principles of andragogy. Our Adoption Services group customizes trainings with these philosophies at the core of our methodology.

The five key assumptions

The five key assumptions outline the general ways in which adults recognize learning and how they prefer to train.


What is it? Self-concept is about learning independently. This means that adults prefer to learn from a self-directed approach rather than from an instructor-led, in-person course.

Adoption Services: While traditional instructor-led courses have their place, the Adoption Services team understands that adult learners prefer to learn at their own time and pace. Therefore, we provide multiple self-directed approaches to learning for adults. These include short how-to videos, quick reference guides and interactive click and learn e-learning courses.

Adult learning experience 

What is it? As adults get older and more experienced they love to build upon that knowledge base.

Adoption Services: When developing a training program for a client, we discover the history of the users and their previous onboarding. Has in-person training worked best? Does video get the best reception? These types of questions about your past training experiences will help Adoption Services create the best training program for your adult learners.

Readiness to learn

What is it? Adults are ready to learn when there is a reason for them to learn. This is particularly true when it comes to their growth and development at work. 

Adoption Services: Our team thrives at building relatable content. We want to develop a training program that is going to be vital to the growth and development of the employees. Our goal is to make sure the employees gain the skills to do their job with the new technology that's been rolled out.

Orientation of learning

What is it? Adults want their learning to have meaning. They want to learn something that is going to be used in their everyday life.

Adoption Services: Our goal is to eliminate the feeling of having to "jump though hoops" to check off the box that users have completed training. When you roll out a new technology, we want to make sure we train your learners on the important tasks they need to know. Tasks that they will use every single day.

Motivation to learn

What is it? Unlike children who generally learn because a teacher or parent told them to, adults want to learn for their own reasons. Reasons such as: progress in work, self-esteem, or to work towards a promotion.

Adoption Services: As part of an Adoption Services engagement, we want to market your new technology to your users. Through means such as email communications, digital signage, and marketing videos we want to not only build excitement for the new technology but motivate those who are ready to learn.

Four principles of andragogy

There are four important principles that can explain how to best develop training for adults. Let's look at them and see what Adoption Services can do.

  1. Adults want to control what, when and how they learn. Adoption services is very familiar with a hybrid learning approach which gives the learner complete control of their learning options. They could choose to go to an instructor led class at a designated time or watch online videos or participate in an interactive click and learn e-learning from their home, at a time that's convenient for them.
  2. Adults like to use past experiences as part of their learning process. As stated in the five key assumptions, Adoption Services designs training based on past successful techniques and experiences.
  3. Adults don't like to just memorize facts and information. They want to solve problems. Adoption Services can design interactive click and learn e-learning courses that walk learners step by step into solving problems and obtaining solutions. The course can be designed with a guided process or a self-learning process.
  4. Adults want to know, "how can I use it now?" Whether it's an instructor-led course, a how-to video, a quick reference guide or an interactive click and learn. Adoption Services designs training so when the learner leaves, they can immediately start to using the new information they just obtain in their work lives.

As you can see, adults just learn differently. Our experts have decades of collective experience in training adult users. They'll help you not only determine the best approach for your adult learners, but also provide high-class training material to make your approach a success.

Contact Adoption Services directly or send us a note to get started.