Andragogy Learning Theory with Suz Szucs

Suzanne Szucs
IM 504 SS2014



Introduced by Malcolm Knowles in 1968, Andragogy is:
“The art and science of helping adults learn.”
Knowles was concerned that adults had different learner characteristics than children and therefore needed different instructional strategies applied to their learning contexts. Although there had been exploration into adult learning throughout the 20th century and ideas around Andragogy were already accepted in Europe, Knowles infused the theory he introduced in America with his experience working within adult education.


His theory makes 5 basic assumptions about adult learners. They:
• Are independent and self-directed;
• Have life experiences that play a major role in their learning;
• Have learning needs related to their changing societal roles;
• Learn best through problem-based application of knowledge;
• Are intrinsically rather than extrinsically motivated.


Adult learners function best in classrooms where they are respected, have fundamental control over their learning process and where the teacher acts more as a facilitator than a content deliverer.


There has been controversy surrounding Andragogy because there has been no clear consensus as to where it belongs – within Pedagogy, or along-side. Many of Andragogy’s fundamental principles – self-directed learning, learner centered, experience based learning, situational learning – have been incorporated into contemporary learning strategies for all ages. An example of this would be situated learning, where students participate in learning on-site, such as visit to a museum where the art work can be directly viewed and discussed, rather than watching a slideshow about the artwork in the classroom.


Merriam, S. B. (2001). Andragogy and self-directed learning: Pillars of adult learning theory. New Directions For Adult & Continuing Education, 2001(89), 3.

Ozuah, P. O. (2005). First, there was pedagogy and then came andragogy. Einstein Journal Of Biology & Medicine, 21(2), 83-87.

Rachal, J. R. (2002). Andragogy’s detectives: A critique of the Present and a proposal for the future. Adult Education Quarterly, 52(3), 210-227.

Zmeyov, S. I. (1998). Andragogy: Origins, developments and trends. International Review Of Education / Internationale Zeitschrift Für Erziehungswissenschaft, 44(1), 103-108. : full source reference

Additional Resources