5.1 Andragogy

The best-known theory of adult learning is Malcolm Knowles’ theory of Andragogy.  The term means “leading a man” and sets up a contrast with pedagogy, which means “leading a child.” The theory is based on the following six assumptions (as described in Merriam et al., 2007):

  1. People become less dependent and more self-directed as they mature
  2. Adults have a rich set of life experiences that affect how they learn
  3. Adult readiness to learn is related to the roles adults play in their lives and the contexts in which they live and work
  4. Adults need immediate application for their learning, and are more interested in learning to solve problems rather than to acquire knowledge about academic subjects
  5. Adult motivation comes from internal rather than external sources
  6. Adults need to understand the relevance of what they are learning

Like all theories, andragogy has its critics. Some argue that it is a model for teaching or instructional design but does not have the explanatory power of a learning theory. Others argue that the assumptions underlying andragogy are not unique to adults.  For example, children also benefit from relevance and intrinsic motivation.

For more information about andragogy, see the following links:

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Foundations of Educational Technology by Penny Thompson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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