As professional association memberships are comprised of adult learners all learning environments within an overall curriculum need to adhere to the principles of effective adult learning theories. Perhaps most readily recognized as the father of adult learning, Malcolm Knowles (1968 cited in 2005), postulated that there are five andragogical assumptions regarding the adult learner:
- As a person matures, he or she moves from dependency to self-directness;
- Adults use their experiences to incorporate new information or learning;
- The learning readiness of adults correlates with the assumption of new social roles;
- Adult learners want to immediately apply knowledge to problem-based scenarios or actual tasks; and
- Motivation to learn is based on internal factors.
As a result, while there is little consensus among learning theories per se, there is some consensus that learning environments for adults should be directly applicable to the learner’s role or interests, interactive and learner-centered.
There are, however, key generational learning differences and preferences across adult learning populations. While baby boomers as a group tend to prefer face-to-face learning and linear instructional formats, the younger generations are more comfortable with technologically mediated learning environments in “just-in-time” learning chunks or disaggregated learning modules. In other words, while baby boomers are likely to read a manuscript – Generation Y is more likely to refer to a manuscript when they need help completing a task. From a pedagogical perspective these differences are nearly polar differences (see Table 1 below) often necessitating a far more diverse curricular build than previously required for adequate transfer of knowledge.
Table 1: Comparing Generational Learning Styles
Question: So what does this mean in terms of curriculum design processes for professional associations that want to meet the learning needs and preferences of their entire membership?
Join the Conversation: To join this discussion please request to post by contacting us at http://www.learningonedge.com/contact.htm. We are looking forward to your thoughts and ideas as we explore best practices, challenges and current issues regarding association education and e-learning.
The Conference Board (February 7, 2008). Comparing Generational Learning Differences. Retrieved from http://www.greenesconsulting.com/KA/Core-themes-Generational-Differences.html on June 23, 2010.
Knowles, M, Holton, E. F., III & Swanson, R. A. (2005). The adult learner: The definitive classic in adult education and human resource development (6th ed.). Burlington, MA: Elsevier.