How Do Your Attendees Learn?

Explore principles of adult learning to make your next Educate meeting more effective.

The process of adult learning—or andragogy, a term coined by American educator Malcolm Shepherd Knowles—varies from child learning.

Since most meeting attendees will be adult professionals, it’s important to understand how adults learn best and how that should influence the design and setup of your gatherings.

Knowles’ 4 Principles of Andragogy

  1. Adults need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction.
  2. Experience (including mistakes) provides the basis for the learning activities.
  3. Adults are most interested in learning subjects that have immediate relevance and impact to their job or personal life.
  4. Adult learning is problem-centered, rather than content-oriented.


So, what do these principles of adult learning mean for your Educate meeting? We’ve outlined some ways to encourage learning during educational sessions, trainings or conferences.

  • Let attendees take an active role in developing the “curriculum” and agenda (consider pre-meeting crowdsourcing). This will help them feel invested in the session and topics being presented.
  • Get feedback from the participants in real time so you can tailor meeting materials and activities accordingly.

  • Incorporate educational activities that allow people to draw from their professional or personal life experiences.
  • Let attendees work through a problem or discuss topics in small groups, rather than asking them to memorize the content or concept from materials or a lecture.
  • Connect all sessions, trainings and courses to participants’ lives and responsibilities.
  • Ask speakers and panelists to talk about topics in practical and applicable terms, so attendees can relate the content to their experiences and professional interests.