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A number of theories have been developed to explain adult learning. Learning refers to “a relatively permanent change in behavior” (Brooks 2005, p. 8). Adult learning theories provide insight into how adults learn. They can facilitate the development of an effective training program (Brooks 2005, p. 8). This essay examines three theories of adult learning in the workplace.
Malcolm Knowles developed andragogy theory in 1980 (Colan 2010, p. 12). He developed the theory by identifying five factors that motivate adult learning. According to Knowles, “adults are independent learners capable of directing their own learning, they possess a reservoir of life experiences, and are willing to learn when faced with new challenges” (Colan 2010, p. 12). Adults are also eager to apply new knowledge immediately because of intrinsic motivation (Colan 2010, pp. 12-13). Andragogy has greatly influenced the practice of adult learning. However, “some of the theory’s principles are not exclusive to adult learning” (Colan 2010, pp. 13-15).
Andragogy theory can be very useful in my training design. First, the theory proposes that adult learners are intrinsically motivated; hence, they are cooperative (Colan 2010, p. 23). Second, the theory stipulates that adults learn by doing. Therefore, the training design will have practical activities that aim at enabling adult learners to apply new knowledge. However, the theory is broad-based; hence, difficult to employ in all trainings (Colan 2010, p. 24).
Action Learning Theory
Reg Revans developed the action learning theory in 1984 (Dorothy & Johnson 2009, p. 46). Revans argues that learning should be action oriented. Therefore, learning requires “both programmed knowledge and a questioning insight” (Dorothy & Johnson 2009, p. 45). Revans developed the theory based on the following assumptions. First, adult learners should be organized into small groups and a learning coach selected for each group (Dorothy & Johnson 2009, p. 46). Second, the learning coaches should also form a group from which an overall group leader is chosen (Dorothy & Johnson 2009, p. 47). The overall group leader acts as a facilitator during the learning process.
Action learning theory has been used for a long period. Therefore, it has proved to be highly effective. It provides adult learners with a chance to direct their own learning (Dorothy & Johnson 2009, p. 47). The theory will be suitable for my training design because it is ideal for finding solutions to problems that do not have a particular answer (Dorothy & Johnson 2009, pp. 47-48). Therefore, individuals can learn from each other while in the small groups. However, reliability across all groups might be unattainable.
Experiential Learning Theory
David Kolb developed the experiential learning theory in 1984 (Brooks 2005, p. 13). He proposed a four-stage learning process. The four stages include “concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation” (Brooks 2005, p. 13). According to Kolb, the learning process can begin at any of the four stages (Brooks 2005, p. 14). The theory provides a holistic model of learning (Brooks 2005, pp. 14-15).
Experiential learning theory can suit my training design because it emphasizes reflection during the learning process. However, it might be challenging to assess learning outcomes using this theory.
From the preceding discussion, adult learning theories can enable a trainer to design an effective training program, which is capable of enhancing employees’ productivity.
Brooks, J 2005, Training and Development, Kogan Press, London. Web.
Colan, J 2010, Adult Learning, Oxford University Press, London. Web.
Dorothy, M & Johnson, J 2009, Action Learning: A Guide to Professional Management, Gulf Publishing Company, Houston. Web.