Adult Learning: Importance, Concepts & Methods

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: HR Policies: Legal & Industry Regulations

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:06 The Adult Learner Is Different
  • 1:02 Knowledge Level of the…
  • 2:05 Making Lessons…
  • 4:27 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kat Kadian-Baumeyer

Kat has a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and Management and teaches Business courses.

Many people are returning to school in their adult years to earn a degree or finish up an education they started years ago. Instructors have to take a different approach with the non-traditional student to make the learning relevant and useful in their careers and lives.

The Adult Learner Is Different

Do you remember when you were a kid in grade school? Everything your teachers taught you was new. Children rely on teachers to decide what they need to learn, and there is little negotiation. Children also accept what they learn at face value and rarely question the information. That's mostly because kids have little life experience. So they trust the adults and hope that the information will prove useful down the road, when they are older.

But the adult learner, usually defined as a student 25 years of age or older, learns differently. The adult learner, also called a lifelong learner, is actively involved in their learning. The instructor that suits this learner best is really more of a facilitator to the learning rather than the expert passing on information to a passive audience. As a facilitator, the instructor collaborates with the adult learner to develop a plan for achieving their goal and coaches or guides them through the learning process.

Knowledge Level of the Adult Learner

Any instructor experienced in teaching the adult learner knows that, unlike kids, adults come to the table with a wealth of life and career experiences. Adult learners have different backgrounds, experiences, needs, and even motivations for returning to school. This means instructors have to consider their audience when creating lesson plans.

For instance, many adult learners are not that confident of their abilities outside of their jobs. They might be uncomfortable with what they don't know. Some adult learners were not very good students in high school, and returning to an academic environment can feel like reliving an uncomfortable situation. It might even be that the adult learner does not see the value of investing in school. If the payoff is not obvious and fast, going back to school may not seem worth it. Also, because they come to class with their own experiences and ideas, adult learners will want to understand how their new learning fits into their existing knowledge.

When working with adult learners, efforts need to be made to customize learning activities and strategies to the students' needs.

Making Lessons Relevant and Useful

Certainly you remember a time in your academic journey where you asked, Why do I need to know this? For some, it was algebra. The adult learner questions everything this way. The solution to this question is for instructors to create lessons that relate to real life. Adult learners learn better when they can take the material and relate it to some aspect of their home life, work life, or social life. The bottom line is that it must relate to their past experiences.

Here are a few ways instructors can create relatable lessons for adult students:

  • Create a professional yet relaxed classroom environment
  • Put adult learners in groups to brainstorm concepts
  • Use problem-solving activities based on the students' experiences in their lives or jobs

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account