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Andragogy vs. Pedagogy

“…it is tragic that we have not learned how to learn

without being taught.”

Malcolm Knowles

At our first class meeting it was stated that K-12 education and adult education are very different.  Having a B.S. in Elementary Education and having worked with K-12 institutions for the past 18 years, I am trying to fully comprehend this difference.  The learner-centered teaching methodology purported by Maryellen Weimer in our text is the same dialogue we’ve had with our K-12 clients as they restructure their learning environments. My business partner claims it’s a matter of andragogy vs. pedagogy.  So I’ve decided to explore the definition of these terms and work through the semester developing a thorough understanding, and appreciation for, the difference.

Malcom Knowles (1984) stated, “as adults mature, they become increasingly independent and responsible for their own actions. They are often motivated to learn by a sincere desire to solve immediate problems in their lives. Additionally, they have an increasing need to be self-directing. In many ways the pedagogical model does not account for such developmental changes on the part of adults, and thus produces tension, resentment, and resistance in individuals.”

The andragogical model as conceived by Knowles is predicated on four basic assumptions about learners, all of which have some relationship to our notions about a learner’s ability, need, and desire to take responsibility for learning:

  1. Their self-concept moves from dependency to independency or self-directedness.

(This is not different, in my experinece,  from children as they move through the developmental stages of childhood)

  1. They accumulate a reservoir of experiences that can be used as a basis on which to build learning.

(THIS is not different, in my experience, from children as they move through the developmental stages of childhood)

  1. Their readiness to learn becomes increasingly associated with the developmental tasks of social roles.

(THIS is also not different, in my experience,  from children as they move through the developmental stages of childhood)

  1. Their time and curricular perspectives change from postponed to immediacy of application and from subject-centeredness to performance-centeredness.

(This is the one area that MAY be a starting point for exploration on the true difference between andragogy and pedagogy).

As I read through the chapters of Learner Centered Teaching I consistently wonder if public K-12 education has failed colleges and universities or if it is the other way around.  If K-12 education succeeds in students ‘learning how to learn without being taught’ would that leave higher education and adult learning to the business of subject-centered and performance-centered enhancement?  What does this mean for Schools of Ed as they prepare emerging teachers?

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One Response to “Andragogy vs. Pedagogy”

  1. I have the great benefit of being able to return to school after twenty-five years. So, I can give you my perspective from the inside. I do not believe that K-12 can learn to learn without being taught. Why? Because it’s mandatory. It’s the “have to” that makes certain students resistant to learning. This, of course, does not mean they’re not bright, quite the contrary. They just don’t like to be ruled.

    As Malcolm S. Knowles tells us an Adult Learner is a volunteer. I am in class because I want to be there. I am hungry for knowledge at every level and more importantly, I am open and ready to learn what is being taught. I have held real world jobs and manage my household. I relate everything, and I do mean everything, from an algebraic equation, to a Rabindranath Tagore writing, to some aspect in my life.

    I could not do this my first time around in college, for the simple fact that I lacked experience; in particular Life Experience. As an Adult Learner, I am more attentive and inquisitive, not to mention, I want to get my money’s worth.

    I will be watching your Blog with great interest.

    Get over the idea that only children should spend their time in study. Be a student so long as you still have something to learn, and this will mean all your life. ~Henry L. Doherty


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