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Sunday, May 27, 2012

The differences between pedagogy and andragogy: Implications for online learning and teaching

Research indicates that pedagogy has two definitions: the science or profession of teaching, and the Greek derivation of the art and science of teaching children.  Andragogy, on the other hand, appears to be defined as the science or profession of teaching adults.  In any case, a review of prior research may help to solve this issue by providing a means to differentiate between the two terms, and the three definitions. 

Knowles (1980) explained that adults "want to be able to apply whatever knowledge and skill they gain today to living more effectively tomorrow, learning experiences should be organized around competency-development categories, and adults are performance-centered in their orientation to learning" (Knowles, 1980, p. 44).  On the other hand, pedagogy explains that "learners see education as a process of acquiring subject matter content" (Knowles, 1980, p. 44) to be used in the future.  "Curriculums should be organized into subject matter units, (and learners) are subject-centered in their orientation to learning " (Knowles, 1980, p. 44).      

When teaching adults, "the psychological climate should be one which causes adults to feel accepted, respected, and supported; in which there exists a spirit of mutuality between teachers and students as joint inquirers; in which there is freedom of expression without fear of punishment or ridicule" (Knowles, 1980, p. 47).  Due to "the adult's self-concept of self-directivity, andragogical practice treats the learning-teaching transaction as the mutual responsibility of learners and teacher" (Knowles, 1980, p. 44).  Consequently, the instructor's role becomes that of a "procedural technician, resource person, and co-inquirer (Knowles, 1980, p. 44).  Wisely, Knowles (1980) noted that when one adult judges another, a childlike treatment emerges, which carries with it "disrespect and dependency" (p. 48).

Adults' experiences represent "richer resources for learning than is true of children" (Knowles, 1980, p. 50).  Instructors often use teaching techniques that "tap the experience of the adult learners" (Knowles, 1980, p. 50).  For example, activities can include group discussions, case methods, "the critical-incident process, simulation exercises, role playing, skill-practice exercises, field projects, action projects, laboratory methods, consultative supervision, demonstration, seminars, work conferences, counseling, group therapy, and community development" (Knowles, 1980, p. 50).  Knowles (1980) noted that during the developmental tasks used to instruct children, a "readiness to learn" (or teachable moment) arises.  Curiously, adult learners also have "phases of growth and resulting developmental tasks" (Knowles, 1980, p. 51): "the developmental tasks of youth tend to be the products primarily of physiological and mental maturation while those of the adult years are the products primarily of the evolution of social roles" (p. 51).

"Children start fairly early to see themselves as being self-directing in broadening areas of their lives; they start accumulating experience that has increasing value for learning; they start preparing for social roles (such as through part-time jobs) and therefore experience adultlike readinesses to learn; and they encounter life problems for which they would like some learnings for immediate application" (Knowles, 1980, p. 58).  Consequently, "many of the principles of andragogy have direct relevance to the education of children and youth" (Knowles, 1980, p. 58).  Challenging children to progress at a rate they are capable of, and assimilating them more freely into andragogical learning, creates a new paradigm for teaching and learning.  The new paradigm could better define how e-learning tools might improve learning for children and adults.  

Supporting such a paradigm was considered by Goodmurphy, Branton, Callens, & Gedies (2000) who wrote that "four of andragogy's five key assumptions apply equally to adults and children. The sole difference is that children have fewer experiences and pre-established beliefs than adults and thus have less to relate." Differences between children and adult learners becomes less noticeable, and "similarities become more cohesive in and among all learning groups--namely adult learners and children" (Goodmurphy et al., 2000, p. 6).  "Andragogical learners still prefer an andragogical approach with elements of pedagogy included while pedagogical learners still prefer a pedagogical approach with elements of andragogy included (Goodmurphy et al., 2000, p. 6).  Such an opinion calls out for further research.  In the meantime, childhood and adult instructors could collaborate so that their feedback could benefit improving learning in secondary schools, especially for children ready and able to learn.  "Andragogy informs us that adults, and many would argue all learners, bring experience, varied needs and expectations, and personal motivation to the learning experience, which supports a learner-centered approach to education" (Goodmurphy et al., 2000, p. 6).  

Holmes and Abington-Cooper (2000) discussed three myths typically associated with self-directed learning: "adults are naturally self-directed, when, in reality, their capability for self-directed learning may vary widely; self-direction is an all-or-nothing concept" (par. 29).  The second myth is that "adults have varying degrees of willingness or ability to assume personal responsibility for learning, (and) choose their own goals, objectives, degree of participation, learning content, learning method, and assessments" (Holmes and Abington-Cooper, 2000, par. 29).  The third myth is that "self-directed learning means learning in isolation; however, the essential dimension of self-directed learning may be psychological control that a learner can exert in any solitary, informal, or traditional setting" (Holmes and Abington-Cooper, 2000, par. 29) . 

Holmes and Abington-Cooper (2000) wrote that "adult education could survive quite nicely without andragogy, but that there is some merit in redefining the term, clarifying it conceptually, and testing it empirically" (par. 29).  Apparently, an inconsistency between pedagogy and andragogy was presented by Knowles (Holmes and Abington-Cooper, 2000).  Relooking at the two terms could substantially improve the teaching strategies used for children and adults, and further explore the over-lapping that exists between the two groups.  Every opportunity should be adopted as soon as possible to take advantage of children transitioning to adult learning methods.  Maximizing learning outcomes is achievable when learners are ready to learn rather than waiting until a particular age arrives.

Goodmurphy, M., Branton, B., Callens, P., & Gedies, T. (2000). Andragogical and pedagogical differences relative to their interfacing with internet resources. Retrieved from

Holmes, G., & Abington-Cooper, M. (Summer/Fall 2000). Pedagogy vs. andragogy: A false dichotomy? Retrieved from

Knowles, M.S. (1980). The modern practice of adult education, from pedagogy to andragogy. The Journal of Technology Studies, 26(2).  Retrieved from http://www.hospitalist.cumc.

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