Teaching Adults Workshop1a/Adult Learning

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This page is simply a taster into some of the models of adult learning for those who want more information.

Four Orientations to Learning

There are four traditional categories of learning theories described by Merriam and Cafella (1991), later adapted by Smith (1999). As with any categorisation there is often debate over the boundaries and areas of overlap but generally these categories are a useful guide.

  • The behaviourist orientation
  • The cognitivist orientation
  • The humanist orientation
  • The social and situational orientation

Find out more about what each of the Four Orientations to Learning involve.

A chance to Explore

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Tip: Useful reminder: If you right click (or control click for Mac users) on the coloured words and open the links in a new tab it can be easier to move between the pages.

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Remember to ask yourself

How does this connect to what I do and what I believe about teaching/facilitation?

If it doesn't connect easily move on until you find something that does.

Click on the blue titles below for more information and links on the following topics

Deep and Surface Learning

Encouraging deep learning creates a more significant learning experience for adults. Deep learning considers the connections and meaning in the learning where as surface learning focuses more on recalling specific data.


This page includes definitions of constructivism, and provides some background information and links.

Kolb’s Learning Cycle

Kolb’s Learning Cycle reflects an experiential way of learning identifying 4 main aspects of learning

Honey and Mumford’s Learning Cycle

Honey and Mumford’s Learning Cycle builds on Kolb's cycle and identifies 4 learning preferences or styles