Adult learning theory may be a semi-foreign concept to some, but it is rooted in concepts that can fundamentally change lives. Adult learning theory is based on andragogy, which is the practice of teaching adults. This field has grown by leaps and bounds since the early 1980s, driven in large part by the work of Malcolm Knowles, the father of the andragogy concept.
There is much more to learning than simply going to school, and this is particularly true of adults returning for higher education. Recognized by Christopher Wilson, Ed.S., MSL, at University of Phoenix, adult learning theory is an incredibly important field.
There are seven key principles for andragogy: transformation, experience, self-direction, mental orientation, mentorship, motivation and a real readiness to learn. We will take a closer look at these learning styles and how they can help adults achieve their educational goals.
Doris Savron is the vice provost at University of Phoenix where she helps guide students through adult learning theories and their importance to higher education. Savron believes that these theories can provide insight on how to best establish learning environments for adult students. Adult learners come to class with a different set of life experiences than traditional college students, and this must be acknowledged in order to create an educational platform that fits their needs.
Adult brains are physically different from the brains of children, and their learning styles differ as a result. Neuroplasticity is used in many different fields of research and refers to the way the brain can develop neural pathways during learning. This subject has become incredibly important with regard to adult students.
According to the research staff at PositivePsychology, improving neuroplasticity can be cultivated through a specific growth-oriented mindset. Here, practice can lead to improvements, and pursuing enriching subjects can also help.
Learning as an adult can come with its own significant challenges. The most common challenges that adults undergoing higher learning face include lack of time, lack of confidence and lack of money.
While these are possible to overcome in a traditional setting, University of Phoenix offers actionable and flexible solutions for students with fewer barriers to success. This includes providing online courses and degree programs that can be completed from the comfort of home at times that work best for adult students.
Adult learners who want to commit to going back to school can often find themselves benefiting from a curriculum based upon adult learning principles. These principles are often ignored but incredibly important.
Informed by andragogy and the theory developed by Malcolm Knowles, adult learning theories can help these students find personal success with their educational objectives. The seven learning principles of adult theory, as outlined below, can be reviewed and applied in combination to support non-traditional students.
- Self-Directed: This method involves understanding what you need to learn while setting your own goals and adhering to them. University of Phoenix incorporates this principle by teaching students to guide themselves on their academic journey.
- Experiential: Developing life experiences through hands-on learning includes physically participating with your environment.
- Transformational: Transformational learning involves a change in perspective through discussions with others, review of materials and consideration of your own preconceived notions.
- Orientation of Learning: This encompasses the ability to reframe emotions and apply these lessons in the real world.
- Mentorship: Mentors and mentees can exchange information while learning from one another.
- Motivation: Adult students respond to different motivational factors than children, both internal and external, and will often put in both time and effort for specific reasons such as salary or reputation.
- Readiness to Learn: Adults must be willing to learn and can do so by embracing potential life changes. Career changes, pursuing promotions and mastering new skills can all incentivize learning.
Institutions like University of Phoenix rely on an understanding of these adult learning principles to offer an educational environment conducive to the unique needs of adult students. With a 360-degree approach to leveraging these theories, Savron believes that the University helps prepare its student body for today’s workforce: “This mimics what they might experience in a work environment while teaching them techniques and giving them tools to further their knowledge and skills.”
University of Phoenix is committed to student success including the successful incorporation of adult learning theory. With flexible online degree programs across a variety of fields and industries, adult learners can explore their educational goals from anywhere. Learn more at the University of Phoenix website.