Adult Learning: My Own Experience

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Significant Learning Moment
  • Formal, Informal, Incidental Learnings, and Transformative Learning
  • Formal Learning
    Informal Learning
    Incidental Learning
  • Malcolm Knowles Adult Learning Principles
  • Kolb´s Learning Preferences
  • Reflective Practice
  • Conclusion
  • Works cited


Training is a learning process which implies that current performance needs to be improved and there is a gap between what we know and what we don't know.

We as an adult learn by many ways as we have tendency to learn in a unique way due to several factors per the individuals age and social status and based on individual ability, capability, experience, independency and skills level.

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As learning is a social activity, accordingly, adults can choose and adopt any learner's instructional method per their preferences. There are variety ways of learning which adult learners can experience in their life such as formal, informal or incidental. All these ways of learning can enhance learner's knowledge in either way.

Back in the school days my thoughts were to get into business that could fetch me lot of money which urged me to take a business management course. That was a great learning experience according to the time and situation. Unexpectedly I got an assignment to manage a role in Human Resources in a great company. After spending time with people of various background and culture gave me great happiness and satisfaction in the work that I did. I have learned several things and gain knowledge in different ways at several occasions. It did not take me long to realize that this is what I really wanted to do, and the gradual shift happened to become a full-time dedicated people's person. After years of experience I wanted to up my knowledge to international standards and this what brought me to Bow Valley College to learn more and more as learning period does not ever end.

Significant Learning Moment

My significant learning moment was the thought process to develop Emotional Intelligence. Throughout my career, I came across emails and communications that often provoked and caused reactions. We as humans always have the tendency to outsmart our friends and colleagues by reverting with an unproductive response that is produced out of ego.

I remember an incident where I once received a provoking email from one of my office colleague/staff that questioned the capability of the HR department. I almost typed a long communication message as a response to that email by copying my manager and was almost going to hit the send button. However, on a second thought, and with some of my accumulated experiences, I saved the draft and decided to go and meet the person. The person received me with a smile, and we had an hour of friendly discussion and finally agreed with a compromising solution on particular issue. The rage that was shown in the email totally disappeared. This was an absolute result-oriented moment. I totally avoided a scene where situation could have got worse by sending back and forth emails and getting more people involved and demonstrate a picture of incompetence. To me, this was a significant learning moment. This learning helped me to develop my leadership skills and climb up the ladder in my organization. Many of my colleagues were influenced by my action and the specific culture of thought and patience was adopted throughout the department. I always included and share this example in my soft skills and leadership coaching classes within my department.

Formal, Informal, Incidental Learnings, and Transformative Learning

Formal Learning

A structured and defined learning process ('The difference between formal and informal learning,' n.d., para. 2).

I started off my first day in my organization with a "new employee induction program" which was held inside a conference room. There was an instructor who had contents displayed in a power point presentation. Presentation covered topics regarding the company, location, cultural differences and safety measures that all employees need to follow. After every topic, there was a question and answer session. This was a complete formal learning atmosphere which I was in.

As part of nationalization program and to encourage the youth, we developed a training academy within the company premises. Fresh-hired graduates were given formal training sessions by lead discipline engineers and consultants (external). For example, training was given for using applications such as Auto CAD station for designers. After completion of course, students were awarded with certificates.

Informal Learning

Not organized or structured and unintentional from the learner's perspective ('The difference between formal and informal learning,' n.d., para. 3).

When I conducted new employee orientation, it was always a learning for me as well. For instance, I learned to improve my presentation skills, my audibility and clarity during my oration, develop my body language and also to adapt myself to the differences of employees from various backgrounds. Question from audience always led to new investigation and learning.

I used to work on various metrics, and to improve my efficiency to generate these, I sat with IT programmers and experienced reporting analysts and learned specific skills such as advance-level excel skills.

Interacting with various different nationalities gave me the opportunity to improve my English language accent as well as comprehend all kinds of accents from various parts of the world.

I also learned great leadership skills from my managers by closely watching them handling different situations.

Incidental Learning

Unexpected learning process which happens when we don't have a specific aim in mind ('What is incidental learning,' n.d., para. 3).

Initially we had an in-house ERP system, that could be developed by the programmers as in when the organization processes evolved. We had the same expectation when the new global ERP system was implemented. However, we later learned that we did not have this flexibility of developing and had to manage the data outside the system. This was truly an incidental learning and had to make changes in our work process.

Malcolm Knowles Adult Learning Principles

Malcolm Knowles adult learning principles talk about the following principles:

  • Being motivated internally and self-directed
  • Bringing life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences
  • Being goal oriented
  • Relevancy oriented
  • Being practical
  • Like to be respected ('Malcolm Knowles' 6 Adult Learning Principles,' n.d., 'six principles')

I can very much relate myself to the principle of being motivated and self-directed which is very important to sustain in the role and assume wider responsibilities in the future. From my own experience, it was important to familiarize with some of the local labour laws to deal with day to day employee issues during my role as Employee Relations Manager. This gave me more credibility and helped to handle more challenging tasks.

I attended many Health, Safety and Environment sessions. I brought this into practical life experience by actually implementing them in all walks of my life. For example, organizing my workstation properly and using the right tools whenever required can prevent many potential hazards. By putting my knowledge into practice was recognized by my peers and leaders.

Kolb´s Learning Preferences

I can relate some of Kolb´s learning preferences which are as follows in developing some work processes especially in the Global Mobility program where I had to reduce the mobilization time of new candidates.

  • Concrete Experience
  • Reflective Observatio
  • Abstract Conceptualization
  • Active Experimentation (McLeod, 2017, para.2)

Concrete Experience: Delays and rejections in statutory requirements such as visa for expatriate candidates were sometimes encountered which often caused delays and affected assignments.

Reflective Observation: I looked at a series of candidates that caused rejections and studied carefully how to avoid such situations in the future. Cases varied based on nationalities and professions.

Abstract Conceptualization: After studying different cases based on different criteria's, a clear SOP - Standard operating procedures and flow charts were prepared/developed and documented. Some of the easiest way to start was to have constant communication with the staffing team and to advise them to look for candidates who already have the attested paper work right away and concentrate on qualifications that are accredited by renowned institutions and are less probable to get disqualified in foreign embassies.

Active Experimentation: By adopting the new learning experience, we experienced considerable success in the hiring-mobilization process and reduced the overall time frame of the recruitment cycle. This was great success and achievement.

Reflective Practice

This course provided me a great learning experience where I can put into my real-life experience and knowledge. I can certainly identify, what type of learning principle I am utilizing and applying in my daily activities. I will be conscious about the significant learning process and apply it to improve my skills and productivity. The best significant learning for me was knowing and improving my emotional intelligence. Under Kolb´s, preferences this was experimented several times with positive results and thus I will conceptualize it effectively through my soft skills and leadership classes.

The more I interact with my peers, greater will be the chance for informal and incidental learning to take place. To make this more effective, I will identify and categorize such moments and record the experiences in the form of a document or maybe as a spread sheet. This practice will help me to retain the knowledge and make it available for rest of the peers. I will take the role of a coach and influence my team to practice. (Learning by Doing which contributes greater than 75%)

I will propose to the management to increase formal learning classes which would include the VAK model. My personal preference is to categorize this session based on professions. For example, designers and engineers should be given more of visual classes that includes diagrams and figures with a combination of kinesthetic classes. Non-technical staff can be given audio sessions with some participation of role plays.


Our learning preferences differ in the ways in which we rely on our senses in order to digest information described in the retention of learning (pyramid of learning) in different modes of VAK Model.

Effective training program is learner-centered and not teacher-centered. In addition, most importantly the environment plays a vital role to encourage all types of learning. It focus is to be guide for the learning process and engage learners actively throughout the process.

Adult gain the learning experience throughout their life, no matter by which specific method or a way. Therefore, I will my best to apply all the insights that I gained through this course and faculties in to my working experience.

Works cited

  1. Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Prentice-Hall, Inc.
  2. Brookfield, S. D. (1986). Understanding and facilitating adult learning: A comprehensive analysis of principles and effective practices. Jossey-Bass Publishers.
  3. Caffarella, R. S., & Daffron, S. R. (2013). Planning programs for adult learners: A practical guide for educators, trainers, and staff developers. Jossey-Bass.
  4. Cross, K. P. (1981). Adults as learners: Increasing participation and facilitating learning. Jossey-Bass.
  5. Holton, E. F., Swanson, R. A., & Naquin, S. S. (2001). The diagnosis and prescription of management development programs. Human Resource Planning, 24(4), 10-21.
  6. Knowles, M. S., Holton, E. F., & Swanson, R. A. (2014). The adult learner: The definitive classic in adult education and human resource development. Routledge.
  7. Merriam, S. B., Caffarella, R. S., & Baumgartner, L. M. (2007). Learning in adulthood: A comprehensive guide. John Wiley & Sons.
  8. Miller, K. I., & Monge, P. R. (1986). Participation, satisfaction, and productivity: A meta-analytic review. Academy of Management Journal, 29(4), 727-753.
  9. Rogoff, B. (1990). Apprenticeship in thinking: Cognitive development in social context. Oxford University Press.
  10. Tough, A. (1979). The adult's learning projects: A fresh approach to theory and practice in adult learning. University of Toronto Press.

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