Andragogy and CAL


Descriptions of Theories
Malcolm Knowles was an influential educator in the field of adult education. He posited that adult learners were:
• Independent and self-directed
• They have life experiences to bring to the process
• Their needs are related to their changing societal roles
• They are problem-centered and need to apply their knowledge
• They are intrinsically rather than extrinsically motivated.
• Adults want to understand why they are learning a particular topic (Knowles, 1984).
Cross (1981) developed the CAL model of adult learning which integrated Knowles's andragogical theory, Rogers's experiential (applied) learning, and the study of human and nonhuman development from conception to death. Cross (1981) believed that adult learning programs should capitalize on the participant's experiences, adapt to the aging limitations of the participants, be challenged to move to increasingly advanced stages of personal development, and have choice in the availability and organization of learning programs.
Example of Application

Based on Knowles theory, in order to effectively teach patients new skills in a health care setting, Russell ("An Overview," n.d.) believes that because the primary purpose it to verify the ability of a patient to perform a certain skill, it is important to include return demonstrations by the learner, which the teacher can view and the patient can see their progress. If a teacher provides application exercises and discussions, it is more likely the information will be retained in the learner's memory (Zemke & Zemke, 1995).


Knowles, M. (1984) The adult learner: A neglected species (3rd Ed.). Houston: Gulf Publishing.
Cross, K.P. (1981) Adults as learners: Increasing participation and facilitating learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Inc.
Russell, S. S. (2006) An overview of adult learning processes. Retrieved from
Zemke, R., & Zemke, S. (1995). Adult learning: What do we know for sure? Retrieved from