Learning in any form is an art that needs to be cultivated and nurtured to gain the maximum benefits out of it. Though the objective is common for both adults and kids – enhancing the knowledge level. There lies a fundamental difference in the techniques and methods by which the learning is imparted. Adult learning has its own set of theories and approaches, leveraged to uplift the motivation and inspirational levels. Andragogy Theory is a prominent adult learning mechanism to achieve the desired efficiency and effectiveness.
Andragogy theory is the brainchild of Malcolm Knowles. In the article, we will discuss the key concepts and principles of andragogy. You can relate as to how adult learning theories vary from that of the education granted to children. Some certain basic variations and assumptions require attention when it comes to adult learning.
The Adult Learning Theory – Andragogy Definition
In 1833, Alexander Kapp, a renowned and legendary German academician, first initiated the term “Andragogy”. It was eventually transformed into adult learning theory by world-famous German social philosopher and historian, Eugen Rosenstock-Hussey.
But Andragogy theory gained prominence under the leadership of Malcolm Knowles, a pioneer of Humanist and Adult Learning from the USA. The name is derived from a Greek word, the meaning being “leading man” or “man-leading”.
The focus is mainly on self-direction; the activities and learnings are under the control of the learner. Knowles adult learning theory encourages inherent attention to hands-on training. His thoughts were oriented around studying and learning by forming groups. Collaborations and interactions among students and learners primarily drive and facilitate the Andragogy theory.
To summarize, andragogy definition empowers the adult learners to work on their creativity and intellect, thus diverging from the traditional methods of teacher-oriented learning.
The Five Assumptions of Andragogy – Knowles Adult Learning Theory
Knowles specified initially 4 assumptions for firming the principles and concepts of the Andragogy theory. The assumptions were mentioned to differentiate with the theory of pedagogy, based on child learners. A fifth assumption was later added by him.
Let us now try to understand each of the assumptions or the pillars of Knowles’ Andragogy Theory:
The maturity of a person flourishes and rises with experience. This is the time when a person tends to focus away, being dependent, to a more self-directed individual. The same theory is applied to learning when a person deviates from instructor-led training to self-learning. Remote and online learning courses and sessions demand a self-directed mode of education. The very reason that the instructors are not present to constantly guide and monitor your progress, it necessitates following the principle of Andragogy.
2. Learning Experience
With experience, the knowledge and competency levels of adults increase. Practical and on the job learning is beneficial to understand the key concepts and guides in deep learning. Adults can easily relate use cases or real-life examples with their academic courses. It eventually speeds up the learning process. That’s a vital difference between Andragogy and Pedagogy.
3. Readiness or eagerness to learn
Adult learners understand the relevance of education to their professional and personal lives. They are enriched with the maturity of selecting the appropriate learning courses or sessions to facilitate their work. The awareness level regarding the benefits and impact of education on jobs is well understood and applied. This increases their zeal and eagerness to learn about the concerned topics.
4. Problem-centric learning
With the progress of maturity and experience, adult learners prefer the immediate and real-time application of their knowledge. They do not prefer acquiring competencies for theoretical needs. For them, application on their regular daily jobs or activities is essential and vital. It’s a paradigm shift from a subject-focused approach towards a problem-centric practical application approach.
5. Self-motivation and inspiration
A vital point of distinction between the Andragogy theory and Pedagogy is drivers for motivation and inspiration to learn. Children are more concerned to obtain higher grades and rewards in their academic and learning sessions. The external factors drive their motivation levels. Whereas adults are self-motivated and inspired to pursue their education or learning spree. They register for learning courses or sessions essentially to speed up their competency levels and work efficiency.
Knowles’ principles of Andragogy is focused on the above mentioned 6 assumptions. We will now discuss the 4 pillars or principles of Knowles Adult learning principles.
The Four Principles of Adult Learning or Andragogy Theory
Knowles adult learning principles guide teachers, educators and instructors on the aspects they must focus on.
- Adults are eager to know how the training sessions and courses are planned. They scrutinize the topics selected, the duration, and the study materials. They evaluate the trainers or instructors based on reviews. The mode of training is essential for them as they are restricted by full-time participation. They prefer participation and involvement in designing the course features and subjects. In many Corporates, the participants suggest topics to the instructors, required for their tasks or activities.
- Adults relate their experiences gained from past learnings on their academic sessions. They even derive real-life examples and facts and try to sync with the knowledge being imparted through the learning courses. This assists in imbibing deeper and contextual understanding of the topics. Achievements and errors both are referred to extract the best out of the learning process. Hence their learning effectiveness is far more practical and efficient. Majority of the adult learners are interested in rectifying their mistakes and shortcomings along with upliftment of their knowledge deficiencies.
- While preparing the curricula for adult learning, one must focus on highlighting practical use cases and examples. Adult learners normally undertake to learn courses and sessions since they require improvements in their professional and personal growth. Therefore the curricula must be designed to focus on these aspects. This generates interest among adult learners. They can relate the topics learned, to their activities and jobs. Additionally, if you provide them with problems that they might be facing in their life, that’s a boon for them. Guiding and assisting in the self resolution of the issues is the best way to uplift their talent and potential.
- Curriculum for kids is mainly focused on theories and memorizing content with logical understanding. Adult learners do not appreciate such a mode of learning. They love interactions and collaborations in a session. Group discussions, joint project work, presentations, debates, etc. interest them more. This not only helps in self-directed and self-focused learning, it promotes sharing of experiences too. Participants can learn from others and even relate to similar problems or issues faced by fellow learners.
Knowles describes further that as part of the Andragogy Theory, there are 7 outcomes or results that must be achieved.
What are the 7 outcomes of Andragogy Theory?
1. Understanding yourself
Adult learning theories must positively focus on understanding self characteristics. One must be able to sort out the niche subject areas or topics that generated interest and passion. It is essential to know your capabilities revolving around professional and personal attributes. Setting goals for future growth is vital for success and prosperity. Adult learners need to respect their self-esteem for progress ahead.
2. Respect for others
Respecting the ideas of others and accepting feedback empowers adult learners with interpersonal effectiveness. Respecting others views and listening attentively are important attributes to develop an environment of bonding and trust. The basic concept is to focus on the ideas and not the human characteristics. Andragogy theory is to generate an interest in learning through active participation and collaboration. That can be achieved only through a strong and robust interpersonal relationship.
3. Accepting changes
Constant changes in professional and personal life is a common phenomenon in the modern era. Adult learners need to adapt to such changes with grace. They must not be biased toward certain schools of thought and methodology. It is suggested to possess a flexible and dynamic attitude towards life, people, and the new generation of thoughts or ideas. Inventions, discoveries, researches are constantly bringing forth new concepts and algorithms. Innumerable experiments are conducted to bring in innovative thoughts and ideas. Adult learners must possess a transparent mentality in grasping those changes and adapt them accordingly.
4. Root Cause Analysis
The preventive method of resolving problems or issues is often temporary. One fails to perform a deep-dive analysis to understand the underlying causes of the problem. This results in constant recurrence of the problems, hampering productivity and an increase in cost and effort. The future growth is severely impacted. The suggestion is to engage in a proactive method of problem resolution, wherever possible. Discovering the root cause analysis of recurring issues is super beneficial in increasing efficiency. Adult learning must focus on this important aspect and encourage participants to follow in their professional and personal lives.
5. Learning from experience
People often tend to avoid recollecting past experiences and consider them as a hindrance to their future progress. Knowles shares a different perspective on this thought. He discusses that the Andragogy theory must focus on understanding past experiences and sharing the learnings. This encourages positivity in the thought process and assists in critical thinking. The idea is to avoid ignoring past experiences, eventually utilizing them to generate analytical thoughts and ideas.
6. Societal changes
Human survival depends on the betterment of society. Hence it is essential to bring in changes through innovative thoughts, benefitting humanity. Adult learning theory must focus on encouraging and educating people on societal behaviour. Identification of improvement areas and generating potential solution opportunities are suggested methods of learning.
Note: Knowles was instrumental in imbibing a new era of adult learning, creating a difference in the philosophy of education.
Adoption of Andragogy Theory in Corporate and e-learning
Since we have now understood the concepts and principles of adult learning theory, it is important to be aware of its application too. Training providers, instructors, and academicians need to utilize the learnings in their training programs and online courses.
Tip to incorporate Angragogy theory in training process
- Analyze the past learning courses and programs. The focus point of the analysis must be to find out the deviation from the adult learning framework and principles. The deviations will assist in curating the future training curriculum with proficiency.
- Identify practical and real-life examples and use cases for each subject or topic of the adult learning programs. An extensive study is required to gather such examples. Such case studies are the key to the success of generating interest among adult learners.
- Corporates must seek feedback and suggestions from employees in designing their learning courses and web-based training. Adult learners love to be part of the learning design activity. They can provide constructive suggestions on the content, modes of training, duration, and also the technology being leveraged.
- Provide options to adult learners to select their preferred learning courses. They must be provided the opportunity to select the method of training – classroom-based or online webinars. According to their preferences, they can enrol and attend the learning programs.
- The assessments must comprise of real-life problems, most commonly faced in professional and personal lives. The participants must be encouraged to form groups or solve the issues individually. They, in turn, must also present the solutions in front of the class and seek feedback and comments.
Andragogy theory Example by Knowles
- The different parts of a computer, both software and hardware, need explanations on their usability and importance
- Focus must be on common activities and tasks performed in daily life and defocus on just memorizing concepts
- Interactions between learners must be encouraged to share previous experiences on computers. The training guides and resources must allow participants to leverage their past learnings into the activities.
- Instructors must encourage participants to resolve assignments and progress through the course on their own. Only required guidance and assistance must be provided as and when needed to rectify the errors.
Best Books on Adult Learning Theory
- The Modern Practice of Adult Education of Knowles by Englewood Cliffs
- Knowles’Andragogy in Action – Applying Modern Principles of adult education by Jossey Bass
- Knowles’ The Adult Learner – A neglected Species by Houston
- Towards a Developmental Theory of Andragogy by Nottingham University
Adult learners possess immense experiences due to their past acquaintances, in both their professional and personal lives. Nurturing this important aspect and leverage the same in developing innovative ideas and solutions benefits in the upliftment of competency. Knowles believed in this simple theory, introducing a significant change in the world of adult education and learning. Its benefits have been observed by several training institutes and online teaching schools. Special focus on real-life examples is vital to entice adult learners and students to register and attend the learning programs.
A substantial improvement in the future growth and achievements of the learners have been observed. They stand beneficial in relating their real-life problems and issues with the topics and subject areas. The result is greater satisfaction and improvement in different aspects of life.