Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing

Undergraduate Resources

Learning Implications
  • Adult Learning Principles and Teaching Implications

    M.S. Knowles outlines five principles of adult learning, which have a number of implications in teaching.

    Adult learning is problem centered with a need for immediate application of knowledge.

    • Feedback should be basis for sharing information
    • Use neutral description not judgement-laden rhetoric
    • Feedback is the amount of information a learner can use, not the amount a preceptor wants to give
    • Provide feedback about learner’s behaviour not personal characteristics
    • Provide feedback on seen or heard observations rather than assumptions and inferences

    Adult learning is related to an adult’s readiness to learn, which is associated with life stage and tasks.

    • Attempt to integrate new concepts and ideas with learner’s established beliefs, values and attitudes
    • Try to sequence information as opposed to chunks
    • Be sensitive to learner’s concurrent responsibilities
    • Avoid speaking in an authoritarian manner

    Adults have experiences that serve as learning resources.

    • Try to determine background knowledge and skills; recognize present abilities and build on them
    • Relate current learning to appropriate past experiences
    • Share your work experiences with learner

    Adults become increasingly independent and self-directed as they age.

    • Involve people in all phases of learning process such as development of learning objectives
    • Respect differences in learner’s values, beliefs and interpretations

    Internal not external pressures more often motivate adult learners.

    • Promote feelings of adequacy, competency and security through positive reinforcement
    • Provide a safe, open interpersonal environment
    • Minimize environmental variables that restrict learning opportunities


    Knowles, M. S. (1980). The modern practice of adult education: from pedagogy to andragogy. NY: Cambridge Books.”Preceptor: A Nurse’s Guide to Mentoring,” F.A. Davis 2001

  • Guides

    Practice Guideline: Supporting Learners, CNO, 2009 (PDF)

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