Table of Contents

Do adult learning principles transcend cultures?

Adult learning principles may be universally accepted, but there are still a few things about your audience that you need to keep in mind.


I was in Canada last week observing several pilot versions of training programs that my team had developed. After one of the sessions I was talking with a participant who asked: “Have you found that adult learning principles work the same across cultures?”

As I took a moment to reflect on my experiences, everyone’s eyes turned to me, curious of what I might have to say about it.  

“Yes, I’ve found that the adult learning principles that you’ve seen in action during today’s session have worked everywhere I’ve gone. I’ve presented to groups in places as different as the U.S., India, Paraguay, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Uganda. These strategies have always engaged people and I’ve received feedback that told me people were excited to learn more and delighted to not have to sit and listen to another lecture.”

That was the good news. It wasn’t, however, the whole story. When working in different cultures, you do have to know your audience.

I’ve found that some groups of learners who are not accustomed to learner-centric design or learning activities that require critical thinking take a little time to get the hang of it.

I’ve found that in places like India which is more of a hierarchical, top-down culture, I’ve needed to be intentional about which participants to place in which groups. Supervisors or other participants who are in leadership roles or positions of authority need to be grouped separately from front-line staff and individual contributors. Otherwise more junior staff will generally clam-up and defer to the senior members of their group.

Similarly in a place like Saudi Arabia, I’ve found that small group work led to high levels of engagement… as long as I broke the groups up along gender lines.

The bottom line is that I’ve never had a group revolt and I’ve never seen participants disengage as a result of designing training experiences that are learner-centric. On the contrary, I’ve found that learners appreciate the opportunity to actively explore the content and feel valued through opportunities to share their thoughts, opinions and experiences.




Articles Similar to Do adult learning principles transcend cultures?

facilitator competency rubric
Brian Washburn

Training Delivery and Facilitation Competency Rubric

A rubric is a way to assess performance with a standard set of evaluation criteria. The next time you need to assess the performance of someone delivering training (even if that someone is you), you may find this rubric helpful.

using a whiteboard in a virtual classroom
Erin Clarke

Using a Whiteboard in a Virtual Classroom

Do you remember the time way back before COVID when we all gathered in classrooms for training? We have seen some Instructor-Led Training (ILT) return, but with the advancements of

instructor becomes the pupil with kassy laborie and zovig garboushian
Brian Washburn

Turning the Tables: From Trainer to Student

As people who have designed and delivered effective training, Kassy Laborie and Zovig Garboushian know a thing or two about good learning experiences. So what nuggets have they gleaned from a 9-month course that they’re both attending, and that all of us should consider when designing our own programs? Today’s podcast answers that question.

Subscribe to Get Updates from Endurance Learning

Brian Washburn, Author

Brian Washburn
CEO & Chief Ideas Guy

Enter your information below and we’ll send you the latest updates from our blog. Thanks for following!

activities cookbook

Download the Training Activity Cookbook

Enter your email below and we’ll send you the PDF of the Endurance Learning Activity Cookbook.

Download the What's Possible in L&D Worksheet

Enter your email below and we’ll send you the PDF of the What’s Possible in L&D Worksheet.

What's possible in L&D

Let's Talk Training!

Brian Washburn

Brian Washburn
CEO & Chief Ideas Guy

Enter your information below and we’ll get back to you soon.

Download the Feedback Lesson Plan

Enter your email below and we’ll send you the lesson plan as a PDF.

feedback lesson plan
MS Word Job Aid Template

Download the Microsoft Word Job Aid Template

Enter your email below and we’ll send you the Word version of this template.

Download the Free Lesson Plan Template!

Enter your email below and we’ll send you a Word document that you can start using today!

free lesson plan template
training materials checklist

Download the Training Materials Checklist

Enter your email below and we’ll send you the PDF of the Training Materials Checklist.

Subscribe to Endurance Learning for updates

Get regular updates from the Endurance Learning team.