Adult Learning Theory
Speck (1996) notes that the following important points of adult learning theory
should be considered when professional development activities are designed for
- "Adults will commit to learning when the goals and objectives are
considered realistic and important to them. Application in the 'real world'
is important and relevant to the adult learner's personal and professional
- Adults want to be the origin of their own learning and will resist learning
activities they believe are an attack on their competence. Thus, professional
development needs to give participants some control over the what, who,
how, why, when, and where of their learning.
- Adult learners need to see that the professional development learning
and their day-to-day activities are related and relevant.
- Adult learners need direct, concrete experiences in which they apply the
learning in real work.
- Adult learning has ego involved. Professional development must be structured
to provide support from peers and to reduce the fear of judgment during
- Adults need to receive feedback on how they are doing and the results
of their efforts. Opportunities must be built into professional development
activities that allow the learner to practice the learning and receive structured,
- Adults need to participate in small-group activities during the learning
to move them beyond understanding to application, analysis, synthesis, and
evaluation. Small-group activities provide an opportunity to share, reflect,
and generalize their learning experiences.
- Adult learners come to learning with a wide range of previous experiences,
knowledge, self-direction, interests, and competencies. This diversity must
be accommodated in the professional development planning.
- Transfer of learning for adults is not automatic and must be facilitated.
Coaching and other kinds of follow-up support are needed to help adult learners
transfer learning into daily practice so that it is sustained." (pp.
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