Five Phases of Adult Learning

Five Phases of Adult Learning

Five Phases of Adult Learning

For learning to truly occur in an adult learning environment, a phased process is often helpful. The process that follows moves through five stages or phases. In a brain-based learning environment, participants are alerted to the learning experience in which they are about to take part. They are then led along a pre-planned path for transferring knowledge, skills, or attitudes back to the workplace or other venue.

Five Phases of Adult Learning by The Creative Trainer – Robert W. Lucas, Awarding Winning Adult Learning & Training Author

Using elements of the adult learning theory popular since that phrase was coined by Malcolm Knowles decades ago, you can develop sound approaches for engaging learners and helping them better gain, retain, recall and use what they experience.

Phase 1 – Preparing Participants for Learning

In the first phase of the learning process, you must condition participants for learning. This is typically done through icebreakers or creative training activities tied to the behavioral learning objectives or session outcomes and the actual training program content. In this introductory phase you grab attention and provide a foundation of information and help focus learner’s brains onto the topic to be addressed. By doing so, you increase the likelihood that they will quickly recognize, absorb, and process new information or stimuli and assimilate it into what they already know. Further, by providing a verbal, visual, and kinesthetic push, then identifying how the new information connects to what they already know, you can assist in bridging with memories they possess.

Phase 2 – Create a Stimulating Learning Environment

The second phase of the learning process incorporates handouts, job aids, or other visual material to supplement verbal messages. Such materials allow participants to better access information based on their own learning style (visual, auditory, or kinesthetic). To support learning content and aid comprehension, you can use associated visual aids to make key points, reinforce concepts, or provide alternative methods of information delivery. For example, colorful posters, transparencies or computer-generated slides, or flip charted information helps paint a mental image of the content.

Phase 3 – Reinforcing Learning 

Once the information has been delivered to the brain via one or more of the elements in Phase 2, connections are started. As a facilitator, you can enhance these bonds by conducting interim reviews throughout a session. During such reinforcements, you help mold and stabilize the learning through repetition and by helping learners see relationships. Such activities aid in increasing the depth of learner understanding while helping prepare them for Phase 4.

Phase 4 – Content Memorization

It is during this fourth phase that neural connections are made in the brain to help ensure that a learner can subsequently access or recall information and concepts learned. You can increase the effectiveness of this phase by teaching and using a variety of mnemonic or memory techniques. These strategies help learners to later access the information acquired.

Phase 5 – Implementation of Learning

In the final phase of learning, knowledge, or skills gathered are recalled and put into practice. If a learner is not able to successfully perform tasks or regurgitate information learned, there was likely a breakdown in the learning process and further review may be required.

To test the success of this phase, have participants demonstrate knowledge or skills through tests, practical application, or by teaching others.

For ideas on how to effectively design and deliver training that aids learning and embraces adult and brain-based learning concepts, get a copy a Training Workshop Essentials: Designing, Developing, and Delivering Learning Events That Get Results.