Type of Adult Learners

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Learning is a lifelong pursuit for most Americans. As lifelong learners, we don’t stop learning in formal education settings but continue the process outside and beyond it. And, there are always plenty of opportunities to learn something new at home, at work or in the community. 

How many times have you opened YouTube to learn about a new sport or hobby, or to watch videos on meal prepping or how to cook a new dish you just tasted? Or, maybe you read a book on building wealth or perhaps use an app like Duolingo to learn a new language. For the purpose of pursuing your personal interests, we bet you have numerous times. 

Or, how about as a new professional, you might want to learn how to use and navigate your company’s work management system. Or, as an older employee, you might have needed to learn how to use new tools to remain productive and communicate with your colleagues during the pandemic. In this case, you gained knowledge, skills or expertise to advance your career.

Either way, you are an adult learner, someone who is 25 years or older engaged in the process of learning. According to The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, there are 8 million adult learners that fit into this category taking many types of adult education.

As an adult learner, your learning objectives are most likely intrinsically motivated. Your learning process too is self-directed. You dictate the pace and the style of learning and build upon your previous knowledge and experience. 

How you learn, however, will be based on what type of adult learner you are. Tell us in the comments which one you are. 

Visual Learners

Visual or spatial learners want to see what they’re learning about. They learn with their eyes and think in pictures, not words. 

They want to look at images or other visual displays in order to process the new information they’re taking in. Maps, illustrations, slide presentations and other visual aids can help them view patterns, make connections, or see details that other adult learner types might miss. 

While they might take notes with arrows, mind maps and other diagrams, they prefer looking at images or watching videos. Even just a handout or scribbled notes on the whiteboard will help them learn. 

They are good at seeing how information fits into a bigger picture. However, they might have a hard time remembering all the details or individual steps in a process. 

Auditory Learners

Auditory learners are also known as musical, rhythmic, or aural learners. Unlike visual learners, written text or images mean little to them. They learn by listening, hearing, and talking about what they’re learning. Auditory learners listen to the speaker’s voice and interpret what they’re saying by how they’re saying it, i.e., through their tone, pitch and speed.

Instead of taking down notes, auditory learners will benefit most from recorded notes or material that they can listen to. Lectures, group discussions, friendly debates, brainstorming, question and answer sessions as well as audiobooks, podcasts, and music will help this type of adult learner understand information the most. Reading books or notes out loud will also aid in retaining information, rather than taking down notes. 

Kinesthetic Learners

Kinesthetic learners, or physical or tactile learners, take an active part in their learning, literally. Rather than sitting still and reading or listening, they would rather do something. 

Moving their bodies and engaging with their environment is the best way for kinesthetic learners to absorb information. Instead of passively receiving information, they prefer to participate in role plays, simulations like AR or VR training, practice demonstrations, and active group activities. They will also love plenty of independent hands-on time, working in a lab, on the job training, and any other type of learning activity that allows them to move their bodies and use all their senses. 

If these opportunities are not available, kinesthetic learners might take down notes, draw diagrams, doodle, or do some other kind of busy work to keep their bodies and senses engaged. 

Linguistic Learners

Linguistic or verbal learners love words, whether that’s in written or oral form. So, they love to read but also to listen and to write down comprehensive notes.

They can learn through handouts, reading materials, or guided readings as well as through discussions and lectures. They love vivid verbal imagery which can come in the form of stories and examples. Either way, they will take notes and summaries about what they’ve learned. 

Logical Learners

Logical or mathematical learners make use of systems, procedures and reasoning to learn. 

They take information in sequence, analyze it and break it down logically, typically into steps. 

Because they are logical thinkers, mathematical learners are great at taking apart problems and finding solutions for them. 

They will learn best through flow diagrams, flow charts and bullet points as well as troubleshooting, simulation, gamification and other logical problem-solving challenges. 

Intrapersonal Learners

Intrapersonal or solitary learners learn best when they are by themselves reflecting on the new information they just received. They are lone wolves or more like part-time hermits who retreat from society for a while to ponder on things on their own. 

The result of this self-imposed solitude and reflection can be great. These quiet thinkers can come up with deeper insights or excellent ideas. However, they will need time and space to do this, and their response time might be longer than those of the other learners. 

While they thrive in remote work settings where they can have their independence and do solo tasks, their introverted personality might not be suitable for a team environment. They learn best through pre- and post-work assignments, case study analysis, questionnaires, puzzles, or other activities that they can do on their own. 

Social Learners

Social or interpersonal learners are the opposite of solitary learners. They thrive in a group or social setting when it comes to learning. They need interpersonal interactions, social cues and conversation to process new information.

So, these learners often work well in groups or teams. Study groups, team projects or exercises, class discussions, games, and video-centric learning all provide a good environment for the social learner to absorb what is being taught. However, they might get distracted from the task at hand if socialization is not reined in during the learning process.

Type of Adult Learners

In conclusion, adult learners come in various types, each with unique preferences and styles of learning. Whether visual, auditory, kinesthetic, linguistic, logical, intrapersonal, or social learners, they all engage in lifelong learning to pursue personal interests and career advancement. Understanding one’s learning style can greatly enhance the learning experience and retention of information.

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