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.

Engaging Adult Learners in the Classroom

Engaging Adult Learners in the Classroom

For learning to occur, engaging adult learners in the classroom is an important aspect of enhancing learning. By getting participants involved in the learning process, you increase the possibility that they assimilate knowledge and use what they learn.

Engagement must start as soon as learners enter the classroom, or before if possible so that they become active participants rather than passive bystanders. This is one of the basic elements of adult learning – people must be involved in the learning process in order to gain, retain, recall, and use what they experience.

Engaging Adult Learners

Unlike children, who often have little intrinsic motivation to be in the classroom and little previous knowledge or experience from which they can extract meaning and assimilate new information, adults typically want to be present and learn. They often seek new knowledge and skills that they can immediately apply on the job or in their life. This difference in learning style has been addressed by Malcolm Knowles and others who have focused on adult learning theory or andragogy and ways to involve adult learners.

Research indicates that long-term memories are formed when multiple senses capture sensory data and the brain assimilates the new information or matches it with existing knowledge. To help accomplish this when you are training adults look for ways to tap into various sensory channels through the use of environmental elements such as color, sound, images, motion, smells, novelty, movement, and physical activity.

Additionally, you can encourage the retention of key concepts and information through the use of repetition. For example, consider building in some form of review activity every 15-20 minutes to hold attention and reinforce what has been shared. By using these interim reviews rather than waiting until the end of a session, you enhance the possibility that your learners will walk away with more useful knowledge and skills.

Engaging Adult Learners in the Classroom by The Creative Trainer – Robert W. Lucas, Awarding Winning Adult Learning & Training Author

Some easy interim review formats include the following:

• Create strips of paper with different key ideas or concepts covered in the session up to that point on each one. Next, place one strip inside small plastic eggs of various colors (the type used in children’s Easter baskets). When you are ready to review, pass around a basket or box with these in it and have volunteers take one egg. Once all eggs are distributed, ask for volunteers to stand, open their egg, and read what is on their strip of paper.

Ask for anyone else in the room to define or explain the idea or concept. Reward the volunteer who answers correctly, then repeat the process until all eggs have been opened. A variation of this is to use various colored balloons placed on the wall before the session and have them retrieved and popped by volunteers for the review. This type of activity involves brain-based learning concepts of fun, novelty, repetition (review), color, sound (if using balloons) movement, and learner engagement.

• When ready to review, have learners turn to another participant and share one key concept learned thus far and how they plan to use it.

Engaging Adult Learners

• Depending on the session topic, use a What if? activity in which, at some point, you have each person take out a piece of paper and write “What If?” at the top of the page. Next have finished the statement with some key ideas or concepts learned in the session that they could immediately apply to their job or life.

• Use a Share the Knowledge review in which you have a volunteer team leader start a piece of paper around their table by first writing one key idea or concept learned up until that point in the session, then passing the paper to their left. Subsequent learners repeat the process until everyone has contributed something. Let them know before starting that it is okay to cheat and look at their notes if they cannot think of something to add.

After everyone has written something have the leader lead a discussion on which item the group believes to me most significant and discuss why they believe this to be true. Allow 5 minutes for this process, then have each team leader share the item their team selected with the rest of the groups. Reward team leaders with a small prize or piece of candy.

Training does not have to be boring or tedious. Think of ways to make your learning events come alive and engage your learners while reinforcing ideas and concepts.

To contact Bob visit his website at or his blog

Applying Brain-Based Learning Research to the Learning Environment

Applying Brain-Based Learning Research to the Learning Environment

Training and education professionals are always looking for new ways to creatively share concepts and information with their learners. Unfortunately, there is no one strategy that will turn classroom learning events into the utopia that trainers and adult educators strive for — 100 percent success related to the participant and student acquisition and retention of everything to which they are exposed. This is why they know that using a variety of strategies and changing their tools and routine regularly is crucial for learning success in the classroom.

Applying Brain-Based Learning Research to the Learning Environment by The Creative Trainer - Robert W. Lucas, Awarding Winning Adult Learning AuthorApplying Brain-Based Learning Research to the Learning Environment by The Creative Trainer – Robert W. Lucas, Awarding Winning Adult Learning Author

Luckily, there are exciting neuroscientific studies and continued developments in cognitive psychology related to learning going on that can help. Some of the research completed thus far certainly points to opportunities for application in the classroom even though it is ongoing and there is widespread discussion about the applicability to education and training. One thing that seems to have surfaced is that the classroom environment is certainly a major factor in learning. Still, the human brain far too complex to categorically state that by doing this or that, you will end up with a specific result so much more needs to be explored.

What seems to be obvious to numerous researchers is that certain classroom elements can potentially aid learning and long-term memory development. Many trainers and adult educators are realizing that they can apply lessons learned by the neuroscientists to their classrooms.

For example, through the use of environmental elements such as color, sound, motion, light, and smells and the addition of other factors like engagement, novelty, and fun to the classroom, participants potentially better gain, retain, recall and use what they experience. This is because these factors have been shown to impact brain neuron stimulation which aids memory formation and the ability to later recall and use what was learned.