Strategies for Teaching Adult Learners

Strategies for Teaching Adult Learners


To be effective in teaching adult learners, it’s important to have an understanding of how adults learn.

There has been extensive research conducted on how adults learn. Malcolm Knowles, a well-known expert on , has developed assumptions and principles regarding adult learners. His basic assumptions have evolved over the years from contributions from others. Below are lists of strategies educators can employ when teaching adults.


Preliminary Strategies – Used to create an effective learning climate and begin the learning process

Teaching Strategies – Used to present information and have learner apply information

General Strategies – Used throughout the learning process



Strategies for Teaching Adult Learners

Preliminary Strategies

  • Tell the learners how the learning will benefit them
  • Clearly identify intended learning outcomes
  • Inform learners of their responsibilities
  • Empower the learners take responsibility for their learning
  • Involve learners in planning the learning activities
  • Set a risk free climate
  • Provide an environment that is relaxed, safe, and free from intimidation
  • Foster a spirit of collaboration in the learning setting

Teaching Strategies

  • Give the big picture first
  • Use a variety of teaching strategies (visual, auditory, kinesthetic)
  • Focus on “real world” problems and issues
  • Create scenarios allowing learners to problem solve
  • Draw upon learners’ experiences as a resource
  • Relate the material to the learners past experiences
  • Link new knowledge to previous knowledge
  • Allow debate and challenge of ideas
  • Emphasize how learning can be applied
  • Allow the learners to apply information immediately
  • Allow learners to practice what they learn
  • Enable learners to assess their own learning
  • Provide feedback during the active learning
  • Allow learners to reflect on their learning
  • Summarize frequently to increase retention


General Strategies

  • Allow learners to make decisions to contribute to the learning process
  • Engage the learning in the learning process – make them active learners
  • Provide support for self-directed learning
  • Provide opportunities for dialogue among the group
  • Treat learners like adults
  • Make it fun and enjoyable
  • Listen to and respect the opinions of learners



Related Links

Teaching Strategies for Adult Learners

Adult Learning Principles

Adult Learning

How Children and Adults Learn


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