Academic journal article Journal of Social Sciences

Moderators of the Effectiveness of Adult Learning Method Practices

Academic journal article Journal of Social Sciences

Moderators of the Effectiveness of Adult Learning Method Practices

Article excerpt

Abstract: Problem statement: The purpose of the analyses reported in this study was to identify the moderators of the effectiveness of evidence-based adult learning method practices. Approach: The particular practices that were found most effective in 58 randomized controlled design studies of four adult learning methods were examined to identify the conditions under which learner outcomes were optimized. Results: Thirteen different practices had moderate to large effects on learner outcomes. The particular practices that had positive learner benefits were ones that actively involved learners in acquiring new knowledge or skills. Further analysis showed that optimal learner benefits were realized when 4 or 5 different practices were used in combination with fewer than 40 participants in applied settings and the instruction or training lasted more than 20h and was conducted on multiple occasions. Conclusion: Implications for professional development are described in terms of taking the moderators of adult learning practices (number of adult learning practices, hours of instruction or training, real-life settings and number of learners) into consideration to ensure optimal learner benefits.

Key words: Participatory practices, learning methods, solution-centered approach, influencing learner outcomes, professional development

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)


The term adult learning refers to a collection of theories and models for describing the processes and conditions under which learning beyond secondary school education is optimized (Merriam, 2001; Smith and DeFrates-Densch, 2009; Yang, 2003). Adult learning is premised on a learner's readiness-to-learn, self-directedness, active participation in the learning process and a solution-centered approach to knowledge and skill acquisition (Knowles et al., 2011). Central features of nearly all adult learning theories and models are active learner participation in acquiring and mastering new knowledge or skills (Kolb, 1984) and reflection and self-assessment of the mastery of the knowledge or skills (Schon, 1990).

The extent to which different adult learning methods are effective in terms of influencing learner knowledge and skills, attitudes and beliefs and the adoption and use of innovative or novel practices, has been the focus of both narrative and systematic reviews of adult learning research studies (Smith and Gillespie, 2007; Taylor, 2007; Tusting and Barton, 2006). Dunst et al. (2010a; 2010b) recently completed a meta-analysis of four adult learning methods where the focus of analysis was unpacking (Dunst and Trivette, 2009b; Kelly and Perkins, 2012) and unbundling (Lipsey, 1993) the learning methods to identify which characteristics of the methods best explained learner outcomes. This study includes further analyses of the studies in the (Dunst et al., 2010a) meta-analysis to identify the adult learning method practices that mattered most in terms of explaining changes and improvements in learner knowledge, skills, attitudes and self-efficacy beliefs.

Adult learning methods: The four adult learning methods that were the focus of analysis were selected because they have been used to facilitate or improve learner outcomes and each has been investigated using randomized controlled designs. The studies compared participants who received either instruction or training using the adult learning methods with participants who received no intervention, or compared participants who were taught using the adult learning methods with participants who were taught another type of instruction or training.

The four adult learning methods were accelerated learning, coaching, guided design and just-in-time training. Accelerated learning includes procedures for creating a relaxed emotional state, an orchestrated and multi-sensory learning experience and practices for promoting active learner engagement in the learning process (Meier, 2000). …

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