SIDS Program Manual Trainer's Guide SIDS & Infant Death Program Manual and Trainer's Guide


Principles of Adult Learning

A fundamental responsibility of a trainer is to create an experience that enables another to learn. Malcolm S. Knowles, often referred to as the “father of adult education,” found that adult learning occurs best when it follows certain principles.1 Experts in the field of adult education have found that people retain:2

  • 20 percent of what they hear
  • 30 percent of what they see
  • 50 percent of what they see and hear
  • 70 percent of what they see, hear and say
  • 90 percent of what they see, hear, say and do

For participants to retain what they learn during a training, they need to hear a lecture or discussion, to see a demonstration or visual aids, to discuss the material and to do an activity with their new information and skills. Participatory training is the hallmark of adult learning. It moves participants through the four phases of the adult learning cycle: experiencing, processing, generalizing and applying.

Example: A training program for health professionals on supporting families who have experienced an infant death.

1 Knowles, 1990
2 Arnold et al., 1991