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PLCs and Adult Learning Theory

PLCs and Adult Learning Theory

Author: Trisha Fyfe

In this lesson you will learn about the six principles of adult learning theory.

In this lesson, you will learn how adult learning principles apply to the PLC.

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Video Transcription

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Welcome. I'm Trisha Fyfe. And in our video lesson today, we will be looking at professional learning communities and adult learning theory. As we learn about this topic, we will work toward several learning objectives. And together, we'll use the following two questions. What is adult learning theory? And how can adult learning theory be applied to your professional learning communities?

Let's start by talking about adult learning theory. This theory, also referred to as andragogy, originated in the 1950s in Europe. And in the 1970s, this theory was updated by Malcolm Knowles, a theorist of adult education and a practitioner in the United States. This theory looks at the question, how do adults learn best?

Understanding these ideas is what makes us effective educators. This theory emphasizes the process of learning and uses problem based, collaborative approaches to learning, rather than didactic approaches. This helps to establish the relationship or partnership between the teacher and the learner.

In adult learning theory, there are six different principles. Knowles identified these as adults are motivated and self-directed internally. This is an internal motivation for them. Adults connect life experiences and knowledge to their learning. Adults are goal oriented. They're always looking to set goals and follow through to those outcomes.

Adults are oriented by relevancy. So learning needs to be relevant for these adult learners. Adults are practical, therefore we need to think about this in teaching as well. And our lessons need to be in the practical setting and be useful tools for these learners. Adults need respect.

Let's look at an example of adult learning theory in action. And this is explained by Knowles in 1984. Knowles provided an example of applying andragogy principles to the design of personal computer training. In this example, the reasons, specific things that are being taught, must be explained. These might include certain things like commands, functions, and operations of personal computers.

Instead of memorization, instruction should be task oriented. The context of common tasks to be performed by others-- this is where the learning should take place. Instruction should also take into account the many different backgrounds of learners, especially those adult learners, of course. Learning materials and activities should allow for different levels and different types of previous experience with computers. Because of the ability for adults to self direct, instruction should allow for student led learning opportunities. And guidance and help should be offered only when mistakes are made and when help is needed.

How is all of this applied to the professional learning community? When working in a professional learning community, we work in a collaborative environment. We set goals together, have dialogue, and communicate. Here many of these ideas from adult learning theory are used. This is an important theory to keep in mind when you're planning for professional development opportunities for staff and different educators.

So let's talk about what we learned today. We looked at the following questions. What is adult learning theory? And how can adult learning theory be applied to your professional learning communities? We discussed professional learning communities and how they connect to adult learning theory. In adult learning theory, the learner should have learning opportunities that are self-directed and problem based. We talked about the six principles for adult learning theory and walked through application of this theory in an adult learning environment.

Now that you're more familiar with these concepts, let's reflect. What components of adult learning theory will you use in your professional learning community, and why? What are the challenges to applying adult learning theory to your professional learning community?

Now it's your turn to apply what you've learned in this video. The additional resources section will be super helpful. This section is designed to help you discover useful ways to apply what you've learned here. Each link includes a brief description, so you can easily target the resources that you want.

Notes on “PLCs and Adult Learning Theory”


(00:00- 00:24) Intro/Objectives

(00:25- 01:07) What is Adult Learning Theory?

(01:08- 01:51) 6 Principles of Learning Theory  

(01:52- 02:58) Example of Adult Learning Theory in Action

(02:59- 03:23) Adult Learning Theory and PLCs

(03:24- 03:54) Recap

(03:55- 04:29) Reflection    

Additional Resources

The Adult Learning Theory – Andragogy – Infographic

This infographic ties together important principles to consider when working with adult learners. These principles are important when designing professional development.

Professional Learning Communities: Professional Development Strategies That Improve Instruction

This guidebook connects adult learning theory with the application of PLCs in a school setting. In particular, this guidebook focuses on professional development strategies. See page 10 for strategies and tools.