Adult Learning Theory

Define: If we take a look at Piaget's four stages we see the staggering similarities adult learning and children (youth) learning share. (High Scope, 2005) We know that children learn from being in the classroom. However, as children become adults they learn differently, and the focus is on them and no longer teachers.
Adults tend to learn best when:
  • They are not told what to do, there is freedom involved, and able to learn in their own way
  • Learning is based on real life experiences not by simply learning from textbooks
  • They want to learn at this period of time in their life
  • The learning process is not boring, it makes sense and it is something they want to learn
Apply: Adult learning can be applied to community development work in practical ways. When working as a community organizer it is important that the experiences and interactions are based in some way by adults. Adults can be seen as role models for youth and their participation helps add motivation to participate, and helps make youth feel more comfortable getting involved.
Adapt: In everyday life we can apply adult learning. Children are being exposed to the way adults see and view the world. In school, teachers are seen as the primary ones who teach children and expand their knowledge. However, parents simply can be the teachers of life for their children. By simply talking to their children about the world, they can instill new knowledge that was not there before. It is important especially in the classroom, teachers take a new approach. The teacher allows and accepts the process of learning from their classmates. Adult learning is a mutual relationship that needs to be treated with the upmost respect. It is a way of looking at learning in a more sensible way by merely learning from one another.


  1. Apply: Adult Learning Theory can be applied to community organizing specifically where it states that the adults wants to learn and learning is not boring. Community organizers can use this as a tool to gain participants in a movement or activity. Through educating the public or community on an issue community organizers can gain valuable participants in their movement. This can relate to the issue we discussed in class regarding the building of new factories in a community. By educating the adults in the community we give people the power to make decisions and hopefully help them learn to advocate to run their community the way they want it run.

    Adapt: Adult learning can be applied to almost any profession. Through offering training's and seminars to doctors, lawyers, teachers or almost any profession those professions are focusing on adult learning. Not all trainings and seminars are required and this illustrates the fact that adults want to learn and that it is not boring. Adults attending trainings that are not required are showing they want to learn and self-educate themselves to help strengthen their skills toward their professions.

  2. Apply: Adult learning is very beneficial in any community and any population that are developmentally capable of being goal oriented. Adult learning can be applied when working with camp counselors. Providing workshops and seminars that are designed to work with that specific population is greatly beneficial. Camp counselors are volunteers and by volunteering it illustrates that adults wish to learn and therefore will benefit other individuals in the learning process. By educating adults, the goal is that it will create a snowball effect in which adults can educate other adults as well as youth.

    Adapt: Part of being an effective professional working in communities is knowing how adults learn. Adults differ in learning, unlike adolescents and children adults have special learning needs. Adults need to be free to direct themselves. Adults have a deeper understanding and knowledge from life experiences but most importantly adults need to be respected in their learning styles.