Adult Learnining Theory

It is critical when applying the Adult Learning Theory in any instructional design and technology integration to address a variety of approaches including Behavior, Cognitive, Constructive, and Multiple Intelligences.


The behaviorist approach is based on punishment and rewards, however, the three other theories provide learners with similar reward feelings when the student accomplishes their goal.

The cognitivist approach helps to develop problem-solving skills, as not limited to just that theory. Many of the multiple intelligences, as well as the constructivist approach also aid in the development of problem solving skills. One may also argue the behaviorist approach may also develop problem-solving skills when a student works to avoid negative punishment.


The multiple intelligence theory recognizes that students have different strengths and weaknesses and recognizes that you cannot teach every student the same way. The other three theories approach students as all equal.

A combination of all four theories can be useful in education and contingent on the subject matter; but we believe that the theory of multiple intelligence is the only theory that can be the dominating theory throughout a person’s educational life. The reason for that is that students from very early age develop their strengths and weaknesses. Utilizing the MI theory enforces the instructor to encourage their students to utilize their strengths. When compared to the other theories, behaviorism can be most effective in the early ages of education, but I feel it lacks the ability to be effective later in a student’s life. The reason is that young children are influenced greatly by rewards and punishments, however as we grow older the punishments and rewards are not as impactful, and it limits a student’s motivation to learn. Cognitivism is a theory that can most useful when used in middle school and high school level. Cognitivism as well as constructivism can be overwhelming in grade school, but can be very motivational for older students and adults. It allows students the ability to think critically and make their own discoveries in a very structured program which is still essential at that age. Constructivism is a theory that allows a student to learn the greatest, however, due to its nature and the nature of children, may not be an effective teaching style until college and the advance high school classes. Students are exposed to all of these theories throughout their life in and out of the classroom which also provides a smooth transition from one teaching theory to another as a student graduates from grade to grade and moves into the workforce. For example, many kids play video games, but very few ever read the directions provided; kids by nature like to explore and make their own discoveries which provides students with a constructivist experience.

Video games are only the tip of the iceberg of technology that can be used in the classroom. Technology that utilizes behaviorism in the classroom includes video and computer games that provide immediate rewards or punishments throughout the game. Virtual reality type devices such as flight simulators used for training would also be included within behaviorism theory. Cognitivism and Constructivism theories would also include computer games and video games as students are required to develop critical thinking skills to defeat many games. Other computer software programs such as movie and music editing software, as well as PowerPoint are two very important cognitivist and constructivist type software as students use these programs to develop a finished product. The newest technology now includes podcasts – both interactive podcasts and the process of developing student-produced podcasts; this can be either an example of cognitivism or constructivism depending on the lesson plan. The same can be said about the multiple intelligence theory, that all the technology mentioned above can be utilized in such a way if the lesson plan is designed with that intent.

At Higher Power Training, we develop our instructional progams with the appropriate Adult Learning Theory to meet the needs of each individual client.


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