Saturday, July 25, 2009

Adults are babies with big bodies - Pike's 4 Laws of Adult Learning

A great friend Mago Acosta (on the right) from IBM sent me this from an employee course about learning.

Still go to Demockracy and read my Ed Policy article there!

Gracias Mago, idola!

How does adult learning differ from that of children?
For many centuries, educators assumed that all people learned things the same way and that this "way" didn't change much over the course of their lives. Only in the 20th century did this notion change dramatically. One of the principal contributors to our new way of thinking was Malcolm Knowles. In the 1930s, he began researching the work of many scholars and later he contributed to making more popular the term “andragogy” -- or the study of adult learning.

As scholars examined Knowles' research, they concluded that adults learned in markedly different ways from children. An adult has assumed responsibility for himself/herself and others. Adults differ specifically in self-concept, experience, readiness to learn, time perspective, and orientation to learning. Traditional teaching applied to children is "jug and mug" with the big jug (the teacher) filling up the little mugs (the students). Students are asked to pay attention and have few opportunities to make use of their own experience (Klatt 1999).

What are “Pike’s Laws of Adult Learning”?

Robert W. Pike, an internationally recognized expert in human resources development and author of the book Creative Training Techniques, has conducted thousands of adult training seminars. His principles of adult learning, referred to as "Pike's Laws of Adult Learning," have built upon the original principles defined by Knowles and provide useful guidance for learning facilitators.

Law 1: Adults are babies with big bodies. It is accepted that babies enjoy learning through experience, because every exploration is a new experience. As children grow, educators traditionally reduce the amount of learning through experience to the point that few courses in secondary and higher education devote significant time to experiential education. It is now recognized that adult learning is enhanced by hands-on experience that involves adults in the learning process. In addition, adults bring a wealth of experience that must be acknowledged and respected in the training setting.

Law 2: People do not argue with their own data. Succinctly put, people are more likely to believe something fervently if they arrive at the idea themselves. Thus, when training adults, presenting structured activities that generate the students' ideas, concepts, or techniques will facilitate learning more effectively than simply giving adults information to remember.

Law 3: Learning is directly proportional to the amount of fun you are having. Humor is an important tool for coping with stress and anxiety, and can be effective in promoting a comfortable learning environment. If you are involved in the learning process and understand how it will enable you to do your job or other chosen task better, you can experience the sheer joy of learning.

Law 4: Learning has not taken place until behavior has changed. It is not what you know, but what you do that counts. The ability to apply new material is a good measure of whether learning has taken place. Experiences that provide an opportunity for successfully practicing a new skill will increase the likelihood of retention and on-the-job application.


  1. And I'm a perfect example of every law, and especially Law 3, if I'm not having a good time I purposely try to unlearn what people are trying to teach me

  2. Law 5: The amount of learning acquired by either children or adults is directly proportional to the amount of hoo-ha they are able to eliminate from their lives in order to concentrate on the learning...

  3. The best learning for me sometimes is without realizing it. This thick head resists sometimes and once in a while...voila, new stuff manages to sneak in

  4. Yesterday, I realized a training session. I said it to my participants. I believe in that it.

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