Characteristics of adult learners

Malcolm Knowles, author of the book The Modern Practice of Adult Education, proposes four assumptions about adult learning that nurses should be familiar with.

First, adults value self-direction. They view themselves as capable of making decisions, taking responsibility for the consequences of choices, and being able to manage their own lives. Adults are motivated to learn when they perceive that they have a need to learn. Try to acknowledge your adult patient’s desire to express his or her own needs and to make choices. Second, adults bring a variety of life experiences to the learning situation. Acknowledge and use the adult’s previous learning and knowledge base. Relate new knowledge to knowledge that has already been learned. Third, learning readiness is strongly influenced by social roles and developmental tasks. Recognizing this, nurses and other healthcare professionals should relate new learning to the adult’s ability to become successful in important roles, e.g., parent, spouse, or worker. Fourth, adults have a very present-centered time perspective and learn best when they can apply new knowledge immediately and learn how to problem solve.

Behavioral, cognitive, humanist approaches