Andragogy - by Amy Fettig


Andragogy Theory of Malcolm Knowles

1. Description
Simply stated, it is the theories and practices around adult education. Malcolm Knowles, advanced “the art and science of helping adults learn” (1980, p. 42). Based on European understandings and his own research, several principles of andragogy emerged to form the basic tenets of subsequent definition. What started out as 4 in 1984 eventually became 5 principles of adult learning:
• Self concept
• Adult learner experience
• Readiness to learn
• Orientation to learning
• Motivation to learn
(Rachal, 2002)
2. Use
Just as K-12 educators must understand basic development and needs for young student learners, instructors, trainers, and other adult educators are faced with specific challenges and opportunities when working with adult learners. Yet, the work of pedagogy and andragogy are not seen as a dichotomy but rather a growing continuum.
3. Example of application
Andragogy is at the heart of many instructional design models. Knowles’ principles can help to analyze adult learners and contexts as well as inform instructional strategies. In our current classwork around TK20 implementation, our design team is cognizant of the skills and knowledge of faculty learners as well as their commitment to departmental outcome mapping.
4. Comparison
One of the largest similarities between Knowle’s Andragogy and Mezirow’s Tranformative Learning is actually a critique. While empirical studies were initially undertaken, the universalism of conclusions was uncertain. Subsequent scholars have worked to broaden understanding of these theories across social groups and disciplines.

Rachal, J. R. (2002). Andragogy’s detectives: A critique of the present and a proposal for the future. Adult Education Quarterly, 52(3), 210.
Knowles, M. S. (1980). The modern practice of adult education: From pedagogy to andragogy. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Cambridge.


Created by: Amy Fettig