HUNGRY MINDS BLOG

FOOD

FOR THOUGHT

Unlocking Andragogy: Understanding Adult Learning Theory

Ever heard of Andragogy? It’s basically a fancy word for the art and science of how adults learn. This word was first used by Alexander Kapp, a German educator in 1833 who wanted to engage with the philosophy of lifelong learning. Andragogy has been reinvented by the influential educator Malcolm Knowles. Unlike kids, adults have their own unique way of soaking up knowledge. With children, it’s called pedagogy.

 

Andragogy – Main Ideas

So, what are the main ideas behind Andragogy? There are five assumptions:

1. Self-Directed: Adults like to call the shots. They’re independent, prefer charting their own learning path, and thrive on autonomy, which is making decisions for themselves.

2. Tapping into Experience: Adults have been around the block a few times. They bring a wealth of real-life experiences to the table, which means their ideas are valuable contributions to learning, and they can use these experiences and contributions to tackle new challenges and learn new things.

3. Real-Life Readiness: Learning needs to make sense for adults. It needs to be real, authentic, reality-focused. They’re all about practicality and want to know why they’re learning something and how it applies to their lives or jobs. When they come across a challenge, that’s the time to learn how to solve it.

4. Problem-Centered Learning: Forget boring lectures. Adults love getting their hands dirty with learning that’s centred around solving their real problems. It’s all about diving into the nitty-gritty and coming up with practical solutions and ideas that are meaningful and useful to them.

5. Intrinsic Motivation: Adults aren’t just in it for the paycheck. They’re driven by things like job satisfaction, personal growth, and self-esteem. Money’s nice, but it’s not the be-all and end-all.

And here’s the kicker: Andragogy isn’t just about delivering information—it’s about sparking curiosity and encouraging adults to discover things for themselves. So, if you’re designing a learning program, keep these principles in mind to keep your participants engaged and motivated.

Andragogy isn’t just some fancy theory—it’s the key to unlocking effective learning for adults.


Got more questions about Andragogy? Check out our FAQs below.

FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions

Andragogy, the art and science of how adults learn, describes the key characteristics of adult learners (as distinct from children ‘pedagogy’).

‘Andragogy’ refers to the art and science of how adults learn. It has become a highly influential adult learning theory and continues to shape learning design today.

Malcolm Knowles (1913-1977) was an influential American educator who popularised the term ‘andragogy’, the art and science of how adults learn.

The five principles of andragogy are:

  1. Self-concept

  2. Experience

  3. Readiness

  4. Orientation

  5. Motivation

Andragogy recognises that there are differences in the ways adults learn from children. This distinction is vital to help to engage and motivate adult learners.

Respecting the principles of adult learning will help to engage and motivate participants. It supports discovery-based learning, encouraging learners to construct their own understanding through problem-solving and collaboration with peers.

Knowles developed the first four assumptions about how adults learn in 1980 and added the fifth in 1984.

The five principles of andragogy are:

  1. Self-concept: Adults are self-directed.

  2. Experience: Adults have breadth and depth of experiences to draw on and apply to new learning.

  3. Readiness: Adults want to learn things that are relevant in a real-to-life context.

  4. Orientation: Adults are engaged by learning that is problem-centred and practical.

  5. Motivation: Adults are intrinsically motivated by various value-drivers (not simply more money!).

References:
 
  • Knowles, M. (1984). The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species (3rd Ed.). Houston, TX: Gulf Publishing.

  • Knowles, M. (1984). Andragogy in Action. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

  • http://www.andragogy.net/

  • Knowles, M. (1977) Adult Learning Processes, Pedagogy and Andragogy https://doi.org/10.1080/0034408770720210

  • Knowles, M. (1972) Innovations in Teaching Styles and Approaches Based Upon Adult Learning https://www.jstor.org/stable/23038299

More insights

What is Instructional Design?

As we navigate the intricate dance between digital and traditional pedagogies, we're drawn to a beacon of modern education: blended learning.

What do Instructional Designers do?

As we navigate the intricate dance between digital and traditional pedagogies, we're drawn to a beacon of modern education: blended learning.

What are the First Principles of Instruction?

As we navigate the intricate dance between digital and traditional pedagogies, we're drawn to a beacon of modern education: blended learning.