Adult Learning Theories
There are many adult learning theories that influence whether employees will successfully transfer what they have learned to their job, which produces positive rates of return on a company’s investment. The most popular and effective theories are discussed below.
Probably the most common adult learning theory is the Social Learning Theory. This theory states that people learn best by interacting with and observing others. Training programs that implement this theory would provide numerous opportunities for learners to observe and imitate the behavior of a skilled professional. This skilled professional, also called a model, provides positive reinforcements for successfully imitating a desired behavior, which elicits the learner to continue performing well throughout the training and while on the job.
The next prevalent adult learning theory is the Experiential Learning Theory, which is also very similar to the Theory of Constructivism. These two theories state that adults learn best when training material is presented in the context in which it is to be used. In order for adult learners to retain new information, it must be continually associated with other information or experiences to which they can easily relate. Therefore, experiential and constructivism training methods often include the use of on-the-job training, where learners are taught new information in the context of their current working environment.
The final two theories are also commonly implemented together because they often go hand-in-hand. The Cognitive Learning Theory states that people learn best through critical thinking, reasoning, intuition, and perception. This theory suggests that training be delivered with the intention of providing the learner with the insight and understanding necessary to apply the information to real-world working environments. Furthermore, the Humanistic Learning Theory states that people learn best when they have immediate control over their learning environment, which suggests that facilitators should be utilized to provide guidance for the adult learner while molding his or her own training environment.