Adult Learning

The first book of Malcolm Knowles was published in 1950 but the adult education was there even before that but Knowles was interested in finding the coherent and comprehensive theory for adult learning. The most important he found the “friendly and informal climate” is very effective in most of the cases. The most important factors in adult learning he mentioned are as under.

  • Flexibility of the process
  • Use of experience
  • Enthusiasm
  • Commitment of participants

In his book he also differentiated the formal and informal program as formal programs are those sponsored for the most part by established educational institutions (Universities, colleges etc.) and informal programs are more likely to use group and forum approaches.

For the better understanding and learning, the factors about the adults he mentioned are as under:

  • Adults should acquire a mature understanding of themselves.
  • Adults should develop an attitude of acceptance, love, and respect toward others.
  • Adults should learn to react to the causes, not the symptoms, of behavior.
  • Adults should acquire the skills necessary to achieve the potentials of their personalities.
  • Adults should understand the essential values in the capital of human experience
  • Adults should understand their society and should be skillful in directing social change.

After reading the full article I concluded that the teacher is a facilitator, coordinator; not the dispenser of knowledge and Knowledge (mental structures and content) is varied by maturation, social interaction, and experience. I believe that the purpose of trainers/teachers is to train the student to build a positive community.  To do this a constructive rapport with the students is necessary in the classroom so they don’t feel any hesitation to contact you any time because we are there to impart knowledge and also encourage them to determine new streams themselves. I believe this to be especially true in Technical/vocational programs. Students in these types of programs experience a great deal of hands-on or practical learning. In being able to explore tools/concepts themselves, they can discover more keys and may improve more queries. As a computer teacher, I fully integrated this into my program. Students get simple instruction and are expected to explore additional information to addendum their knowledge. They are given abstract (conceptual computer program) and then in group sessions, discuss and come with their solutions. I encourage the discussions and lead them to other options or resources where they can find more information. I believe this has been successful in my program because it allows students to use basic knowledge and to think logically to discover more and feel confidence. It is true that scholars usually want to learn and achieve a feeling of success when they discover information by themselves. So if we build a positive relationship with the students then they can share the experience and we can guide them better according to their need as some students get the point instantly and some may take some time. Without constructive rapport, it is impossible to make the majority comfortable asking questions in the class and even outside the class too.

Adult learners should be accountable for their learning. No doubt sometimes self-discipline is a struggle and becomes difficult for the students but speaking from an Adult Learning Schools perspective, encouraging adult learners to be more responsible and accountable for their learning has been a challenge. Accountability for attending the classes regularly, keeping up with their assignments, trust themselves for their findings/exploration, keeping the teacher informed about their deficiencies and gets to know the class concerns/challenges.  Even though I always make sure that every student got the context of the subject discussed in the class and what they need to do or what is their responsibility now (I think this is positive reinforcement to make them accountable, explore and trust their results). As in my successful beliefs, I mentioned that we try to provide the chance to students to explore the new findings, as here as an adult learner; it’s your responsibility to be self-directed.


Brew, J. M. (1946) Informal Education. Adventures and reflections, London: Faber.

Brockett, R. G. and Hiemstra, R. (1991) Self-Direction in Adult LearningPerspectives on theory, research and practice, London: Routledge.

Brookfield, S. B. (1994) ‘Self directed learning’ in YMCA George Williams College ICE301Adult and Community Education Unit 2: Approaching adult education, London: YMCA George Williams College.


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