Professional Development Opinion

Resources on Adult Learning

By Elena Aguilar — October 02, 2014 1 min read
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I’m often asked by coaches if I can recommend a book or resource on adult learning theory. Learning about adult learning is essential if we want to be effective coaches--it’s a knowledge set we can’t do without. It’s foundational to moving the practices of teachers and other coachees because we adults are complex creatures when it comes to learning. So if you share this interest, you’re on the path to being a highly effective coach.

But unfortunately, there isn’t one resource that I love and can highly recommend--particularly one that helps us connect theory to practice. I need books that provide a dose of digestible theory and a big chunk of guidance in how to use that theory in my context of working with educators in schools. I haven’t found this.

I have found a few resources that might get you started. If possible, I encourage you to read these with colleagues or in a PLC so that you can discuss them together, and more importantly, so you can support each other to think about how to apply these ideas.

So here are my suggestions.

I do like Jane Vella’s Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach. It’s a little heady (and I could only read small chunks at a time) but it also has stories in it which I always appreciate. Chapter One (“Twelve Principles for Effective Adult Learning”) is invaluable and worth buying the book for.

There are also several articles by Jane Vella and synopses of her work that you can download. Just Google her name.

If you enjoy dense texts and are well-caffeinated then try Learning in Adulthood. This is a compilation of articles that could be slowly tackled, but I’ve warned you: this one is challenging. Keep that in mind, because at some point you will be ready and will want a challenge!

A book that’s heavy on application, but light on theory is “Sit and Get Won’t Grow Dendrites: 20 Professional Learning Strategies that Engage the Adult Brain,” by Marcia Tate. This is useful especially if you design and deliver PD.

Finally, I’ll offer you something I created that summarizes Adult Learning theory and offers some suggestions for application. It’s a tool you can use and a reminder of the principles of adult learning. Six Principles of Adult Learning

If you have a recommendation for a resource on adult learning, please share it in the comments!

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