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Table of contents
Written by:
Layla Acharya
Last Updated:
Adult Learning Strategies

Adult Learning Strategies

Learning never ends. But the motivation to learn does. That’s why so many adult educators adopt effective adult learning strategies.

There are different reasons why adults may want to learn, but teachers soon discover that the motivation to learn is not the same as with the younger ones.

First, adults have more responsibilities, are busier, and may not be able to grasp issues quickly enough.

Moreover, the way an adult’s brain works is noticeably different from that of a child. Children may learn at any time, but the time must be suitable for adults to learn appropriately.

Remote learning has become quite prominent since the lockdowns caused by Covid-19. However, many adults are beginning to discover that most of the barriers to effective learning can be overcome with techniques that adequately address most of their problems.

Older learners can structure their education so that everything that made it difficult can be handled. For example, remote learning allows you to learn at your pace. This is an excellent plus for adults who may need more time due to other commitments.

However, the teacher is the most critical factor here. Because unless the appropriate adult learning strategies are adopted, even remote learning won’t yield much for adult learners.

Before we go on, let’s briefly explain who an adult learner is.

Anyone who is mature and has generally passed any stage that is peculiar to that age of learning is an adult learner. Educators believe anyone above the age of 25 is an adult learner.

However, this could be subjective. A person may wish to pursue another degree after concluding one and may already be older than 25 at that time. It would also be wrong to refer to researchers and doctoral students as adult learners, even under 25.

But most times, adult learners have had a break in the learning process and may be returning to complete an education or starting afresh after it was long due.

Therefore, adult learners are known to require special training as they are not regular students who have always been in the system.

With this knowledge in mind, you should know that adults only learn best when they can somewhat be involved in how the planning is done when the learning involves background understanding, when the learning is active (not passive), and when it involves lessons that can be easily applied in their everyday lives.

Importance of adult learning strategies

Importance of learning strategies

Why are adult learning strategies essential? Adult earning strategies are important because learners are different. Even younger, regular learners require strategies as well. But let’s look at adult learning strategies.

Adult learning has been studied for quite some time, and in 1968, Malcolm Knowles developed the adult learning theory called andragogy. Adult learning theory tells us that adults learn in a way different from how younger ones learn.

The theory goes further to say that adults only learn when they have seen the benefits of learning in their lives. Children and younger ones learn primarily because they have to, and their instructors and parents dictate their learning.

The theory explains that adult learners want to be in charge of their learning and take responsibility from the beginning.

So any instructor who must succeed with adults or any particular group of learners must understand the strategies that make learning effective for that group.

It is one thing to introduce learners to concepts and theories; it is another thing for them to learn effectively and benefit from the process.

How to motivate adults to learn new skills

How to motivate adults to learn new skills

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. That’s what they say. But, unlike old dogs, adult learners want to learn. That’s why they’re in school. You’re likely to find your students not as motivated as you’ll love if they are adults.

That’s because adults, especially those under 30, are in a phase of their lives where they are constantly called upon to solve problems. So, they have enough on their plates already and won’t appreciate seeing learning as another of their problems.

However, as an educator, you can motivate your adult students by adopting some adult learning strategies.

  • Prioritize feedback: You must be sure that your students are carried along. The best way to do this is to let them participate actively. They should be able to say what they think about the class and discuss whatever challenges they may have. You should also ensure that there is a forum where they can conveniently ask questions from peers or instructors.
  • Adopt flexible learning strategies: If there’s one great enemy of adult learning, it is rigidity. Most adult learners are busy people who only need to squeeze out time for more education. Keep learning hours flexible and allow them to learn at greater convenience.
  • Be as practical as possible: Adult learners are practical learners. Without being realistic, you won’t be able to impart as much knowledge as you would like to adults. If a subject can be viewed physically, take adults there rather than explaining it in class.
  • Keep it lively: An adult learning class should be a lively one. If it’s not, the learning won’t be fun. Allow the students to interact freely and make it look less formal.
  • Always be willing to help: Adult learners may not be quick to ask for help. So you should be very approachable and be willing to ask if they need anything. Never let an adult feel threatened in your class.

Now, let’s look at tips that will make adult learning effective.

Adult learning tips

Despite the stress associated with adult learning, more adults than ever before are enrolling in different learning programs, even for college edit.

More than a third of all college students are working adults, with many having families. Yet, they’re learning, and many are doing so effectively.

That’s because educators have discovered how to teach adults and have deployed effective adult learning strategies that work.

Most adult learning strategies involve flexibility and practicality that makes it convenient for the students to learn at their own pace and convenience.

With the popularity of online learning platforms, adults can now learn more effectively.

Let’s look at some tips guaranteed to make education more interactive and engaging for adult learners.

Making education relevant

Making education relevant

While children and younger learners are treated as empty vessels ready to be filled and can learn anything in their classrooms, adults react differently.

That doesn’t mean that the theories and concepts that form the basis of their education would be tossed aside entirely.

Adults only would reach out positively to any education that benefits their everyday living.

But it means every learning would be seen with practical use. An adult who wants to learn computer programming may have to learn some things about mathematics. But the end won’t be mathematics.

If the education isn’t relevant to a real-life experience, keeping the learning going effectively would be challenging.

Some courses are more practical, but adult learning must prioritize how valuable the knowledge is to real-life issues.

Whatever theories you teach must have real-life applications, or you must let the students know their relevance to their everyday lives.

If they are workers who need skills to move up the ladder, you must provide education that can improve their career and not just offer them head knowledge. Designers of the adult education curriculum must have this at the back of their minds.

Interactive education

Younger students sit and learn most of the time. This is because they do not have enough knowledge and are being filled up.

Adults, meanwhile, already know a lot from life experiences. So it is essential to let them interact with the tutors and make their observations about specific points.

The more interactive education is, the easier it is for adults to participate. Adults have a more challenging time retaining knowledge than younger ones, but it’s easier to retain ability if it allows them to speak about what they don’t know.

Adult learners must constantly interact with the tutors and with themselves and not just be made to pour in knowledge.

Practice over theory

Practice over theory

Very few adults need theoretical knowledge for anything. They have passed that stage. Even younger learners who learn a lot of theory do that to be able to apply that knowledge as practitioners later on.

While some certifications require mastery over some theories and the ability to understand why they are necessary, you still must be able to apply them in the workplace or somewhere relevant, or it won’t be worth it.

Adult learners need to be able to practice what they have learned. If they can’t, they will have a problem keeping up with the learning.

No matter how theoretical a learning process is, make it as practical as possible, and as much as possible, relate the knowledge with life applications.

Importance of feedback

Educators who want to succeed with adults must always open their doors to feedback. When learning, there will always be issues on which the students will want to be more enlightened.

Without feedback, it would be difficult for the students to explain what they have been experiencing. Instructors should encourage feedback so the students can feel they are an active part of the class.

Of course, as we said earlier, teachers should encourage engaged rather than passive learning. Encourage the students to take the initiative, ask questions and encourage interaction among themselves.

More importantly, adult learning should encourage having a forum where students can interact with themselves and ask questions from themselves.

Encourage teamwork among the learners such that while an active class may not be ongoing, they may still be able to participate in learning.

Making changes to your program

If you’ve never been involved in adult learning, you must be strategic and make changes to your program to accommodate adult learners. For example, every time is the right time to learn for a child.

For an adult, this may be different. To learn appropriately, the tutor must always find the right time. This may require a lot of flexibility on the part of the tutor. Adult learners cherish their freedom.

That’s why most adult learning should be done remotely, and only some learning should be done in person. Always encourage your students to decide which learning procedure they prefer so that they are in the proper frame of mind to learn.

You should not be rigid in your approach to teaching adults.

Find a way to incorporate their life experiences into the learning as adults already know a lot that you can tap from as a tutor.


Adults learn in significantly different ways than younger ones. They want to be able to take responsibility for their learning and apply the knowledge in their everyday lives.

According to the adult learning theory, adults will only participate effectively in learning if they can see why that learning is beneficial.

It, therefore, means that as an educator, you cannot approach adult learning the same way you approach regular learning, even if the curriculum and syllabus are the same. That’s why adult learning requires unique strategies for effectiveness.