Learning & Development

Apply Adult Learning Theory to Training and Development Strategy

Corporate or professional training and development strategies should consider the fundamentals of learning theory for adults. Most people understand the simple relationship between teacher and student, assuming you went through some formal education. The curriculum was prescriptive, with the student taking explicit direction from the teacher and completing work at regulated intervals. This is the pedagogic approach, typically applied in formal academic settings. In pedagogy, the role of students and learning activities are dependent on the teacher.

Corporate training is much different from a formal academic setting. Employee training and development can’t be solely dependent on the instructor. This is not an efficient model for talent development as corporate trainers’ ratio to employees tends to be a lot higher than 1 to 30, which is typical in a pedagogical setting. Teaching adults who are juggling multiple responsibilities also makes learning even more challenging.

The good news is that adult learning theories place less emphasis on instructors. There are two adult learning theories that would be beneficial to understand when creating an enterprise training program. Andragogy and Heutagogy. Andragogy and Heutagogy both assume adults are self-directed, but the approaches to the training may be slightly different. With Andragogic-based teaching, the goal is to establish some structure so adults can be self-directed with their learning activities, whereas Heutagogy is self-determined. Heutagogy strategies centers around the fact that learners can figure out their own goals, learning paths or processes. The differences between Pedagogy, Andragogy, and Heutagogy are important when creating courses or training to engage your learners. Adult learning theories can help support your organization’s training and development strategy. Understanding these theories and applying the most effective one for your organization is the challenge of training and development leaders.

While your employees have the ability to manage their own development, it’s essential to set the tone and expectations around self-education in your company training program. To facilitate a future-proof workforce, management should strive to create a “learning first” corporate culture. Only then will training be a priority for your organization.


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