Andragogy refers to methods and principles used in adult education. The word comes from the Greek ἀνδρ- (andr-), meaning "man", and ἀγωγός (agogos), meaning "leader of". Therefore, andragogy literally means "leading man", whereas "pedagogy" literally means "leading children".
Two primary understandings of "andragogy" exist:
- The science of understanding (theory) and supporting (practice) lifelong education of adults.
- In the tradition of Malcolm Knowles, a specific theoretical and practical approach. It is based on a humanistic conception of self-directed and autonomous learners as well as teachers as facilitators of learning.
Interpreted broadly throughout academic literature, the term also invites other definitions such as "adult education practice", "desirable values", "specific teaching methods", "reflections", and "academic discipline", with many authors claiming it to be better than traditional adult education.
The term was originally coined by German educator Alexander Kapp in 1833. Andragogy was developed into a theory of adult education by Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy. It later became very popular in the US by the American educator Malcolm Knowles. Knowles asserted that andragogy (Greek: "man-leading") should be distinguished from the more commonly used term pedagogy (Greek: "child-leading").
Knowles collected ideas about a theory of adult education from the end of World War II until he was introduced to the term "andragogy". In 1966, Knowles met Dusan Savicevic in Boston. Savicevic was the one who shared the term andragogy with Knowles and explained how it was used in the European context. In 1967, Knowles made use of the term "androgogy" to explain his theory of adult education. Then after consulting with Merriam-Webster, he corrected the spelling of the term to "andragogy" and continued to make use of the term to explain his multiple ideas about adult learning.
Knowles' theory can be stated with six assumptions related to the motivation of adult learning:
- Need to know: Adults need to know the reason for learning something.
- Foundation: Experience (including error) provides the basis for learning activities.
- Self-concept: Adults need to be responsible for their decisions on education; involvement in the planning and evaluation of their instruction.
- Readiness: Adults are most interested in learning subjects having immediate relevance to their work and/or personal lives.
- Orientation: Adult learning is problem-centered rather than content-oriented.
- Motivation: Adults respond better to internal versus external motivators.
In most European countries, the Knowles discussion played at best, a marginal role. "Andragogy" was, from 1970 on, connected with emerging academic and professional institutions, publications, or programs, triggered by a similar growth of adult education in practice and theory as in the United States. "Andragogy" functioned here as a header for (places of) systematic reflections, parallel to other academic headers like "biology", "medicine", and "physics".
Examples of this use of andragogy are the Yugoslavian (scholarly) journal for adult education, named Andragogija in 1969, and the Yugoslavian Society for Andragogy; at Palacky University in Olomouc (Czech republic) the Katedra sociologie a andragogiky (Sociology and Andragogy Department) was established in 1990. Also, Prague University has a Katedra Andragogiky (Andragogical Department); in 1993, Slovenia's Andragoski Center Republike Slovenije (Slovenian Republic Andragogy Center) was founded with the journal Andragoska Spoznanja; in 1995, Bamberg University (Germany) named a Lehrstuhl Andragogik (Androgogy Chair).
On this formal level "above practice" and specific approaches, the term "andragogy" could be used relating to all types of theories, for reflection, analysis, training, in person-oriented programs, or human resource development.
- Adults must want to learn – They learn effectively only when they are free to direct their own learning and have a strong inner and excited motivation to develop a new skill or acquire a particular type of knowledge, this sustains learning.
- Adults will learn only what they feel they need to learn – Adults are practical in their approach to learning; they want to know, "How is this going to help me right now? – Is it relevant (Content, Connection and Application) and does it meet my targeted goals."
- Adults learn by doing – Adolescents learn by doing, but adults learn through active practice and participation. This helps in integrating component skills into a coherent whole.
- Adult learning focuses on problem solving – Adolescents tend to learn skills sequentially. Adults tend to start with a problem and then work to find a solution. A meaningful engagement, such as posing and answering realistic questions and problems is necessary for deeper learning. This leads to more elaborate, longer lasting, and stronger representations of the knowledge (Craik & Lockhart, 1972).
- Experience affects adult learning – Adults have more experience than adolescents. This can be an asset and a liability, if prior knowledge is inaccurate, incomplete, or naive, it can interfere with or distort the integration of incoming information (Clement, 1982; National Research Council, 2000).
- Adults learn best in an informal situation – Adolescents have to follow a curriculum. Often, adults learn by taking responsibility by the value and need of content they have to understand and the particular goals it will achieve. Being in an inviting, collaborative and networking environment as an active participant in the learning process makes it efficient.
- Adults want guidance and consideration as equal partners in the process – Adults want information that will help them improve their situation. They do not want to be told what to do and they evaluate what helps and what doesn't. They want to choose options based on their individual needs and the meaningful impact a learning engagement could provide. Socialization is more important among adults.
Adult learning styles
Learning styles are referred to and made by how certain people learn, categorize, and process new content. They are descriptors of common behavior patterns. Each person may have multiple preferred learning styles and these are preferences that have mild-strong inclinations. Keefe formally defines learning styles as "characteristic cognitive, affective, and physiological factors that serve as relatively stable indicators of how learners perceive, interacts with, and respond to the learning environment". The three primary learning styles are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Kolb suggests to educate adult learners around the experiential cycle that reaches all types of learners.
In the field of adult education during recent decades, a process of growth and differentiation emerged as a scholarly and scientific approach, andragogy. It refers to the academic discipline(s) within university programs that focus on the education of adults; andragogy exists today worldwide. The term refers to a new type of education which was not qualified by missions and visions, but by academic learning including: reflection, critique, and historical analyses.
Dusan Savicevic, who provided Knowles with the term andragogy, explicitly claims andragogy as a discipline, the subject of which is the study of education and learning of adults in all its forms of expression' (Savicevic, 1999, p. 97, similarly Henschke, 2003, Reischmann, 2003).
Recent research has expanded andragogy into the online world, finding that using collaborative tools like a wiki can encourage learners to become more self-directed, thereby enriching the classroom environment. It gives scope to self-directed learners. Andragogy helps in designing and delivering the solution focused instructions to self-directed. The methods used by andragogy can be used in different educational environments (e.g. adolescent education).
Andragologist Andragologists are those who practice and specialize in the field of andragogy. Andragologists have received a doctoral degree from an accredited university in Education (EdD) or a doctorate in Psychology (PsyD), or Philosophy (PhD) and focused their dissertation utilizing andragogy as a main component of their theoretical framework.
Differences from pedagogy
|Readiness to learn||
|Orientation to learning||
- Personal meaning.
- Circumstances present.
- Personal-concept. (A person's collection of thoughts about beliefs, experiences, values and knowledge.)
- Mode of sensory input. (Visual; auditory; kinesthetic; olfactory; gustatory.)
- Information processing. (Learning styles; processing states like linear, holistic, random, logical, concrete, reality based, temporal, non-temporal...etc.; artistic/analytic orientation; abstract/concrete...etc.)
- Responses. (Theory of multiple intelligences.)
Knowles himself changed his position on whether andragogy really applied only to adults and came to believe that "pedagogy-andragogy represents a continuum ranging from teacher-directed to student-directed learning and that both approaches are appropriate with children and adults, depending on the situation." Hanson (1996) argues that the difference in learning is not related to the age and stage of one's life, but instead related to individual characteristics and the differences in "context, culture and power" within different educational settings.
In another critique of Knowles' work, Knowles was not able to use one of his principles (Self-concept) with adult learners to the extent that he describes in his practices. In one course, Knowles appears to allow "near total freedom in learner determination of objectives" but still "intended" the students to choose from a list of 18 objectives on the syllabus. Self-concept can be critiqued not just from the instructor's point of view, but also from the student's point of view. Not all adult learners will know exactly what they want to learn in a course and may seek a more structured outline from an instructor. An instructor cannot assume that an adult will desire self-directed learning in every situation.
J.R. Kidd goes further by claiming that principles of learning have to be applied to lifelong development. He suggested that building a theory on adult learning would be meaningless, as there is no real basis for it. P. Jarvis even implies that andragogy would be more the result of an ideology than a scientific contribution to the comprehension of the learning processes. Knowles himself mentions that andragogy is a "model of assumptions about learning or a conceptual framework that serves as a basis for an emergent theory." There appears to be a lack of research on whether this framework of teaching and learning principles is more relevant to adult learners or if it is just a set of good practices that could be used for both children and adult learners.
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