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Adult Learning & Early Intervention


family sitting together with childRecommended practices in early intervention strongly emphasize the importance of supporting caregiver learning throughout the EI process. EI service providers can use adult learning principles and practices during visits with families to help caregivers actively learn strategies they can use with their children to enhance development during daily activities.


Adult learning principles can also be applied to professional development for EI service providers. Here you will find resources, such as articles, handouts, and other resources related to applying adult learning principles and strategies to early intervention service delivery and professional development.


adults working together


Be sure to visit the Early Intervention Strategies for Success blog for many posts related to applying adult learning principles to early intervention service delivery. You’ll also find additional resources on coaching (an adult learning strategy) by visiting the Coaching in Early Childhood topic page on this site.


Click the links below to jump directly to the following sections of this page.
Articles | Handouts & Documents | Audio/Video | Online Learning



Trivette, C. M., Dunst, C. J., Hamby, D. W. , O’Herin, C. E. (2009). Characteristics and consequences of adult learning methods and strategies. Research Brief Volume 3, Number 1. Tots n Tech Research Institute. (external website)
This article describes the findings of a research synthesis on four adult learning methods, including accelerated learning, coaching, guided design, and just-in-time training.

Friedman, M., Woods, J., & Salisbury, C. (2012). Caregiver coaching strategies for early intervention providers: Moving toward operational definitions. Infants & Young Children, 24, 62-82. (external website)
This article discusses underlying theories of adult learning that were used to develop a set of caregiver coaching strategies for use in early intervention.

Woods, J. J., Wilcox, M. J., Friedman, M., & Murch, T. (2011). Collaborative consultation in natural environments: Strategies to enhance family-centered supports and services. Language, speech, and hearing services in schools, 42, 379-392. (external website)
This article discusses recommended practices related to EI service delivery using a
collaborative consultation approach.  Family-centered service delivery, evidence-based intervention strategies, consultation and coaching, applying adult learning principles, and individualizing the EI process for adult learners are discussed in detail.



Handouts & Documents

8 Concepts from Adult Learning You Can Use to Support Caregivers (external website)
Florida State University
This handout describes eight concepts based on adult learning that apply directly to
supporting and collaborating with caregivers during early intervention.   

Adult Learning Theories (external website)
Teaching Excellence in Adult Literacy (TEAL) Center Fact Sheet No. 11
This fact sheet provides a brief overview of three main adult learning theories: andragogy, self-directed learning, and transformational learning.      

The Adult Learning Theory – Andragogy – Infographic (external website)
eLearning Industry
This infographic provides a visual representation/overview of the five assumptions and
four principles of the andragogy theory of adult learning.

Adult Learning Quik Reference Guide

This guide outlines five principles of adult learning and provides examples of how they can be applied when interacting with caregivers during EI visits. The guide also includes a checklist to help practitioners assess their practices related to adult learning.

An Evidence-Based Approach to Professional Development in Early Childhood Intervention (external website)
Carl J. Dunst, PhD
Orlena Hawks Puckett Institute
This presentation addresses research on the key characteristics of evidence-based practices for a participatory approach to professional development. Research on the PALS (Participatory Adult Learning Strategy) method is described.         

Implementing Information about Adult Learners in Early Intervention: Self-Assessment (external website)
Florida State University
This 8-question self-assessment can be used by EI providers to examine their service delivery with regard to supporting caregivers as adult learners.

Implementing Information about Adult Learners in Family-guided Activity Based Intervention: A Checklist (external website)
Florida State University
This 8-question checklist can be used by EI providers to determine whether or not they are implementing the FGRBI approach (or more generally with overall intervention practices) with adult learners in mind.




Characteristics of Adult Learners (external website)
Understanding Adult Learners Course
Nebraska Department of Labor
This video provides an overview of characteristics of adult learners.            

Teaching Strategies (external website)
Understanding Adult Learners Course
Nebraska Department of Labor
This interactive video provides information about 8 teaching strategies that trainers can use to facilitate adult learning.



Online Learning

Collaborating with Adult Learners (external website)
Maryland’s State Department of Education
This section of Md’s Developing and Implementing IFSPs module addresses using principles of adult learning when supporting caregivers during early intervention.







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Virginia Early Intervention Professional Development Center