the andragogy theory

The Andragogy Learning Theory

There has been much research into pedagogy over the year, however significantly less study of andragogy. The two sport a multitude of differences, where the latter capitalizes on unique learning styles and strengths of adult learners.


Andragogy refers to the method and practice of teaching adult learners.

Andragogy Theory

Malcom Shepherd Knowles (1968) coined the Andragogy Theory as the theory of adult learning. It is no surprise that adults learn differently than children, whereby adults are self-direction and ready to learn.

Five Assumptions of Andragogy

In his studies, Knowles’ research relies on five particular assumptions.

  1. Self-concept. A secure self-concept comes with maturity, meaning that adults are able to take initiative to direct their own learning.
  2. Past learning experience. Adults have had myriad experiences of which they can draw upon whilst they learn.
  3. Readiness to learn. Adults tend to see value in education as a worthwhile investment.
  4. Practical reasons to learn. There is usually a practical reason why adults learn. This may mean they are entering a new field of work or are required to complete extra training.
  5. Driven by internal motivation. Children are motivated in the avoidance of punishment or in the achievement of reward, meaning they are driven by external factors. Adults, on the other hand, are internally motivated.

What are the principles of adult learning?

Knowles designed four principles of andragogy for successful adult learning. They are as follows:

  1. Since adults are self-directed, they should have a say in the content and process of their learning.
  2. Because adults have so much experience to draw from, their learning should focus on adding to what they have already learned in the past.
  3. Since adults are looking for practical learning, content should focus on issues related to their work or personal life.
  4. Additionally, learning should be centered on solving problems instead of memorizing content.

An adult learning with edapp

Applications of Adult Learning

As with any theory, the andragogy theory has some pitfalls revealed by critics and other scholars. An obvious one is that some points in the theory, inevitably, do not apply to every adult. Further, some of these points can also apply to children, i.e. the points are not unique to the education of adults alone.

Criticism of the theory has also been received based on the fact that some points and assumptions have not been empirically proven. Although, some scholars have reported the findings to be prevalent in and applicable to various situations.

Andragogy is benefited by mobile learning as a large component of mLearning is the ability to self-direct learning. Learners obviously receive less supervision and more lenience from educators in an online environment, suiting their needs and preferences.


If you would like to learn more about how to build the most effective andragogical approach for adult learners!

If you’d like to know more about how EdApp’s mobile learning platform can help your internal training practices, get in touch at You can also try EdApp’s Mobile LMS and authoring tool for free by signing up here.


“Andragogy – Adult Learning Theory (Knowles),” in Learning Theories, September 30, 2017,

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