EDTC-6106 Modeling Adult Learning Principles in Professional Development

For this learning module I am looking at ISTE Coaching Standard 4: Professional Development and Program Evaluation: Design, develop and implement technology rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment. (ISTE, 2014)

  • Triggering Event Initial Question: What role do adult learning principles play in planning educational technology professional development?
  • My Triggering Question: What are effective ways of modeling adult learning principles (such as goal-oriented and practical) in an educational technology professional development session.

Below, you will find a handy infographic that summaries Malcolm Knowles’s theory of adult learning.

The Adult Learning Theory Infographic
Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics

Knowles theory of adult learning contains 5 assumptions about how they learn and 4 principles that can be especially applied to professional development.  Professional development sessions can often be frustrating for teachers as it sometimes doesn’t take into account their needs or how they learn.

I have been thinking about how I can use Knowles’s theory to model and create more effective professional development (PD) sessions for educators.  During my research, I found this article which gives specific examples that leaders can do to design professional development using his four principles. (“CTQ”, 2015).  I like how it gives practical advice for how to model Knowles’s principles in a way that is easy to understand.  An example of this is from the first principle – adults must be involved in the planning of their learning.  The article discusses creating a focus group of teachers who can meet before the session who can help to vote and sculpt what their PD will look like.

What about educational technology specifically? The U.S. Department of Education’s website discusses how to support teachers using technology in their classrooms.  One thing that really stood out to me reading this was to encourage teachers to collaborate with each other as a form of professional development.  There is the more traditional format of PD which involves more direct instruction, but enabling teachers to learn from each other and create authentic learning experiences (on an online platform) for their students seems like an excellent alternative.   I believe that this will increase their motivation to learn which is one of Knowles’s characteristics of adult learners. (Teaching, 2015)

There are many other examples of incorporating technology into PD using adult learning principles at the Department of Education’s website and is an excellent resource for more info.  In general, we should be moving towards more PD utilizing Knowles’s theory of adult learning if we want teachers to become engaged and motivated to incorporate their PD learning into their classrooms.


CTQ. (2015). Retrieved January 29, 2017, from http://www.teachingquality.org/content/blogs/liz-prather/professional-development-and-adult-learning-theory

ISTE Standards for Coaches. (2014). Retrieved January 29, 2017, from http://www.iste.org/standards/standards/standards-for-coaches

Teaching. (2015). Retrieved January 29, 2017, from https://tech.ed.gov/netp/teaching/

The Adult Learning Theory – Andragogy – Infographic. (2014, August 16). Retrieved January 29, 2017, from http://elearninginfographics.com/adult-learning-theory-andragogy-infographic/?utm_campaign=elearningindustry.com&utm_source=%2Fthe-adult-learning-theory-andragogy-of-malcolm-knowles&utm_medium=link

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