July 24, 2019
There has been much research into pedagogy over the years, 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.
Malcolm 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-directed and ready to learn.
3 notable figures who have worked on the Andragogy Theory:
In his studies, Knowles’ research relies on five particular assumptions.
For some context, Malcolm Knowles is regarded as one of the most central US figures in adult education in the second half of the twentieth century. After completing his education at Harvard, he became passionate about adult learning and began to think about what it means to be a facilitator of learning rather than a teacher.
He is, of course, famous for the adoption of Andragogy Theory and is also credited with being a fundamental influence in the development of the Humanist Learning Theory. With this, Knowles created a more structured plan to guide learning experiences. His first book Informal Adult Education was published in 1950 and suggested that informal programs are more likely to use group and forum approaches, which can result in better learning experiences, particularly in adult education.
Knowles designed four principles of andragogy for successful adult learning. They are as follows:
As with any learning 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.
Constructivism — It is important to tap into the unique set of life and learning experiences that an adult learner brings to academic or corporate training. Efforts to link course content to prior understandings increase students’ ability to engage with and retain new knowledge, resulting in a powerful network of understanding.
Autonomous learning — Unlike children, adults have a secure sense of self-concept that makes them naturally self-directed as learners. The flexible nature of mobile microlearning is ideal for an autonomous learning model that puts the student at the center of the experience. Choice and options matter to adult learners in terms of course content, activities, and assessments to suit different learning styles.
Inquiry-based learning — In contrast to the rote memorization of content, inquiry-based or problem-based learning is particularly well suited to adult students, as it supports autonomous learning and generates deeper understandings through a process of students posing their own questions and problem-solving through research and observation.
Real-world application — Adults tend to be more results-orientated than children when it comes to education, and, generally speaking, they prefer educational content to have a practical, real-world application. Adults respond particularly well to simulation-based activities and demonstrations that enable them to apply what they have learned immediately.
Immersive learning — Adults learn best when they are emotionally invested in rich multi-sensory content. In contrast to traditional educational techniques, immersive simulations or augmented reality (AR) appeal to the learner on a cognitive, emotional, and physical basis.
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“Andragogy – Adult Learning Theory (Knowles),” in Learning Theories, September 30, 2017, https://www.learning-theories.com/andragogy-adult-learning-theory-knowles.html.
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Daniel Brown is a senior technical editor and writer that has worked in the education and technology sectors for two decades. Their background experience includes curriculum development and course book creation.