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How to keep adult learners motivated?


Motivating adult learners can be a challenging task, especially if it was not their idea to sign up for the particular course in the first place and they were obliged to do it either by their employers or the changing and more demanding job market. In this article we will delve into various methods that educators should have in mind when trying to incentivize adults to learn.

Connie Malamed, from the eLearning Coach, points out five strategies to motivate adult learners, namely: “keep it relevant; allow for choice and self-directed learning; build community and collaboration; leverage learning science; create innovative solutions.” Let’s talk about what the notions denote.

To achieve the first strategy (“keep it relevant”), Connie Malamed points out that the educator needs to clearly delineate and present the outcomes as well as the benefits of the given course. Therefore, Christopher Pappas suggests putting emphasis on the intended results of every activity to avoid the whole course and its validity being questioned. Moreover, the idea of relevancy is also connected with the importance of providing adult learners with practical skills which, in turn, would be of use in real life situations. Last but not least, the educator should put special attention to the goals of the learners and take them into consideration when preparing a lesson plan.

When it comes to the second strategy (“allow for choice and self-directed learning”), an educator should provide learners with various options to choose from. Of course, it is not possible at all times but a teacher should consider making a list of topics connected with a particular course and let them choose some from the list or let them put the topics in order. It is important as it makes the learners feel that their views on the matter are important and taken into consideration to ensure the best possible learning experience. Moreover, the educator should make the learners investigate on their own or ask questions without one clear answer in order to stimulate their mind. Christopher Pappas seems to be in agreement with the statement since he points out that adult learners should be given the maximum level of autonomy since, whenever they are asked to look into an issue on their own, they acquire new pieces of knowledge in a more efficient way, contrarily to young learners who need more guidance.

The third strategy (“build community and collaboration”) includes actions such as asking the students for their feedback concerning the course and organize group discussions or group tasks which contribute to bonding. Furthermore, Christopher Pappas suggests providing adult learners with incentives to use websites such as LinkedIn or Google Plus thanks to which they could stay in touch with people who have the same goals and interests which could also serve for them as a motivating factor.

Another method (“leverage learning science”) denotes providing new information in smaller chunks instead of making learners overwhelmed with the overload of information thrown at them at once. It is vital when it comes to adult learners as they it is common knowledge that they need more time to process information when compared to young learners. Therefore, it is also important that the educator adjusts the level as well as the speed of the course to the capabilities and possibilities of participants.

As pointed out by Ausmed, “The higher the levels of motivation, the greater the learning that takes place.” Hence, it is crucial to know how to keep students motivated in order to ensure the most effective learning experience which will prepare them to accomplish their goals and objectives which they set for themselves.


Malamed, Connie, “Get Your Audience Pumped: 30 Ways to Motivate Adult Learners,” the eLearning Coach, accessed from:

Pappas, Christopher, “ 9 Tips To Apply Adult Learning Theory to eLearning,” eLearning Industry, accessed from:

“8 Steps to Motivate Adult Learners,” Ausmed, accessed from

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