Adult learning principles

Learners in the workplace are adults.  Effective trainers identify and use adult learning principles as they provide instruction and demonstration of work skills.

Knowles (1990) highlights the importance of applying the following principles in the table below when working with adult learners:

  • Adults are motivated to learn as they experience needs and interests that learning will satisfy.  Therefore, these needs and interests are the appropriate starting points for organising adult learning activities.
  • Adults’ orientation to learning is life-centred.  Therefore, the core methodology of adult education is the analysis of experience.
  • Adults have a deep need to be self-directing.  Therefore, the role of the trainer is to engage in a process of mutual inquiry with them rather than to transmit his/her knowledge to them and then evaluate their conformity to it.
  • Individual differences among people change with age.  Therefore, adult education must make optimal provision for difference in style, time, place and pace of learning.


Learning and development is a continuous process. Individuals not only learn from training, seminars and courses, but also from their environment and their relationships with each other. We all gain knowledge, understanding, skills, habits and values.

For adult education to be effective, the learning must assist in solving problems. Knowledge and skills need to relate to the adult and his/her personal or work situation. The storage of information becomes more difficult as we grow older and therefore learning will only take place if the trainee accepts the new knowledge and makes it their own.

(Visited 27 times, 1 visits today)