What is Andragogy (Adult Learning Theory) and Why Is It Important

Stephanie Oakes, AINS, CLP

Most of us understand that adults learn differently than younger people. But what are those differences? How important is it for anyone developing and delivering content for adults to consider adult learning theory?

Andragogy, adult learning theory, is an approach to learning that is focused on adult learners. These main points summarize conditions under which adult learners do best:

  • When their education can be self-directed and is initiated by their internal needs rather than external pressures.
  • When the lesson plans incorporate background knowledge and experiences.
  • When the learning is offered in an active manner rather than passive.
  • When the learning is relevant to their current circumstances and can be immediately applied to some aspect of their lives.
  • When they understand and value the ‘why’ behind the need to learn.

Let’s focus on learning being offered in an active manner. Adults want to solve problems and address tasks using reasoning. The educational material must be interactive including task-oriented components like quizzes, interactive activities, and discussions to involve learners. Utilize real scenarios as examples and the knowledge of the learners whenever possible. Use open-ended questions and draw on their own experiences to use their knowledge in the learning experience.

Anyone teaching adults must be willing to use a variety of teaching approaches. It is critical to encourage involvement and independence. Ask for feedback and offer some freedom with lesson plans and activities. Some adult learners may prefer self-guided study while others seek interaction with other learners and those teaching.

It is also important to consider any additional help that learners may need. Adult learners may require additional considerations in terms of learning aids and resources. Presenting information in multiple ways such as written content; verbal explanations and discussions; requiring learner interaction and input, videos, and using examples provides the greatest opportunity for all learners to absorb and understand the content.

One final tip – if you are developing online learning for adults that is self-directed, always have a way for them to ask a question and get a response. One of the most challenging things for adult learners using online learning is not having someone to help them when they are struggling to understand the material.

Young or mature, never stop learning! It is great for your mental, emotional, and physical well-being!

For more information on the Andragogy Approach, click here.

Stephanie Oakes, AINS, CLP has worked in the fields of business analysis, change management and project management for over 30 years. During the last nine years, she has worked with property & casualty (P&C) insurance carriers supporting their technology implementations and upgrades. Her prior experience includes a diverse range of industries from health insurance, higher education, utilities, and IT consulting. She has facilitated effective business process improvement initiatives; developed change management and training plans for technology implementations; and led project management teams. Stephanie’s primary focus is to support P&C insurance carriers who are working on digital transformations that will facilitate their growth and success. Having the opportunity to meet and work with many talented, knowledgeable people motivates Stephanie to continuously improve her knowledge and skills in the technology and insurance arenas. She is the president and education committee co-chair for Vermont Association of Insurance Professionals. She served as secretary for the 2024 Region I conference and on the Legacy Foundation Nominating Committee. In her non-working hours, she enjoys gardening and canning and spending time with her family.

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