An Overview of Adult Learning Processes

Sally S. Russell, MN, CMSRN, CPP


Urol Nurs. 2006;26(5):349-352, 370. 

In This Article

Learning Styles

Most adult learners develop a preference for learning that is based on childhood learning patterns (Edmunds, Lowe, Murray, & Seymour, 1999). Several approaches to learning styles have been proposed, one being based on the senses that are involved in processing information. An assessment of the patient's learning style is a fundamental step prior to beginning any educational activity. Determining the patient's learning style will help identify the preferred conditions under which instruction is likely to be most effective (Richardson, 2005). The most frequently used method of delineating learning styles is in describing visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners. Table 3 outlines the characteristics and suggested teaching strategies for these types of adult learners.

Visual learners prefer seeing what they are learning. Pictures and images help them understand ideas and information better than explanations (Jezierski, 2003). A phrase you may hear these learners use is "The way I see it is." The teacher needs to create a mental image for the visual learner as this will assist in the ease of holding onto the information. If a visual learner is to master a skill, written instructions must be provided. Visual learners will read and follow the directions as they work and will appreciate it even more when diagrams are included.

Auditory learners prefer to hear the message or instruction being given. These adults prefer to have someone talk them through a process, rather than reading about it first. A phrase they may use is "I hear what you are saying." Some of these learners may even talk themselves through a task, and should be given the freedom to do so when possible. Adults with this learning style remember verbal instructions well and prefer someone else read the directions to them while they do the physical work or task.

Kinesthetic learners want to sense the position and movement of the skill or task. These learners generally do not like lecture or discussion classes, but prefer those that allow them to "do something." The phrase this group of people will often use is "I feel like you85" These adults do well learning a physical skill when there are materials available for hands-on practice.


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