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Andragogy is the science and art of teaching adults
(S. Beebe, T. Mottet, K. Roach 2004)





Andragogy- A Definition
Andragogy is a term used for a theoretical framework concerning adult learning. It is contrasted with child learning, or pedagogy. It suggests that adults learn differently than children. The term is widely used by educators to describe the theory of adult learning.

Andragogy - The Origin

The origin of the word andragogy dates back to 1833 when a German teacher, Alexander Kapp used it to describe elements in Plato’s education theory. Andragogy (andr - ‘man’) was contrasted with pedagogy (paid – ‘child’ and agogos – ‘leading’). In 1921, Rosenstock posited that ‘adult education’ should be taught differently and used the term andragogy to refer to the different methods that would be required. Eduard Lindeman was the first to write of Rosenstock’s ideas of andragogy. The concept did not take on in America; however, there were many followers in other countries. In fact, “the term was being used extensively 'to refer to the discipline which studies the adult education process or the science of adult education' (Nottingham Andragogy Group 1983: v).”

The person most known for andragogy in the adult education field is Malcolm S. Knowles

Knowles outlines the needs and goals of individuals: the prevention of obsolescence, the achievement of self-identity through the development of full potentialities, and the need to mature. Prevention to obsolescence opposes,

"the doctrine that learning is primarily a function of youth. "...the rapidly accelerating pace of change in our society

has proved this doctrine to be no longer valued. Facts learned in youth have become insufficient and in many instances

actually untrue; and skills learned in youth have become outmoded by new technologies.”



Source: The Modern Practice of Adult Education: From Pedagogy to Andragogy




Picture of Malcolm S. Knowles from http://www.nl.edu/academics/cas/ace/resources/malcolmknowles.cfm


Knowles admits that four of the five key assumptions apply to both child and adult learners. The biggest difference is that children lack the experiences and predisposed beliefs. Ultimately, they have less on which to draw.


We have been a teacher-centered society for so long that we turn to others for what we should know. Instead, Knowles advises that we must “unlearn our teacher-reliance. We must take it upon ourselves to meet our learning needs and demand training providers do the same.”


Theoretical Framework

Knowles posited five crucial assumptions about the characteristics of adult learners which contrast that of child learners.


  1. 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

  2. Experience: As a person matures he accumulates a growing reservoir of experience that becomes an increasing resource for learning.

  3. Readiness to learn. As a person matures his readiness to learn becomes oriented increasingly to the developmental tasks of his social roles.

  4. Orientation to learning. As a person matures his time perspective changes from one of postponed application of knowledge to immediacy of application, and accordingly his orientation toward learning shifts from one of subject-centeredness to one of problem centeredness.

  5. Motivation to learn: As a person matures the motivation to learn is internal

(Knowles 1984:12).




The Implications for Teaching and Learning for Adults

  1. Letting learners know why something is important to learn - The need to know.
  2. Showing learners how to direct themselves through information - The need to be self directing.
  3. Relating the topic to the learner's experiences - Greater volume and quality of of experience.
  4. People will not learn until ready and motivated to learn - Readiness to learn.
  5. A need to have a life centered, task centered, or problem centered orientation - Often this requires helping them overcome inhibitions, behaviors, and beliefs about learning.






Conner, Marcia L. "Andragogy + Pedagogy." agelesslearner.com. 9 Apr. 2005. 15

                             May 2008 http://agelesslearner.com/intros/andragogy.html.


Ehrlich, Diane (2002) HRD 408: Instructional Design II, Northeastern Illinois University. Retrieved May 6, 2008, http://www.neiu.edu/~dbehrlic/hrd408/glossary.htm


Kearsley, Greg (Copyright 1994-2008) Explorations in Learning & Instruction: The Theory Into Practice Database. Retrieved May 6, 2008, http://tip.psychology.org/knowles.html


Smith, M. K. (1996; 1999) 'Andragogy', the encyclopaedia of informal education, http://www.infed.org/lifelonglearning/b-andra.htm. Last update: April 11, 2008



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