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Applying Principles of Adult Learning: The Key to More Effective Training Programs

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 72 Issue: 4 Dated: April 2003 Pages: 1-5
Ralph C. Kennedy M.Ed.
Date Published
April 2003
5 pages
This article discusses principles of adult learning and offers strategies and methodologies that should be employed in training programs for adults.
New theories have emerged regarding adult learning. Studies have shown that adults learn differently than young people, and as such, certain strategies and classroom techniques should be employed when conducting training programs for adults. The author outlines the principles of adult learning, which are comprised of differences in self-image, life experiences, fear of failure, expectations about learning, diminished speed and retention of learning, and physical differences that may hamper learning, such as hearing and visual impairments. The remainder of the article discusses each of these principles in turn with suggestions on how to better facilitate adult learning in training programs. Unlike children, adults enter learning situations with a self-image as independent, mature beings who can direct their own learning experiences. As such, to facilitate better adult learning, adult students should be involved in their learning with activities that engage their sense of self-responsibility. The author also explains that many adults suffer from a fear of failure and thus, teachers of training programs should be careful to avoid criticism and offer positive feedback instead. Other suggestions include speaking loudly and clearly to overcome any hearing difficulties that may be present in an older audience and to write unusual words to facilitate better learning. Conducting effective training programs is critical to the continued education of law enforcement personnel, and as such, teacher and trainers should become familiar with adult learning principles.