Malcolm Knowles’ Adult Learning Theory – Principle 2 – Self-Concept

Malcolm Knowles’ Adult Learning Theory – Principle 2 - Self Concept

Malcolm Knowles’ Adult Learning Theory – Principle 2 – Self-Concept

In this post, you will read about the second of six adult learning principles proposed by Malcolm Knowles in his Adult Learning Theory.


Adults have an inclination to be self-directing. Unlike children, adults have many life experiences that they use to make their own decisions. Since they are older, more mature, and have normally developed a sense of ownership and independence, they typically expect that they will have some degree of control over their life situations (e.g. what and how they learn) and will be responsible for decisions they make.

As a trainer, facilitator, or adult educator, you can use this concept to design problem-solving and decision-making activities into your workshops and learning events. This will allow plenty of opportunities for participants to respond to and ask questions and to exchange ideas and identify solutions to issues presented. For example, in a workshop, make sure that there is ample time for learners to work in small groups on topic-related issues.

Malcolm Knowles’ Adult Learning Theory – Principle 2 – Self-Concept by The Creative Trainer – Robert W. Lucas, Awarding Winning Author, and Blogger

By actively engaging adult learners, you tap into brain-based learning research which indicates that the use of physical and mental activity helps stimulate brain neurons and potentially facilitates learning. You can also add two other brain-based elements (fun and novelty) by using props and a creative means of identifying group leaders. For example, you could form groups then have members of each group identify the person who got up earliest that morning as the leader. Your group leaders are then charged with keeping track of time, controlling group discussion direction, and acting as a spokesperson during an activity debrief at the end.

For more information about the Adult Learning Theory, brain-based learning strategies and other important research and strategies for helping propel adult learners to more fruitful learning experiences, get copies of Training Workshop Essentials: Designing, Developing and Delivering Learning Events That Get Results and The Creative Training Idea Books: Inspired Tips and Techniques for Engaging and Effective Learning.

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