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Adult learning theory or andragogy was established in Europe on 1950s for behavioural change and experience (Merriam et al 1999) and was developed as a theory on 1970s by an American practitioner and adult education theorist Malcolm Shepherd Knowles who believed that pedagogy, art and science helps the adult in learning process and related with their social role. The term “andragogy” was coined by a German educator, Alexander Kapp in 1833 to develop learning strategies in adult.

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The objectives of adult learning are internally motive, autonomous and self-direct, to collaborate learning and life experiences, goal and relevancy oriented and practical. Adults resist learning when they feel control over themselves and adult learning utilise a problem-based tactic. The individuality of an adult becomes self-directed when he improves his self concept. When he matures he accumulates life experiences through which he grow more and come forward to take up the responsibility as he becomes active in society. He paves a way for internal learning.


Goal setting and holding the responsibility to select their choices contributes towards the decision-making process and it helps to set goals relevant to their life objectives. Past experiences and real-life situations motivate an adult to learn and acquire relevant knowledge and adequate opinions. Moreover, adult learners expect their educators or mentors to be friendly and acknowledge as it would help them to be more productive.

Andragogy’s learning design consists of reasoning, practising, problem-solving and application. The skills that are taught in adult education is always task oriented rather than memorising, it acknowledges different learning levels and teaches them to learn from their own mistakes., and even other’s can provokes an awareness in one’s future. Adult learning not only helps in developing an individual’s knowledge and skill but also improves societal performance. It offers three methods of learning as problem-based (context of the learning should be based on real life problems and experiences), co-operative (the teacher and the learner should be cooperative) and situated, where it improves critical thinking skills, technical skills and learning through experience.

Karla Gutierrez in 2017 argues that there is no such theory of adult learning as it studies about the perspectives of adult’s thinking and learning experience and includes andragogy, neuroscience, experimental, transformational and self-directed learning. Researchers offer some principles of adult learning as educators need to respect adults, involve humour in teaching, exploration, sequential activities, breaking down ideas, co-operative climate, stories and suspense and life examples. Barriers to adult learning include child care, life and work experience, time, performance affectors, lack of time, money, age and interest.

Theory of adult learning specialises in the efficient cultural design, instruction delivery, soft skill domains and management development. Adult learners may vary from youth learners as they demand explanations, perform a task, prior experiences and discovers their own self. Adult learning theory relates with action learning where only a classroom teaching is ineffective, boring, unreachable and needs active participation, enthusiasm, two-way communication of the adult learners.

Action learning involves group communication with experts, expects contribution among diversified classes, group leaders and support group is maintained and the solid time period is followed. Adults during education focus on what’s in it for them?

As the saying goes,”Experience is the best teacher”, adults learn through their life process to become a matured and responsible person. Their learnings make them to act brilliant roles in personal and societal life easy. Hence, they search for a message even from others to implement in their own life.

Tips To Improve Adult Learners

  1. The educators should understand the adult audience, watch the tone, motivate them, respect their time and let them practice
  2. Adults are addressed about the learning methods at their workplaces and demos in their home. Moreover, the learning place must be comfortable to them
  3. Encouraging adults to spare time in playing brainteasers, humors, physical tasks seems to be interesting and helps them to focus on the content and act upon it
  4. Feedback, reviews and queries sessions might be conducted to improve their problem solving skills

Application Of Adult Learning

  1. Learning computer skills to develop their business ideas
  2. Updating the technical knowledge. i.e., all age group people use facebook,twitter etc.,
  3. Most adults show interest in physical exercise, diet and yoga to maintain their physical and mental wellness

Overall learning is the process of “gaining knowledge”. Not all the classrooms have four walls. A valuable boon, “nature” provides us various lessons which are beyond the boundaries.

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