Adult Learning Theory

Adult Learning Theory


Adult Learning Theory, also known as Andragogy, is the study of how adults learn. Andragogy means leader of man. Although there are many contributors of adult learning, Malcolm Knowles  was the first in the United States to use the term andragogy and was considered the father of adult learning. Knowles contrasted the andragogy and pedagogy. This later led to the understanding of adults had to have a purpose for learning new things. There are six assumptions and six principles that adults must have in order to properly learn.




  • B.F. Skinner- Behavior Modification
  • Benjamin Bloom- Taxonomy of Learning Objectives
  • Howard Gardiner - Theory of Multiple Intelligences
  • Malcolm Knowles- Principles of Adult Learning
  • David Kolb- Experiential Learning


Six Assumptions of Andragogy

  1. Need to Know: Adults need to know the reason for learning.
  2. Experience: Adults draw upon their experiences to aid their learning.
  3. Self-Concept: Adult needs to be responsible for their decisions on education, involvement in planning and evaluation of their instruction.
  4. Readiness: The learning readiness of adults is closely related to the assumption of new social roles.
  5. Orientation: As a person learns new knowledge, he or she wants to apply it immediately in problem solving.
  6. Motivation (Later added): As a person matures, he or she receives their motivation to learn from internal factors



Knowles Six Principles of Adult Learning


  1. Adults are internally motivated and self-directed
  2. Adults bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences
  3. Adults are goal oriented
  4. Adults are relevancy oriented
  5. Adults are practical
  6. Adult learners like to be respected



The Six Adult Learning Principles by Carson Smith