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What characterizes the learning process in adults?

All learners bring with them individual conditions that influence their personal learning process. Basically, it can be said that the learning requirements of adults differ from those of children, with five factors playing a decisive role in adult learning:

Adults bring prior knowledge and experience with them

Unlike children, adults have already learned many things in the course of their lives to date. They have a large base of knowledge and experience, which they can combine with new things. While children try out many things with curiosity, adults try to make sense of what they already know. They are less likely to learn from scratch, but rather build on existing knowledge. New content should therefore always relate to prior knowledge and experience in order to make the adult learning process effective.

Relevance and practical relevance motivate adults

Adults learn when they need new knowledge for their practical everyday life. This may be, for example, to get ahead in their careers or to master a new task. Sometimes they simply want to fill a specific knowledge gap. As a rule, however, they want to gain a meaning or a specific benefit for their everyday life and learn how they can apply new knowledge.

Adults prefer to learn in a self-determined way

Organizing the learning process themselves is important for adults, i.e., they choose what they learn, how, where and when. In addition, they can evaluate their level of knowledge, their learning goals, and their learning success themselves.

Adults are intrinsically motivated

Most adults value education and learn on their own initiative, not because they need to learn. They usually have a specific reason, such as personal growth, and a high interest in the topic on which they want to expand their knowledge.

Adults like to learn in a problem-oriented way

Adults prefer to learn new knowledge independently by solving a problem. Context-related exercises, for example, that clarify connections and prompt them to look for suitable approaches to solving problems are well suited to this.

In short, adults learn differently than children, because they bring certain basics and experiences with them and usually have a special relationship to the subject matter. Certain processes take place in the brain during learning, so that knowledge about these processes in the brain can be used to learn more effectively.