Characteristics of Adult Learning Environments [#IMMOOC Week 3]

I am participating in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) with hundreds of other educators across the globe, about The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros. These are my reflections for Week 3. 

In Chapter 7 of The Innovator’s Mindset George suggests 8 things to look for in today’s classroom, “the characteristics of learning environments that inspire innovative thinking”.


When I think about this list, I wonder how many learning environments for staff (adult learners) have these characteristics. Do professional learning opportunities for staff include these?

I’m not the first to make this connection and this is not the first time I’ve explored this idea. When I wrote about supporting instructional coaches, I included voice, choice and reflection as key elements for adult learning. In Factors of Motivation and Engagement, I dug into the CA ELA/ ELD Framework, and the suggestions they make about engaging learners. The framework highlights choice and self-assessment and relevance. While this list was designed for students, I wrote about considering the ideas for adult learning as well.

If we want our students to be innovative, our teachers must model the way.

If we want our teachers to be innovative, our coaches and leaders must model the way.

If we want our classrooms to look innovative, we must first consider what our staff meetings and professional development workshops look like for adult learning.

How are we modeling the way?

Here some questions to consider when designed professional learning opportunities for the adults in our educational systems.


  • What do the adults in your system want to learn about?
  • How do the adults in your system learn best?
  • Who among your teams has expertise/experiences to share?


  • How do you provide opportunities where adults get to choose their learning focus for the meeting/day/workshop?
  • How do you design adult learning opportunities so that adults can make their own choices?

Time for Reflection

  • When do you provide time for adult learners to reflect (alone and with peers)?
  • How do you encourage reflection in the adults within your system?
  • How do you model reflection (blogging, Twitter, journal, etc.)?

Opportunities for Innovation

  • What are the adult learners in your system passionate about?
  • How do you tap into the ideas of individuals to enhance the learning of others?
  • How could you create an “Innovation Day” for adults?

Critical Thinkers

  • When do you provide opportunities for adult learners to have meaningful conversations about ideas in order to receive feedback?
  • How can you encourage critical conversations and constructive feedback that challenges ideas and not people?
  • When do adults respectfully challenge the ideas of others (including rote curriculum and past practices) in order to help all move forward?

Problem Solvers/Finders

  • How do you engage the adult learners in becoming problem finders and solvers within their own classroom/ school/ district/setting?
  • With all the data we have at our finger tips, what problems do the adults see as needing immediate attention?
  • What problems of practice do staff members identify?


  • How can adult learners be engaged in professional growth, instead of a once a year evaluation?
  • How can adult learners create their own portfolio demonstrating their learning and growth across a school year?

Connected Learning

  • How are the adults in our system connected to something bigger than their own classroom/ school/ district?
  • How could a Google Hangout or Mystery Skype be used in a staff meeting?

I love that rereading The Innovator’s Mindset is sparking new connections for me. I have always used this blog as a way to reflect. As a leader who works with adults in professional learning opportunities, I am always looking for ways to innovate adult learning in education.


About Amy's Reflections

Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services in Southern CA, taking time to reflect on leadership and learning
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2 Responses to Characteristics of Adult Learning Environments [#IMMOOC Week 3]

  1. Love this! Great post for my own reflection. #WomenLeadingEDU

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