How To Adapt Your Training To The Characteristics Of Adult Learners

How To Adapt Your Training To The Characteristics Of Adult Learners
Summary: Children and adults are at different development stages and have entirely unlike everyday lives and experiences. In this article, we'll teach you how you can boost your workplace training program's efficiency by understanding and catering to your adult learners' needs.

All Grown Up: Catering To Adult Learners' Characteristics And Needs

They say that you can't "teach an old dog new tricks". Whether that's true or not, the fact is that we humans never really stop learning new things.

But, there are some differences between how kids and adults learn. The latter have more life experience, a more developed brain, less free time and, more importantly, they have opted to study (as opposed to kids being dragged to school by their parents).

In this article, we'll examine the adult learners' characteristics and needs, and how you should plan and deliver employee training with them in mind.

How To Adapt Your Training To What Adult Learners Need?

In his book "Andragogy in Action", 20th-century American educator, Malcolm Shepherd Knowles, stressed the four most important adult learners' characteristics and needs [1]. In brief, adults learn based on experience. Also, they need to feel actively involved in their training, which, in turn, should be relevant and solve actual problems.

With these characteristics of adult learners in mind, you can design, implement, and deliver a more engaging and effective workplace training program. Here's how:

1. Make Training Specific

Among the various adult learners' characteristics and needs, one of the most consistent traits is that adults don't care about abstract theories, but practical results. Being able to see the immediate tangible benefits from their training is what draws them to learning.

In other words, their training has to enable them to perform tasks faster and better, or to do things that they couldn't do before.

When working with adult learners, you should cut any unnecessary theoretical background from your training content. Keep only the essential parts, and enrich your training with simulations and real-life case studies that facilitate knowledge transfer. Incorporate on-the-job training sessions that teach your learners specific skills that they'll be able to apply to their own everyday workflows.

2. Make Training Self-Paced

Adult learners have busy work schedules and plenty of family-related needs and household chores to tend to. So, asking them to go through a rigid training schedule is a recipe for disaster.

Your workplace training program should let them study at their own pace, and allow them to dive in their courses whenever they can find some free time and from wherever they happen to be.

3. Make Learning Outcomes Clear

Another typical adult learner characteristic is that, unlike kids, adult learners need to have an intrinsic motivation to learn.

To properly motivate adult learners, you need to make the learning outcomes clear. In other words, you need to show them how your training program will help them improve the actual skills they'll need in their everyday lives.

Letting them know that their training success will be a factor in the advancement of their career will also help tremendously.

4. Teach Through Experience

Most adults learn through experience. That's how they learn their most important work and life skills. Even the things that we've been taught at school only actually sink in after we've used them in practice.

Adults also love to share their experience in a subject matter—which you can leverage to have your adult learners to teach one another.

Start by integrating forums, discussions, and real-time chats into your learning program to help your learners swap stories and experiences with their peers.

They will learn more through this impromptu collaboration, and they'll enjoy the learning process more as well.

5. Create A Buzz

The older you get, the less open you are to change. Whether that’s beliefs, attitudes, or even routines. Naturally, this will also apply to training. So, how can you help adult learners become more flexible toward change?

One way would be to have other, more eager peers motivate the group. We’re social animals, after all, and a few positive examples within the team can make all the difference.

Alternatively, you can try stirring up a competitive spirit in them by gamifying learning. Game elements, like setting points for successful course completion, will make the training experience more challenging and definitely more compelling for your adult learners.

From Theory Into Practice

Leveraging online learning to implement an adult training program is a no-brainer. Using a powerful LMS, like TalentLMS, can help your adult learners feel more autonomous, as it fits great with their busy schedules and desire to self-pace their training.

Also, an LMS that supports blended learning and video conferencing will help you incorporate practical demonstrations and real-world sessions in your training to make it more applicable to your learners' everyday work lives.

Similarly, online training software with built-in forums and discussions will let your adult learners collaborate and learn off of each other, while its gamification engine will help make your training more engaging.

Ready To Offer Some Grown-Up Training?

Each learner is a unique personality, and when we speak about how adults learn, we're not implying that all adult learners are exactly the same. There are no definitive adult learners' characteristics and needs that apply to everybody. And there definitely are different types of adult learners and different ways adults learn.

However, the tips in this article should be able to help you offer valuable and helpful training to your adult learners. All you need to do is find the right, full-featured LMS for the job.

Open a free-for-life TalentLMS account today, and see for yourself how the leading corporate training LMS can help you take your employee training to the next level.


1. The principles of adult learning

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