The Adult Learner (Knowles)

  • Theory: explains what a phenomenon is and how it works.It is a comprehensive, coherent and internally consistent system of ideas about a set of phenomena.
  • Education: Activity undertaken or initiated by one or more agents that is designed to effect changes in the knowledge, skill and attitudes of individuals, groups, or communities
  • Learning: Emphasizes the person in whom the change occurs or is expected to occur.Learning is the act or process by which behavioral change, knowledge, skills and attitudes are acquired.Learning refers to: (1) acquisition and mastery of what is already known about something, (2) the extension and clarification of meaning of one’s experience, (3) an organized, intentional process of testing ideas relevant to the problems.It is used to describe a product, process or function.

Learning involves change: habits, knowledge, attitudes

Learning is a change in the individual due to the interaction of that individual and his environment,

CARL ROGERS: Learning,  growth and development
1. Personal involvement
2. Self-initiation
3. Pervasiveness – Learning makes a difference in the behavior, attitudes or even the personality of the learner
4. Evaluation by the learner: Learner knows whether or not the learning meets the need.
5. Its essence is meaning: The element of meaning is built into the experience.

Student centered approach:

·We cannot teach another, we can only facilitate his learning
·Person learns significantly only those things which he perceives as being involved in the maintenance of or enhancement of the structure of self
·The educational situation which most effectively promotes significant learning is one in which: (1) a threat to the self of the learner is reduced to a minimum, and (2) differentiated perception of the field is facilitated.Differentiated perception is the ability to see things in limited, differentiated terms, to be aware of the space-time facts, dominated by facts, not concepts, evaluate in multiple ways, aware of different levels of abstract, to test his inferences and abstractions by reality

MASLOW: five domains of the learning process

  1. Motor skills
  2. Verbal information
  3. Intellectual skills
  4. Cognitive strategies
  5. Attitudes

Placed special emphasis on the role of personal safety: Healthy, spontaneous person reaches out to the environment in interest and expresses whatever skills he has; is not crippled by fear.Safe and self-accepting enough to be able to
choose to take delight rather than being frightened by life’s possibilities.

CARL JUNG: Holistic concept of extracting information to achieve understanding:

  1. Sensation
  2. Thought
  3. Emotion
  4. Intuition

ERIK ERIKSON: eight ages of man

  1. Oral-sensory : trust vs. mistrust
  2. Muscular-anal : Autonomy vs. shame
  3. Locomotion-genital : initiative vs. guilt
  4. Latency: industry vs. inferiority
  5. Puberty &  adolescence : identity vs. role confusion
  6. Young adulthood : intimacy vs. isolation
  7. Adulthood: generativity vs. stagnation
  8. Final Stage : integrity vs. despair


* The need to know : Adults need to know why they need to learn something.The first task of the facilitator is to help
the learner be aware of the “need to know/” They need to know HOW learning will be conducted; WHAT learning will happen and WHY learning is important.

* Self Directed Learning: Learners self-concept: Adults have a self-concept of being responsible for their own decisions, their own lives.They resent and resist situations in which they feel others are imposing their wills on them.This presents a serious problem in adult education : The minute adults walk into an activity labeled “education”,. Training.” Or something like that they go back to their conditioning in their previous school experience, put on their dunce hats of dependency, fold their arms, sit back, and say “teach me.”

Autonomy means taking control of the goals and purposes of learning and assuming ownership of learning.Locus
of Control : occurs when people attribute the cause or control of events to themselves or to an external environment.
People who ascribe control of events to themselves have an internal locus of control.Locus of control is
considered an important personality variable in org research and theory – it is believed to be a stable trait, not easily changed.

* Role of the learners’ experiences: Adults come into an educational activity with both a greater volume and a different quality of experience from youths.In any group of adults there will be a wider range of individual differences that with yours. Greater emphasis in adult education is placed on individualization of teaching and learning strategies.The richest resources for learning may reside in the adult learners themselves. Experiential techniques:  group discussion, simulation, problem-solving, case method are more effective.

To children;  experience is something that happens to them:

To Adults, their experience is who they are

Single-loop learning: fits prior experiences and existing values – enables learner to respond in an automatic way.“Knowing in Action” is the somewhat automatic response based on our existing mental schema

Double-loop learning: learning that does not fit the learner’s prior experiences – requires learner to change his mental
schema in a fundamental way. “Reflection in action” is reflecting while performing to discover when existing schema are no longer appropriate, and changing those schema when appropriate.

Schema: cognitive structures that are built as learning and experience accumulate and are packaged in memory.

Senge: mental models: Deeply held internal images of how the world works, images that limit us to familiar ways of thinking and acting – the cognitive structures that arise from an individual’s experiences.

* Readiness to learn: adults become ready to learn those things they need to know to be able to cope effectively with their real-life situations.Pratt: Learning experiences are highly situational – learner may be highly
confident in one situation and dependent in another.Direction: learner’s need for assistance.Support: affective encouragement the learner needs from others.It is also the product of the learner’s commitment to the learning process and confidence about his learning ability.

* Orientation to learning: In contrast to children’s subject-centered orientation to learning, adults are life-centered (or task or problem centered) in their orientation to learning. Motivated to learn to the extent that learning will help them perform tasks or deal with problems that they confront in their life situations.Kolb (p. 147) The educator’s job is to
transmit or implant new ideas and also to modify old ones that may get in the
way of new ones.

Kolb’s Stages with suggested learning strategies:

Concrete Experience: simulation,case study, field trip, real experience,

Reflect and Observe Discussion, small groups, designated observers

Abstract Conceptualization Sharing content

Active Experimentation Lab experiences, on the job experience, internships,

Practice sessions.

* Motivation: While adults are responsive to some external motivators (better job,
promotion, salary etc.) the most potent motivators are internal pressures – job
satisfaction, self-esteem, quality of life, etc.

DEWEY: central concept is experience –

* experience is always the starting point of an educational process, never the result. All genuine education comes through experience.

* Democracy: democratic social arrangements promote a better quality of human experience, more widely accessible and enjoyed.

* Continuity: continuity of experience means that every experience both takes up something from those which have gone before and modifies in some way the quality of those which come after.

* Interaction: Equal rights to both objective and internal conditions.Any normal experience is an interplay of
these two sets of conditions.Together in their interaction they form what we call a ‘situation’.

BRUNER: inquiry method of teaching:

*Teacher rarely tells students what he thinks they ought to know.It deprives the students of the excitement of doing their own finding.

* Basic mode of discourse is questioning.Never tell an answer when you can ask a question.Questions open engaged minds to unsuspected possibilities.

* Does not accept a single statement as an answer to a question.“Right Answers” terminate further thought.Asks for
reasons, causes, meanings – plural

* Encourages student-student interaction as opposed to student-teacher interaction.

* Rarely summarizes positions taken by students: the act of summary, “closure” tends to have the effect of ending further thought.Regards learning as a process, not a terminal event – so summaries are more likely to be stated as hypotheses, tendencies and directions.


One of the misconceptions in our cultural heritage is the notion that organizations exist purely to get things
done.That is only one of their purposes – the work purpose. Every org. also has a social system that serves as an instrument for helping people meet human needs and achieve human goals.This is the PRIMARY purpose for which people take part in organizations – to meet their needs and achieve their goals – and when an org. does not serve this purpose for them, they tend to withdraw from it.

Adult education is a means for orgs to further both purposes.

The quality of learning in an org is affected by the kind of org it is. An org is not simply an instrument for providing organized learning to adults; it also provides an environment that either facilitates or inhibits learning.

An educative environment, in a democratic culture, is one that exemplifies democratic values, and practices a democratic philosophy, which is noted for a concern for the development of persons, a deep conviction as to the worth of each persona and faith that people will make the right decisions for themselves if given the necessary information and support.Learning activities will be based on the real needs and interests of the participants; there will be a maximum of participation by all members of the org in sharing responsibility for making and carrying out decisions..

An organization’s most effective instrument of influence is its own behavior.


HRD focuses on increasing the performance requirements for persons.
HRD deals with performance outcomes and drivers.HRD should contribute directly to the orgs
goals, as well as the employee’s goals.

Organization: productive enterprise having a mission and goals, a system with definable inputs, processes, outputs, parts and purposes.

Performance: org. system outputs that have value to the customer in the form of productivity attributable to the org, work process, individual.

The outcome of HRD is performance improvement – learning, knowledge and expertise is a core part of HRD,
but not the whole of it.


Adults have a self-concept of being responsible for their own lives and expect others to treat them as being
capable of self-direction.The purpose of AE should be to develop self-directed learning capacity in adults.(Brookfield)Page 123


* Need – what learning is needed to achieve goals

* Create – strategy and resources to achieve the learning

* Implement – learning strategy and use learning resources

* Evaluate – assess the attainment of the learning goal and process of reaching it.

* Adults determine their own Learning Needs.Must take into consideration that employee wants are only sometimes related to real performance improvement needs.May be due to employee ignorance, or the fact that they do not have the expertise, information or time to properly analyze their needs.Their wants are their best guess, but are not always accurate.

* Adults Create their own learning strategies and resources to achieve the goal

* Adults Implement their own learning strategy and resources.Involvement at the need phase is critical for the purpose of motivation- and creates a sense of control. One problem with Self-directed learning is that allowing adults to
create and implement their learning could lead to low-risk decision – comfort rather than growth.(Page 129)

* Adults Evaluate their own learning: Evaluation is a “systematic collection of evidence to determine if desired changes are taking place.”Focused on learning outcomes.Self-ratings can be generally reliable but are not trusted as being valid.The adult learner wanting to retain control over evaluation while gaining valid data will have to reach outside the internal reference to formal tests or expert judges.

Fluid Intelligence: Similar to traditional IQ – ability to solve novel problems – largely linked to memory. Crystallized intelligence – function of experience and education and increases in adult years.Adults show some loss of fluid abilities,
particularly on speeded tasks, but become better at using the knowledge they have.

Adult Educators need to be aware that adult learners may not respond as quickly to totally new material or situations, and adjustments may need to be made for more time for learning.However when learning depends on prior experience and education, no adjustments should be needed.


  • Creative leaders have faith in people, offer them challenging opportunities, and delegate responsibility to them
  • Creative leaders accept as a law of human nature that people feel a commitment to a decision in proportion to the extent that they feel they have participated in making it.Creative leaders involve their clients, workers or students in every step of the planning process, assessing needs, formulating goals, designing actions, carrying out
    activities and evaluating results.
  • Creative leaders believe in and use the power of self-fulfilling prophesy.They understand that people tend to
    come up to other people’s expectations for them.The relationship between positive self-concept and superior
    performance has been demonstrated in studies.
  • Creative leaders highly value individuality. They sense that people perform at a higher level when they are
    operating on the basis of their unique strengths, talents, interests, and goals than when trying to conform to some imposed structure.As managers, they encourage a team arrangement in which each member works at what he or she does best and enjoys most.
  • Creative leaders stimulate and reward creativity. They understand that in a world of accelerating change, creativity
    is a basic requirement for the survival of people, organizations and societies.
  • Creative leaders are committed to a process of continuous change and are skillful in managing change.They
    understand the difference between static and innovative organizations and aspire to make their orgs. Innovative.
  • Creative leaders emphasize internal motivators over external motivators (P.209)
  • Creative leaders encourage people to be self-directing.A universal characteristic of the maturation process is
    movement from a state of dependency toward states of increasing self-directedness.

Learning Objectives: P. 216


Primary Goals sits at the intersection of three core ideas about communication:
  • Leaders create vision by communicating a compelling future to their teams.
  • Teams create success based on how effectively the communicate and coordinate with each other.
  • Entrepreneurial ventures are successful only when they communicate value to people with a concern that the business can take care of
In all cases, it’s about Conversations for Committed Results.  That’s our Primary Goal.  



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