Characteristics of the adult learner

Elizabeth A. Walker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


PURPOSE this article provides an overview of adult learner characteristics, with an emphasis on those characteristics studied in diabetes patient education research. METHODS A selected review of the conceptual and research literature on general adult education and adult learning was conducted, with particular attention to diabetes patient education studies. RESULTS Characteristics reviewed included learning styles, literacy level, age/aging, ethnicity or culture, gender, and knowledge. Studies of the learning style of group vs individual education indicated some positive benefits for group learning; questions remain about optimal size or periodicity. Studies evaluating the benefits of culturally specific interventions for diabetes management have yielded some information. Characteristics related to gender and age have been studied, but often in pilot or feasibility studies without the power to answer the study questions. CONCLUSIONS There continue to be many gaps in knowledge related to adult learner characteristics in diabetes education. Lessons from both general adult learning literature and patient education literature from other chronic diseases should be evaluated and incorporated. The complexities of these learner characteristics create challenges in designing studies. However, evidence to support the need for effective educational interventions is of great importance for implementing change in health care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16-24
Number of pages9
JournalDiabetes Educator
Issue number6 SUPPL.
StatePublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Health Professions (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Characteristics of the adult learner'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this