Improve your employee training by following adult learning principles

What do you take into consideration when designing your employee training plan? You probably analyze the needs of the company and the specific position first. However, to ensure your employees get the most out of their training, you must also build a program that aligns with principles of adult learning. Applying these principles, known as Adult Learning Theory, will greatly improve the effectiveness of your employee training curriculum.

The differences in how adults learn versus how children learn have been extensively studied. Malcolm Knowles’s Theory of Andragogy outlines the way in which adult curricula should be designed, centering around five adult learning assumptions.


When possible, adults should be encouraged to direct their own learning, because they are at a mature development stage.

Past learning experience

Adults have decades of experience on which their new knowledge can build.

Readiness to learn

Adults are more likely to view learning as an opportunity rather than a chore, because they’ve experienced the value of knowledge in their careers and daily lives.

Practical reason to learn

Adult learning should be goal-oriented because adults return to learning for specific reasons, such as gaining skills to progress their careers.

Internally motivated

While children are driven by external motivations such as punishment or reward, adults are driven by an internal desire to gain knowledge.

Based on these assumptions, Knowles states that adult curricula should be designed following these principles:

  • Because they are self-directed and self-motivated, adults should be given some say in the process and content of their education.
  • Adult curricula should take into account past experiences, and build on that prior knowledge.
  • Curricula should focus on learning common tasks that are directly applicable to the student’s job or life.
  • Learning should focus on solving problems instead of memorizing facts. Adults want to know why concepts are being taught and how the information they learn will meet their needs and goals.

If you keep these principles in mind when designing your employee training curriculum, your students will be more likely to excel at learning the skills they need on the job. Make your training program even more efficient by using software like Conductor Orchestrating Training to plan, track and organize your employees’ progress. Download our free trial to see how Conductor can improve your business’s training plan.