How to Teach Adult Learners in Your Organization

As you make changes within your organization,
training and education will almost certainly be necessary.
This week, we take a look at how to prepare for this instruction.

First, it’s important to remember that adult learners are different from child learners. Adults obviously have much more life experience, which can greatly affect their learning. The chart below from the Pacer Center’s National FAST Project compares differences between the two groups as learners.

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Next, there are different types of learning styles to consider. You can check out a number of tools and tests available online that can evaluate a person’s learning style. It might be a good idea for your organization to have everyone take a learning styles assessment to have on file. This can help with planning training to best reach the learners in your organization.

The number and types of learning styles depend on the model, but for our purposes here we will focus on three common learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.

      Visual Learners - These learners prefer to have graphs, charts, and text to look at during the learning process. They remember more after seeing it. To accommodate this type of learner, use handouts and visual presentations such as PowerPoint.

      Auditory Learners - These learners learn best by listening and talking.  For them, utilize lectures and discussions.

      Kinesthetic Learners - These learners learn best through carrying out physical activity. This can be the most difficult group to consider when training. Some simple suggestions to consider for kinesthetic learners are to include role playing, writing, mapping a process, and giving frequent breaks to allow for movement.

What else is important to consider when planning training within your organization?  Here are some suggestions to keep in mind:

Motivate Your Learners

Adults want to know what they are getting out of the learning, and motivation is not something you can force. They will be more motivated to learn when they see what they are learning as being useful.

Connect Training to Goals

This goes back to the previous point on motivation. Adult learners need to see how learning applies to them and is useful. Show how this training will help the organization reach its goals.

Keep Training Efficient

Adults have many responsibilities and will be resentful if they feel the training is a waste of their time. Make sure each session is well-planned and useful.

Create a Comfortable Learning Environment

Regulate the temperature where the training will be held so that your learners aren’t distracted by being too hot or cold. Provide breaks and practice opportunities, especially during longer periods of lecture. Light refreshments can make a training session more enjoyable. Sustaining mental effort requires learners to be comfortable.

Utilize a Variety of Training Methods and Activities

To keep your learners engaged and interested, use a variety of methods.  These can include:


      Group discussions

      PowerPoint presentations

      Guided note-taking


      Presentation of practical examples

      Role playing

      Q&A session

Provide Hands-on Experience

Allow learners to gain as much hands-on experience as possible. As we learn something, we want to try it. If the training is on, say, a new type of billing software, have the software available to use during training so that the learners can immediately apply their new knowledge. You can also utilize simulations and role-playing. Practice makes perfect!

Give Follow-up Guidelines

Even if you allow time to ask questions, there will inevitably be things that come up later that weren’t thought of during the training session. Once people put their new knowledge into action, they will probably need clarification and guidance. Have a procedure outlined for how to handle these questions or issues. It might be a good idea to have a knowledgeable point person or team who is responsible for this.

Provide Feedback

Learning is a process. We’re not all experts immediately after learning something new. Help your learners by reinforcing what they’re doing well and giving constructive feedback on what needs to be improved. This will help them become better at their newly-learned skill.


As you begin to plan training within your organization, it’s important to keep it relevant.

Make sure application of the new knowledge is evident.

Know your learners and engage them through a variety of activities and tasks
while providing them with a comfortable learning environment.

Finally, be sure they know where to go for more help and feedback.