5 Ways Adults Learn Differently than Children

Not a day in our lives goes by that we don’t experience learning in some capacity. However, as we age from children to adults the way we learn, absorb and retain information shifts.

Adult learning needs differ from children in the following 5 ways.

1. Adults have a wealth of experience to draw on, and like to do so. There needs to be opportunities for adults to connect learning to their own unique personal or work situations, and opportunities for them to personalize the learning in this regard.


2. Adults aren’t used to taking direction in education like children are. Children learn because they are told to learn things that will have some relevance in the distant future and will do so without questioning why. Whereas adults need to be explicitly told what they are doing and why so they can connect the desired learning outcomes to their own goals and progress.


3. Adults need specific opportunities to self-reflect and internalize their learning. Children are more social in classroom settings than adults and talk to each other about their experience. Adults need to be offered these opportunities to reflect on new learning or else they won’t internalize and retain as much information.


4. Adults have preconceived notions about education, learning styles and subject matter. They prefer to learn a certain way, even if it is not the most conducive to their individual needs. Unlike adults, children will try most new tasks and see them through, regardless of how well they do. To overcome this adult learning barrier, we need to appeal to many different learning styles and present information in a variety of ways.


5. Adults are (often) afraid to fail. Children don’t have the same social filters and are more willing to experiment. Adult learning needs to be scaffolded (built on in small pieces and supported with extra learning) or they risk losing their intrinsic motivation and focus.


Building learning that caters to needs of your team can go a long way in producing results. To help overcome these barriers in adult learning, we deploy our digital education through a series of online lessons using our Learncycle pedagogy. Our pedagogy (method for teaching) leverages a digital medium to not only accounts for these differences in young versus mature learners but also allow for the greatest amount of learning in the least amount of time.


Talk to us to learn more about how we can help build a custom elearning program that drives people performance and organizational outcomes for your business.

Mitchelle Boyle

Digital Marketing Specialist at Learnkit
Learnkit works with industry leading businesses and top academic institutions to create innovative custom elearning that delivers measurable, real world results
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