How Adults learn: 4 Basic Principles


Wie Erwachsene lernen: 4 Grundprinzipien

 When adults learn, they do not start from scratch. Adults are shaped by their life experiences and already possess various knowledge. Nevertheless, to reach them and enable effective learning, the four basic principles of adult learning are crucial.


1. Adult Learning Principle: Orientation to Life Experience

To enable adults to absorb new information, their life experiences must first be considered. The subjective and objective life experiences are distinguished. While the subjective life experience of a person includes, for example, the type of household they grew up in or the circumstances under which they were raised. In contrast, the objective life experience includes, among other things, whether the person lives in an economically weak or strong country. Because all these factors determine how the adult learns and understands, or how they must be approached.


2. Adult Learning Principle: Participant Orientation

In contrast to orientation to life experience, which forms a broad and general construct behind a person, participant orientation refers to the participant, such as how they are present in the seminar. It is interested in where the person currently stands in their life. For example, the needs and interests of a participant who works in sales. They are different from those of a participant whose professional roots are in personnel development.


3. Adult Learning Principle: Learning Continuity

Adults do not learn from scratch, but rather build on experiences and knowledge they have gathered in their life experiences. Therefore, it is crucial to consider this factor in the learning process. Because only when the content of learning instruments relates to the individual life experiences of the adult is information absorption truly effective.


4. Adult Learning Principle: Experiential Learning

Experiences that the individual participant, for example, has gathered in their profession, also play a role in adult learning. The new material to be learned should take on meaning in the participant’s everyday life and provide them with strategies and knowledge that they can apply in their individual position. If new information can be related to one’s own experiences, an effective learning process takes place.

Only when all four basic principles are fulfilled can adults achieve sustainable learning success.


There is more:

Just sign up for the free webinar

If you want to learn more about the 4 paths to more learning competence, we recommend the webinar with the authors Debora Karsch and Renate Wittmann. You will learn how to become the designer of your own development and how to use the 4 paths to more learning competence as a source for your success.


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