Over the course of the twentieth century, education and psychology have become substantially intertwined. Researchers examining the applications of psychology have found that this discipline provides a notable method for helping educators understand cognition and the learning process. As a result, numerous learning theories have been developed in recent decades and successfully applied to various teaching disciplines. In particular, learning theories have been used to understand leaning processes in: children with special needs, children who use English as a second language (ESL), adult learners, distance education and learning utilizing the implantation of technology.
With the realization the learning theory can provide such an important method for examining various types of cognition that occur in the classroom, this investigation considers the use of learning theories for adult learners. Lieb (1991) in his assessment of adult learners notes that, “Compared to children and teens, adults have special needs and requirements as learners” (Principles of…). As such, the specific methods that are used to improve education for adult learners must be critically assessed by the instructor. Utilizing this as a basis for research, this investigation considers a review of three learning theorists—Howard Gardner,
[...] With respect to the issue of self-directed learning, constructivism appears to provide a clear explication of the developmental stage of the learner—i.e. formal operations. For this reason, self-directed learning could be considered as part of this learning stage. For adults that have not mastered this stage, self-directed learning could be viewed as a means to move toward formal operations. Considering the issue of life experiences, it is evident that constructivism is predicated on the use of life experience as a means for promoting growth. As such, this tenet is clearly supported. [...]
[...] Application of Learning Theories With a rudimentary overview of the tenets of adult education elucidated, it is now possible to consider the application of learning theories. This application begins first with an explication and examination of the learning theory and it basic premise for application in the traditional classroom. After a general overview of the theory has been provided, it will then be possible to consider the strengths and weaknesses of the theory when it comes to improving educational outcomes for adult learners. [...]
[...] Applying the basic context of learning as outlined by Gardner to the specific needs of adult learners, Gardner's learning theory can be assessed on three criteria: self-directed learning, the use of life experiences and practicality. With respect to the issue of self-directed learning, it seems reasonable to argue that Gardner's leaning theory enables all students to find their own direction in the classroom. As such, learning is self- directed in that the educator supports many different styles and types of learning. [...]
[...] Bandura's social learning theory does not appear to provide adult learners with the support needed for success. Examining both the theory of multiple intelligences and constructivism, one could effectively argue that the nature of these two approaches is similar. Both learning theories attempt to utilize the experiences and talents of the learner and both learning theories support the need for self-directed learning. Even though these theories are similar in nature, the constructivist approach seems to best suit the needs of the adult learner overall. [...]
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