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How Adults Learn

Claudia Johnson


We are so pleased to partner with you in your quest for a basic understanding of how adults learn. Teaching adults is a rewarding venture, and we want you to be successful.

If you are new to teaching adults or have taught adults for years, you know or soon will learn that it is a different experience from teaching children. The teaching approach will be different but some of the techniques or learning activities will overlap. Adults bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to a learning experience while children bring energy and curiosity.

 No one needs to shy away from teaching adults because adults are peers, rather embrace the opportunity to pour into their lives. That’s why we have designed these interactive learning activities that introduce you to basic principles of how adults learn as well as their learning styles. You can move through this course at your own pace. You’ll find activities sprinkled throughout where you can prove to yourself how much you have learned.

This course is shaped by the work of two people: Malcolm Knowles and David Kolb. Knowles is considered to be the “father of adult learning.” David Kolb is an adult education learning theorist who has expanded on Knowles’ principles of adult learning to describe how adults learn. 

During the "Explore" section, you will hear the voice of Carol Causey, missions resource center director at WMU from her How Adults Learn conference in September, 2015, in Birmingham, Alabama.

 Course Information:

  • How Adults Learn is a self-paced, 30-day course. You can work on each learning activity or assignment when it is most convenient for you for 30 days after registering for the class. Your registration day is considered one of the 30 days. You will be notified 2–3 days before the end of your 30-day course period and again when the 30 days has expired. Our desire is for you to complete the course in the time you need. If the 30 days will expire before you have completed the course work, please notify the course facilitator to extend the time provided for you to complete the course. 
  • The course was designed so participants could complete all of the learning activities and assignments in no more than four hours. This time could vary based on personal learning styles. However, you should be able to easily complete this course within the 30-day period by committing at least one hour per week during this time frame.
  • During the 30 days you are registered for How Adults Learn, you will be able to access and view all of the information from the learning activities and assignments. However, once an assignment is submitted, you will not be able to change your responses.
  • As a participant, you will have a personal online portfolio that will remain available to you after completing this course and maintaining a profile on this site. During the 30 days you are registered for this course, you will be able to save files of your work and some of the course information in your portfolio for future reference. You will receive a prompt asking if you would like to save some of the files from the course information or files of your work in your portfolio throughout the course. Be sure to save the files you want to be able to view after you complete the course in your portfolio.  
  • This Develop course has been created for your personal and ministry development. Part of the learning experience is the opportunity to interact with and receive feedback online from WMU® leaders as you complete the learning activities and assignments. Rather than receiving a grade at the end of this course, your course work will either be "Complete" or "Incomplete."  If you complete and submit the assignments in the course and receive satisfactory feedback from the WMU facilitator, you will receive a "Complete" at the end of the course.
  • This course is designed to help you LEARN about how adults learn as you complete five modules based on the acronym  Each module has been created with an educationally sound purpose that will assist you in gaining the most you can from this course. Take time to become acquainted with the LEARN modules so you are familiar with the course framework before you begin:

  • In each module there are learning activities and assignments. Learning activities provide the basic content for the course and information you will need to gain a basic understanding of how adults learn. Assignments are opportunities to apply what you are learning to the adults you will be leading and assess what you are learning. Upon completion of an assignment, you will be prompted to submit the assignment to your WMU course facilitator. This will be your opportunity to receive feedback and interact with the WMU course facilitator. Your course facilitator will look forward to answering any questions you may have and providing any further information that will assist you as you lead adults. 

So let's discover how adults learn!

  • Begin by going to the "Modules" page (see link in the information box on the left of your screen).   
  • For assistance navigating this site at any time, click the "?" box in the dark blue ribbon at the top right of your screen to access the "Help" pages. 

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