Sunday, October 4, 2015

Designing Professional Development for Adult Learners

The traditional model of PD is changing in many places, and educators nowadays can learn from PLNs, twitter, online courses, and edcamps, to name a few. While technology makes learning easily accessible and able to fit into a person’s busy schedule, the adult learner must be motivated to learn and participate.  Paying attention to how adults are motivated is important in designing Professional Development for educators. 

Malcolm Knowles was a pioneer in adult learning, and the Rochester institute of Technology shares some of Knowles’ findings about adult learning styles on their website:

Adult learners are…

Problem-centered and seek educational solutions that will take them from where they are to where they want to be in their life or profession. 
Results-oriented, with specific results in mind for education.  Because their participation is often voluntary, adults may drop out if the education they are receiving does not lead to those results.
Self-directed, and typically do not depend on others for direction.
Often skeptical about new information, preferring to try it out before accepting it.
Looking for education that relates or applies directly to perceived needs, and is timely and appropriate for their current lives.
Willing to accept responsibility for their own learning, as long as they see that learning as timely and appropriate.

"Learning is change and change is learning."

Keeping these characteristics in mind, planning Professional Development should be planned in such a way that will motivate adult learners. Most importantly, know the learners – their goals, problems, readiness, and needs.

Provide options and choices so that adults can be self-directed.

Learning experiences should be practical and immediately relevant.

Use scenarios or real-life situations for problem-solving and discussion.

Create learning opportunities that will fit into busy schedules and concepts can be mastered in a short amount of time.

What else would you add to help the student to be ready?


  1. Jennifer,
    Thanks for sharing. So many times I have had PD that I thought "when am I going to use this?". There's no excuse for that in the education world now with online training, Twitter chats, and webinars. Teachers should be given the chance to find PD that is meaningful and timely for them. We are moving into a better world of PD.

  2. I agree with you, Jon. I'm a practitioner, always wanting to know how it will be implemented... that means I need to see value in its application.We should be able to provide the kind of learning our teachers need! Thanks for reading and commenting!