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How Do You Learn?

Aug 15, 2022 | Blog

An•dra•go•gy (noun) – the method and practice of teaching adult learners.

How Do You Learn?

An•dra•go•gy (noun) – the method and practice of teaching adult learners.

In Greek, andragogy means man-leading vs pedagogy which refers to child-leading. Malcolm Shepherd Knowles, a renowned American educator, referenced this word as synonymous with “the art & science of adult learning.” He offered five core principles to optimize adult learning:

  • The topic relevance and/or level of impact is critical
  • Hands-on experiences are foundational to learning
  • The timing is aligned to the learning
  • The experience is positive and encouraging
  • There is a freedom to learn in a manner that suits them best

Let’s unpack these a bit further. The first element is relevance. Why should we learn this skill? Will it support our current job? Will it help us get promoted in our current company? Will it give us a leg up when applying for a job in the future? These questions are relevant whether our goal is to upskill (improving an existing skill) or reskill (learning new skills for a different job). We tend to be more willing to challenge ourselves if we understand the benefit. At the end of the day, we can ask ourselves, is this learning a “need to know,” “want to know” or “like to know”?

Second is how an optimized learning experience is structured. Life as an adult is defined by our experiences. We bring this growing body of experience to each new activity. Yet our backgrounds, skillsets and exploits are distinct. The application to learning is no exception. A one-size-fits-all structure can be challenging for us as learners. Nothing can replace the value of a live learning experience when it is generated by an instructor who, like re-shaping a piece of clay, can adapt the learning experience on the fly to the needs of the learners.

The third element is timing. For some of us, this is can be an important factor. How often have we had a less than stellar learning experience because the timing was not aligned with what else is going on in our lives? How long will it take to complete the learning objectives? What level of commitment is required? As a mature adult, life is full of distractions. Some we create, many others are brought to us by others. Our time is valuable so it’s important to align our learning experience with the rest of our life. The result is more likely an impactful experience.

The fourth element relates to the style of learning. The old proverb “you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” applies here. Most of us prefer a caring, supportive environment where we are encouraged to think rather than made to feel as if we should get it on the first try, especially when we don’t. Finding the style that works for us as individuals goes a long way to generating the results we seek.

The final element, and often most important, is the recognition that not everyone learns the same way. Many of us learn more effectively in a hands-on environment by doing the work along with the instructor rather than passively listening to a lecture. We want to be guided as we figure it out for ourselves regardless of whether the initial result is correct or not. Our preference is to absorb rather than memorize.

One of the biggest challenges around asynchronous learning (i.e.: independent, self-directed learning like LinkedIn Learning and others) is you watch a video and take a test…wash, rinse and repeat. However, there is no ability to ask questions in real time. Your sole recourse is to watch the video a 2nd or 3rd time and figure it out for yourself or look for an additional resource (perhaps a YouTube video). This works well for some. For many others, the ability to ask questions and have the instructor explain it multiple times is the difference between learning and not learning.

In summary, the breadth and depth of learning opportunities for adults is enormous. Choose the style and format that works best for how you learn.

About The Author

Steve Bradbury is the Founder of My Software Tutor. He is an experienced educator having been an Adjunct Professor for Syracuse University, UCLA Extension and Boston University. MST provides three levels of practical, functional real-time Excel (today) and PowerPoint (soon) training with a live instructor. Use promo code: ICT25OFF to save 25% off all registrations. ICT Community Members save more with a special promo code accessible with your membership.
My Software Tutor is offering an ICT-exclusive, deeply discounted “Excel Fundamentals for Newbies” class on March 8th. Check out the MST site for details.