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Cognitive Elements to Effective Adult Learning

Lifelong learning occurs as we grow and experience life. Most of the time, this happens when we are in the adult stage, that is, once we leave the confines of the classrooms and lecture halls. However, learning as adults is fundamentally different in comparison to learning as children. The methods of learning that can be employed to meeting learning needs of an adult is much more different than those than can be applicable to children.

As adults, you will encounter and experience different types of expectations, demands and challenges associated with lifelong learning. However, the key is to accommodate these problems scientifically by understanding human psychology. Through understanding the human psyche, you can learn in a manner that is the most effective and engaging. In this guide, we highlight four key elements essential for effective lifelong learning as adults.


Emotion and memory are interlinked aspects of the human character. The role of emotion is important in adult and lifelong learning. This is because they are closely linked with the construction of meaning and knowledge. When we experience events to which we are emotionally invested, these events tend to form a place in our memory for a much longer span of time. In other words, emotions are what helps create memories. Neurons in our brain are activated each time we get an emotional cue. These thoughts remind us of things associated with a particular emotion.

For example, if you are interested learning about investing and your first investment is let’s say a seremban property. Imagine your first investing endeavor generates ample returns. You are happy and elated, hence you remember well the experience and the lessons this investment foray has provided you with.
This is why lifelong learning endeavors should spark the right emotions in the learner to facilitate more efficient and effective learning. If learners can connect with the topic at hand emotionally, then the desired result can be achieved. Not only does it provide a better rate of remembering, it also enables a good learning experience.


The first and foremost step in any learning endeavor is attention. The learner needs to have an ample attention span in order to be single-mindedly focused when learning. This is even more true when you are attempting to learn something new. When trying to learn, give it the focus and attention it deserves.

While distraction is good in some situations, it will take much needed attention away from the topic at hand. So, if you read and listen to rock music at the same time, you might want to rethink your learning habits. Research has actually shown that learning while multitasking does not result in understanding of the ability to recall when needed.

Although we are inclined to believe that we are able to do multiple things at the same time, this is but a mere misconception. Our brains can actually only focus on one thing at one time. What actually happens when we multitask is that the mind shifts from one task to the other very quickly. These quick shifts here and there make it less effective when we are trying to digest new information.

Thus, it is vital that we don’t undermine the proper managing of our attention during learning.


Once you are able to pay attention to a particular task, an idea is generated in your brain’s working memory. However, the key now is in maximizing the likelihood of generating and forming these memories. Although rote learning and repetition is the method traditionally and popularly used, it has been proved to have a limited impact on learning that lasts. Unlike popular assumption, rote repetition will not necessarily create the desired learning impact.

This is because learning as adults is totally different from learning as children. Children learn from their surroundings with an open mind, without being choosy on what they’re learning. Adults, on the other hand, are more selective in their learning manner. This is not to say that adults are choosy learners. Rather, adults learn more easily by capitalizing on the information and knowledge they already possess and build upon it. This is why self-directed learning is an effective generation method for adult learners. Adults have the mindset that they want to take responsibility of that they need to learn and want to learn. A self-directed learning approach will allow adult learners free roam and the control in what they learn and how they learn it. This is why self-directed learning provides the foundation for a transformative learning experience. When we are actively involved and engaged in what we learn, generation of memories is much more effective and efficient.

The brain has plasticity. This means that the human brain depends on experiences (which can be individual or social) for its growth. Through living life, we also develop critical thinking that challenges and questions what we have already learned and forms new conclusions on the new things that we learn. 


We have established that repetition does not contribute much to effective learning. However, repeating the information over a longer interval rather than in rapid succession sends stronger signals to the brain, leading to better information retention. This is because the human brain has limited cognitive power. Overloading information is a surefire way to ensure failure in retaining the information learned.

Research has shown that we tend to forget a good 50 to 80 percent of all new information within a few days of the learning event. However, we tend to recall more and forget less, especially if and when the learning is spaced across an interval of time and repeated during these sessions. 

When we distribute our learning into spaced stages, it creates more effective long-term memory. This results in a more effective and impactful learning experience

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