Adult Learning Theory

K.P. Cross

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Lifelong Learning.

Personal and situational characteristics. 

Capitalize on learning experiences.

Adapt to aging limitations.

Choice in availability and organization of program




M. Knowles. 

Adult Learners- self directed and responsible

Focus more on process and less on content

Instructor as facilitator vs. lecturer/grader

Involvement in planning and evaluation

Subjects needs to have relevancy

Experience provides basis for learning


Experiential Learning Theory

C. Rogers

Experiential (meaningless) Cognitive (significant)

Experiential learning addresses needs/wants

Experiential learning = personal change/growth

Relevancy to personal interests 

New attitudes or perspectives are adapted when threats are low

Self-initiated learning is lasting

Information Processing Theory

G.A. Miller

“chunking”, short term memory, 7+-2

TOTE (test, operate, test, exit)

general theory of human cognition

behavior is hierarchially organized

Multiple Intelligences

H. Gardner

linguistic, musical, logical-mathematical, spatial, body-kinesthetic, intrapersonal and interpersonal

individuals should develop their strongest intelligence and will learn best when using their intelligence

activities should appeal to all intelligences

learning assessments should measure all intelligences

Script Theory

R. Schank

Conceptualization can be analyzed in terms of small, primitive acts.

All memory is episodic and organized into scripts.

Scripts allow individuals to make inferences and understand verbal/written discourse.

Higher level expectations are created by goals and plans.

Situated Learning

J. Lave

Situated learning=knowledge acquisition

Knowledge needs to be presented in an authentic context. 

Learning requires social interaction and collaboration.


Social Learning Theory

A. Bandura

Social Learning=learning through observation and modeling.

Social learning spans both cognitive and behavioral.  

Modeled behavior is more likely to result in outcomes if the behavior is one that is valued, modeled by someone the learner admires and can relate to and the behavior has a function


Attribution Theory

B. Weiner

Attribution is a three stage process: (1) behavior is observed, (2) behavior is determined to be deliberate, and (3) behavior is attributed to internal or external causes.

Achievement can be attributed to (1) effort, (2) ability, (3) level of task difficulty, or (4) luck.

Causal dimensions of behavior are (1) locus of control, (2) stability, and (3) controllability.

Cognitive Dissonance Theory

L. Festinger

Dissonance occurs when an individual must choose between attitudes and behaviors that contradict. 

Dissonance can be eliminated by reducing the importance of the conflicting beliefs, acquiring new beliefs that change the balance, or removing the conflicting attitude or behavior.

Constructivist Theory

J. Bruner

Instructor and student should engage in active dialog (socratic learning).

Instructor should be concerned with the experiences and contexts that make the student willing and able to learn (readiness).

Lessons must be structured so that they can be easily grasped by the student (spiral organization).

Instruction should be designed to facilitate extrapolation and or fill in the gaps (going beyond the information given).


F.Marton  & N. Entwistle

Researchers should seek an understanding of the phenomenon of learning by examining students’ experiences.

Research about learning needs to be conducted in a naturalistic setting involving the actual content and settings people learn with.