Training of trainers – NFL and interactive methods in Youth work – ACHIEVE

Lesson 18 – Characteristics of Adult Learners – text

When it comes to learning, adults are not over sized children. Maturity brings unique characteristics that affect how adults are motivated to learn. By appealing to the unique qualities of adult learners, we can design more effective and motivating online courses. Here’s a list of generalized characteristics common to many but not all adult learners:

  • Adults typically prefer a sense of control and self-direction. They like options and choice in their learning environment. Even adults who feel anxiety from self-direction may learn to appreciate this approach if given proper initial support.
  • Goal-oriented. Many adults have specific goals they are trying to achieve. They prefer to partake in learning activities that help them reach their goals.
  • Adults in the workplace prefer practical knowledge and experiences that will make work easier or provide important skills. In other words, adults need personal relevance in learning activities.
  • Competence and mastery. Adults like to gain competence in workplace skills as it boosts confidence and improves self-esteem.
  • Learning by experience.Many adults prefer to learn by doing rather than listening to lectures.
  • Wealth of Knowledge.In the journey from childhood to adulthood, people accumulate a unique store of knowledge and experiences. They bring this depth and breadth of knowledge to the learning situation.
  • Workplace training is often part of an initiative that involves change. Adults want to know the purpose of training and the motivation underlying an organization’s training initiative.
  • Emotional Barriers.Through experience, adults may fear a subject, have anxiety about a subject or feel anger about forced changes in job responsibilities or policies. These emotions can interfere with the learning process.
  • Results-oriented.Adults are results-oriented. They have specific expectations for what they will get out of learning activities and will often drop out of voluntary learning if their expectations aren’t met.
  • Outside responsibilities.Most adult learners have numerous responsibilities and commitments to family, friends, community and work. Carving out time for learning affects adult learners.
  • Potential physical limitations.Depending on their age and physical condition, adult learners may acquire psychomotor skills more slowly than younger students and have more difficulties reading small fonts and seeing small images on the computer screen.
  • Big Picture.Adults require the big picture view of what they’re learning. They need to know how the small parts fit into the larger landscape.
  • Responsible for Self. Adult learners often take responsibility for their own success or failure at learning.
  • Need for Community.Many self-directed adult learners prefer a learning community with whom they can interact and discuss questions and issues.


Source –; Malamed, Connie – Characteristics of adult learners, 2009 –


The training program “Training of Trainers” is an educational product that is currently missing in the partner countries – Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania. Due to the early stage of development of the youth sector and youth work in these countries the educational materials aimed at non-formal learning are still limited and insufficient. The lack of adequate educational framework for training of youth workers in the field of formal education leads to inefficient use of the capacity of professionals.

This course fills a gap in the youth sector, namely the need of methodologies for the preparation of trainers, who are able to train youth workers. This course will set the basis for the preparation of teams of trainers of youth workers. The course will serve the goal of development of youth work in the participating countries and other interested parties. A large number of youth workers can be trained according to the methodology at national and international level to use and promote non-formal learning as a tool to enhance the realization of young people in the labor market and increase their social cohesion.

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