Page 1


Andragogy: The Process Model Applicable for All Ages Brian Roadarmel Bloomsburg University




Abstract This paper examines Malcolm S. Knowles six principles of andragogy and their application in teaching children. Research uncovered Knowles gradually altered his position in the face of peer criticism from andragogy as a model for teaching adults, to andragogy as a “process” model. Critics were concerned that the six principles of andragogy were predispositions of all humans and not strictly adults, a criticism Knowles later accepted in 1988 (Imel, 1989). Despite criticism and evidence found through the practical application of andragogy by educators (which suggested andragogy enhances the education of children), andragogy is still widely regarded as a model for teaching adults. This leads to implications for current and future educators alike. This paper examines the application of “andragogy, the process model” in the education of children through examples of child behavior and learning that naturally exhibit the principles of andragogy. The examples also support the importance for the promotion of andragogy as a process model and not an adult model. Future work to further this study should include surveying children, adults, and teachers to find their preferred methods of learning and conducting further research to find additional concrete applications of andragogy in teaching children. This study may be the foundation from which my dissertation topic is derived. Keywords: andragogy, pedagogy, self-directed learning, process model, fantasy play



Andragogy: The Process Model for All Ages of Learners Since the introduction of North American andragogy by Malcolm S. Knowles in the mid 1960‟s, there has been extensive research and numerous publications in support and criticism of the andragogical model. Without doubt, Knowles has largely influenced the field of adult education, and andragogy “was welcomed by many adult educators as revolutionary” (as cited in Merriam, Caffarella, & Baumgartner, 2007, p. 88). Despite his influence, many critics believe Knowles was not a practitioner of what he “preached” and “he was seen as inconsistent in traveling the world lecturing on behalf of andragogy, a system opposed to lecture” (Carlson, 1989). Regardless of the support or criticism over Knowles for the past forty years, opinion remains divided in regards to the effective application of his andragogical model in learning environments. Following the introduction of the andragogical model in the 1960‟s, which attempted to distinguish between the education of children (referred to as pedagogy) and adults, Knowles gradually altered his position regarding this difference. By 1988, Knowles acknowledged under criticism that characteristics he first believed unique of adult learners were actually predispositions of all humans (as cited in Imel, para. 5). Still to this day, Knowles‟ work significantly influences adult education, and unfortunately, the term andragogy is still most often associated with the education of adults. Despite this association, andragogy in practice has widely influenced the education of children. In practice, educators have reported “that young people learned better, too, when the andragogical model was applied” (Knowles 1985, p. 6). Contrary to its “more often than not” association with adult education, the andragogical model can and should be applied when teaching children. This study will examine the andragogical model and its core set of adult



learning principles in contrast to the application of pedagogical principles. Conclusions drawn from the compare and contrast of the two models will support the effectiveness of andragogical methods in the education of children. This study will also support the “re-branding” of andragogy as a process model. The Principles of Andragogy and Pedagogy in Contrast When planning curriculum and instruction for adults and/or children, it is important that educators do not narrow their focus to one model, andragogy or pedagogy. As cited previously from Knowles (1985), educators have found in practice that andragogy can help children learn better. Knowles (1985) even admits in the revision of his 1980 book, From Pedagogy to Andragogy, that the pedagogical and andragogical models are parallels and not antithetical (Knowles, 1985, p. 6). To set the foundation of this study, Knowles‟ six core principles of andragogy must be put in contrast to their respective principles in pedagogy. The six core principles of andragogy are; (1) the learner‟s need to know, (2) self-concept of the learner, (3) prior experience of the learner, (4) readiness to learn, (5) orientation to learning, and (6) motivation to learn (Knowles, Holton III, & Swanson, 2005, p. 64-68). The Learner’s Need to Know The first of six principles states that “adults need to know why they need to learn something before undertaking to learn it” (Knowles, 2005, p. 64). The premise of this principle lies in Tough‟s (1979) study which found that adults will invest a large amount of energy in exploring the benefits and negative consequences of learning something when they take on the task of learning something on their own behalf (as cited in Knowles, 2005, p. 64). Therefore, the first task of a facilitator should be an attempt to inform the learners as to why it is beneficial for them to be learning.



Knowles et. al. (2005) assumes under the principles of pedagogy that learners only need to understand what the teacher teaches in order to pass and get promoted. The learner does not need to know how or why what they learn will impact their life (Knowles et. al., 2005, p. 62.). If an educator follows this assumption of pedagogy, the child will lead an academic career ignorant to the correlation between academic achievement and lifetime earning potential. The educator should take an andragogical approach in an attempt to inform the child of this correlation so the child can make their own informed decision regarding the amount of effort they wish to expend into academic achievement. The Learner’s Self Concept Adults have a sense of self responsibility for their own actions, and once this level of maturity is reached, they have a deep psychological need to be perceived and received by others as capable of self direction (Knowles et. al., 2005, p. 65). When providing training for adults, it is important for the facilitator to not label activities “education” or “training.” If the facilitator uses these labels, the adults will regress to a mental state similar to that of their previous school experiences where they will become dependent upon the facilitator for their will to learn. If this occurs and the adult learners self concept is lost, the typical method of coping is to flee from the situation, and this attributes to the high dropout rate among adult education programs (Knowles et. al., 2005, p. 65). Under the principles of pedagogy a teacher‟s concept of the learner “is that of a dependent personality; therefore, the learner‟s self concept eventually becomes that of a dependent personality” (Knowles et. al., 2005, p. 62). It is easy for one to see the implications this has in the educational development of a child. If children believe they are dependent upon teachers for learning, the children are subject solely to the expertise of their teachers. Teachers



should promote a sense of self-concept and responsibility within the learners. Isn‟t this what educators hope for in their classrooms, students‟ pursuing further understanding and supplemental knowledge on their own time outside the classroom? Most would agree, and this can be achieved through an andragogical approach. The Role of the Learner’s Experience Adults come into a learning experience with a different quantity and quality of experiences than children. The facilitator must place more emphasis on the individualization of teaching and learning techniques because a group of adults is more naturally heterogeneous than a group of children, which can be attributed to the difference in the quantity and quality of their experiences. Because of the varying experiences found in a group of adults, the emphasis of adult learning should not be placed upon transmittal techniques, but instead, emphasis should be placed upon experiential techniques such as group discussions, simulation exercises, problemsolving activities, case methods, peer-helping activities, and laboratory methods. Even though adults have greater experience, their experience does not always translate into greater learning. The facilitator of an adult learning experience must coach the adult learners to overcome their “old” habits and biases in order to open their minds to new approaches. Lastly, adults define themselves through the experiences they‟ve had. If these experiences are discounted in any way by the facilitator, the adult learners will feel as if they are being discounted as well (Knowles et. al., 2005, p. 65-66). First and foremost, children do not lack quantity and quality of experience. Their experiences are simply different and correspond appropriately to their age and level of education. Knowles et. al (2005) assumes under pedagogy that “the learner‟s experience is of little worth as a resource for learning” (Knowles et. al, 2005, p. 63). Teachers cannot discount the experiences



of a child when developing curriculum; and instead of discounting the child‟s experience, the teacher should attempt to draw connections between the subject content and the child‟s experiences so the child can understand how the content is applied in a real life scenario. Readiness to Learn Adults learn what they need to learn to be able to handle their real-life situations and move from one developmental stage to the next, and adult learning experiences should coincide with developmental tasks. Even though adults become “ready” to learn naturally, “there are ways to induce readiness through exposure to models of superior performance, career counseling, simulation exercises, and other techniques” (Knowles et. al., 2005, p. 67). The assumption of pedagogy is that “learners become ready to learn what the teacher tells them they must learn if they want to pass and get promoted” (Knowles et. al., 2005, p. 63). While it is critical for the child to learn the content required to move onto the next grade; the child‟s readiness to learn should not be limited by the teacher. Children, like adults, learn necessary skills when they need to, in order to handle real-life situations that occur during their childhood. In addition to content, children can and should learn skills in the classroom that enhance their ability to handle situations outside the learning environment (e.g., balancing a bank account, writing a professional letter, using math at a part-time job). Orientation to Learning Adults‟ orientation to learning is life-centered, whereas children‟s orientation to learning is subject-centered (Knowles et. al, 2005, p. 67). To achieve the highest level of motivation, adults must perceive learning to enhance their ability to perform tasks or deal with challenges in life. When they are taught in the context of application to real-life situations, adults will learn most effectively.



Learners under the pedagogical model “have a subject-centered orientation to learning; they see learning as acquiring subject-matter content. Therefore, learning experiences are organized according to the logic of the subject-matter content” (Knowles et. al., 2005, p. 63). It is critical for teachers to organize the learning experience according to the logical sequence of the subject-matter content, but they must also effectively convey how and why learning the subjectmatter content will affect the life of the learner. By providing purpose for learning, the teacher can utilize the learner‟s inner motivation to achieve the objectives. Motivation to Learn “Adults are responsive to some external motivation (better jobs, promotions, higher salaries, and the like), but the most potent motivators are internal pressures (the desire for increased job satisfaction, self-esteem, quality of life, and the like)” (Knowles et. al., 2005, p. 68). Tough (1979) found through his research that although adults are motivated to continue growing and developing, this motivation is blocked in adults by barriers such “as negative self concept as a student, inaccessibility of opportunities or resources, time constraints, and programs that violate principles of adult learning” (as cited in Knowles et. al., 2005, p. 68). Pedagogy assumes “learners are motivated to learn by external motivators (e.g., grades, the teacher‟s approval or disapproval, parental pressures) (Knowles et. al., 2005, p. 63). This is true to some extent, but children are also motivated internally (e.g., comprehension, improved quality of life, self-esteem, choice of college, etc.). Principles of Andragogy in Application Knowles (1985) believed self-directed learning to be a primary function of the adult learner (Knowles, 1985, p. 9). Dr. Huey B. Long (1997) of the University of Oklahoma defines self-directed learning as “a purposive mental process, usually accompanied and supported by



behavioral activities involved in the identification and searching out of information. The learner consciously accepts the responsibility to make decisions about goals and effort, and is, hence, one's own learning change agent� (Long, 1997). Adults may desire to learn but Tough (1979) found through his research that many external barriers, such as social stigmas, opportunity costs, and time constraints, stand in the way of adults learning (as cited in Knowles et. al., 2005, p. 68). Research conducted by Jill M. Friestad (1998) suggests that young children feel no social pressures, learning in their environment is free from costs, and young children have less time constraints (Friestad, 1998, p. 16). Therefore, it would be apparent that adults do not exemplify self-directed learning as purely as young children.

Knowles once stated: We will learn no matter what! Learning is as natural as rest or play. With or without books, inspiring trainers or classrooms we will manage to learn. Educators can, however, make a difference in what people learn and how well they learn it. If we know why we are learning and if the reason fits our needs as we perceive them, we will learn quickly and deeply. (Knowles, unknown)

Young children develop their own educational needs, self-concept, and motivation at an early age. Similar to adults under the assumptions of andragogy, young children also learn how they want and when they want. A childâ€&#x;s environment is the world from which it learns. The child learns from their experience, not from a book or method. It needs no external motivation to learn. If the child needs clarification, it seeks an adult for guidance. If one observes the child in



this mode of learning, one would notice the child learns with great enthusiasm and motivation (Friestad, 1998, p. 16). When a teacher utilizes only the pedagogical model for teaching the child loses their sense of self-directed learning, and the child becomes solely dependent on the teacher. This places the child in a state of learning that is entirely unnatural for them. Not only, does it disrupt the child‟s natural learning process, but it also discounts the child‟s experience which leads the child to withdraw from the learning experience just like an adult would. To effectively transfer a child‟s enthusiasm and motivation from environment to classroom, the educator must relate the content to the experiences a child would encounter outside the classroom. Vivian Paley “describes fantasy play as the young child‟s “„curriculum in its natural form‟” (as cited in Cooper, p. 36). Fantasy play, which consumes much of a child‟s free time outside of school in a variety of creative forms, invokes a creative spark within children that cannot be achieved solely through transfer of knowledge.“Theoretically, children‟s motivation to construct knowledge and learn from others is directly tied to personal interest and the support they receive from the learning environment, including the teacher” (as cited in Cooper, p. 37). In order to achieve the highest level of interest and motivation in the classroom it is essential for the teacher to provide a learning environment that not only supports the child‟s natural learning process, but also allows the child to utilize their experiences, maintain their selfconcept, and trust the teacher for guidance when needed. Conclusion Despite criticism over Knowles and the application of andragogy in education, his contributions to the academic world have been extremely important over the past forty years, and he should be viewed as “fathering” a model that would eventually be accepted as the opposite to



pedagogy in the continuum of learning. Regardless of his contributions, Knowles was forced into retirement in 1979, and many critics felt this was a result of the controversy surrounding his work in andragogy. Even after retirement Knowles did not escape criticism. Critics questioned his motivation because of the minimum of $1,000 per appearance he earned to speak about andragogy, and there was no shortage of dates for Knowles to make these appearances. Most of the mail he received during retirement was invitations to speak about andragogy (Carlson, 1989). Andragogy as a process model is not only a beneficial resource for adult educators, but also for the educators of children. Friestad (1998) concludes through her research that “fundamentally, children‟s preferences for learning are similar to adults” and “teaching methods utilizing andragogical and/or pedagogical approaches are situational and should be used based on the needs of the learner” (Friestad, 1998, p. 43). The principles of andragogy can and should be used to supplement pedagogy in the development of classroom curriculum that provokes the enthusiasm and motivation children exhibit while learning is natural in their early developmental years. It is equally important for the association of andragogy as the adult model to end. Research strongly supports the effectiveness of the andragogical model for teaching children, and it is a necessity to “re-brand” andragogy from an adult model to a process model to maintain the integrity of teachers when utilizing andragogy for any age group.



References Carlson, R. (1989). Malcolm Knowles: Apostle of Andragogy. Retrieved April 23, 2010, from National-Louis University: malcolmknowles.cfm Cooper, P. M. (2009). The Classrooms All Young Children Need. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Friestad, J. M. (1998, December). Andragogy vs. Pedagogy: Comparing Adult and Children's Learning Preferences. Masters Thesis at Drake University. Imel, S. (1989). Teaching Adults: Is it Different? ERIC Digest No. 82. Retrieved April 24, 2010, from ERICDIGESTS.ORG: Knowles, M. S. (1985). Andragogy in Action. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers. Knowles, M. S., Holton III, E. F., & Swanson, R. A. (2005). The Adult Learner. New York: Elsevier. Long, H. B. (n.d.). Skills for Self-Directed Learning. Retrieved April 24, 2010, from HueyBLong: Merriam, S. B., Caffarella, R. S., & Baumgartner, L. M. (2007). Learning in Adulthood. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Andragogy: The Process Model Applicable for All Ages  

This article discusses the applicability of andragogy in learning environments for all ages.