Andragogy vs Pedagogy

1 January 2017

Education is the extension of educational opportunities to those adults beyond the age of general public education who feel a need for further education or training of any sort. Even though it has been around for some time, it is still a growing field in the US that hasn’t caught up to the education of children and younger adults. There is a set of principles for Andragogy, how adults learn and another for pedagogy, how children learn. This paper will look at one main theory of adult education and how the ideas are portrayed.

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It will also compare the pedagogical and andragogical approaches to highlight the differences between how children learn compared to adults and how these differences affect learning needs, preferences and the type of instruction received by both adults and children. The two different approaches will affect the instructional methods used for adults and children. The pedagogical approach assumes that “the learner enters into an educational activity with little experience that can be used in the learning process[1]” therefore they become what are called “dependent personality” who relies on the teacher for everything.

In this scenario, the teacher is the dominant person who has all the knowledge, they make every decision regarding the teaching/learning process including all the learning needs, what and how knowledge is learned and the classroom becomes teacher-dominated. In this teacher-dominated classroom, there may be little input from the students and student would not work together to share ideas and information to promote creative and independent thinking.

The learning needs of the students become secondary as “student achievement is at the forefront of teacher-centered curriculum, but teachers are driven to meet accountability standards and often sacrifice the needs of the students to ensure exposure to the standards. [2]” Therefore what you find in this classroom is “teacher talks, students listen”, “teacher asks questions, students answer” and the teacher will monitor, correct and evaluate all students’ work.

The classroom with adults will look totally different as the andragogical approach assumes that “as a person matures, he/she accumulates a growing reservoir of experience that becomes a resource for learning. Adults tend to come into adult education with a vast amount of prior experiences compared to that of children. If those prior experiences can be used, they become the richest resource available.

Adults tend to be actively involved in all decisions that occur in the learning environment herefore it creates a scenario where the role of the teacher shifts from the provider of information to resource personnel who provides input as needed. The teacher becomes more of a facilitator and the classroom is more student-centered where adults with their wealth of knowledge and experiences engage each other to share information and bounce ideas off each other as they try to solve problems. “Student-centered approaches derive from constructivist views of education, in which the construction of knowledge is shared and learning is achieved through students’ engagement with activities.

Due to the fact that adults are more self-directed, they prefer to discover the information rather than rely on the teacher to present all the knowledge. Therefore from an”instruction” point of view, the teacher has to provide an engaging environment that will promote learning and the instruction would focus on many different learning styles and are adapted based on adult’s strengths, interests, knowledge and experiences. This flexibility promotes group activity or teamwork as the teacher may just need to ask a question and allow adults to come up with the solution as they are more task oriented or more in problem solving.

The teacher will have to make sure that the information or knowledge is relevant to adults as they may choose to learn the material only if it is relevant meaning they will use the new information in some capacity in their daily lives. One of the main theories of adult education comes from Malcolm Knowles who is often credited for putting adult education and adult learning at the forefront because of the researches he did on the topic and many papers and books he wrote about it. His idea of how adults learn was based on five basic principles.

These first is that the motivation for adults to learn is more intrinsic as they may have greater self esteem or need to learn to achieve a better quality of life. The second is that adults are more experienced and that experience can be useful in the learning process as it is a form of resource. The third is “self-concept: As a person matures his self concept moves from one of being a dependent personality toward one of being a self-directed human being[5]” meaning adults are independent and will not rely on instructor for everything.

The fourth is that there is an increased readiness to learn information that may prove useful in their daily lives and fifth, adult become more task or problem solving oriented instead of learning by subject matter. The principles of how adults learn are presented in a way to highlight the differences between how adults and children learn. Everything was compared to the principles of pedagogy or how children learn to illustrate the difference in thinking, motivation and orientation to learning between adults and children.

The most interesting part of the article was that Knowles used two opposing areas of psychology, Behavioral and Humanistic to help generate and support his theory. The pedagogical and andragogical approaches highlights major differences between how children learn compared to adults. Comparing both approaches shows that there is a difference in the level of experience, motivation, the readiness to learn and how they learn. It shows that children are more dependent on the instructor for all information while adults a more independent and will want to gather information on their own.

Adults are motivated internally and driven by the need to make their better while children are motivated by grades and other external factors. These differences affect the type of instruction they receive as with children, the instructor may be dominant and control everything aspect of instruction while with adults, they acts as facilitators instead of the main provider of information. Malcolm Knowles Theory of andragogy identifies five principles that affect how adults learn.

These are in contrast to how children learn and presented so the differences between how adults and children learn can be seen clearly. All the principles of andragogy can be used by individuals who work with adults to adjust the instructional strategies, methods and approaches in order to meet the diverse needs of adults.

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