Shirley J. Caruso, Ed.D.
Andragogy, as defined by Malcolm S. Knowles (1984), is a theory based on the psychological definition of adult, which states that people become adults psychologically when they arrive at a self-concept of being responsible for their own lives, of being self-directing.
Basing andragogy on six assumptions about the adult learner, Knowles distinguished andragogy, or the art and science of helping adults learn, from other areas of education, especially pedagogy, the art and science of helping children learn.
Although andragogy may be the most well-known model of adult learning theory, there are other models that also propose perceptions into how adults learn. One such model was introduced in 1999 by Knud Illeris, a professor of lifelong learning at the Danish University of Education in Copenhagen. In his model there are three dimensions involved in learning; they are cognition, emotion, and society.
According to Illeris, the cognitive dimension is comprised of knowledge and skills. The emotional dimension involves feelings and motivation. Cognition and emotion are internal processes interacting concurrently in the acquirement of knowledge and skills. The dimension Illeris labels sociality involves external interaction such as participation, communication, and cooperation. This dimension involves dealing with people as we learn.
According to the model, the process of learning starts with one of five stimuli, referred to by Illeris as the raw material of the process:
- Perception – “where the surrounding world comes to the individual as a totally unmediated sense impression” (Illeris, 2002, p. 120);
- Transmission – wherein someone else passes on information of transmits “specific sense impressions or messages” (p. 120);
- Experience – “limit the use of the word so that experience presupposes a particular activity, i.e., that the learner is not simply receiving, but also acts in order to benefit from the interaction” (p. 120);
- Imitation – occurring when the learner endeavors to imitate or reproduce another’s actions; and
- Activity or Participation – where the learner is engaged in a goal-directed activity at times participating with others as in a community of practice.
Illeris, K. (2002). Three dimensions of learning. Roskilde, Denmark: Roskilde University Press/Leicester, UK: NIACE.
Knowles, M. S. & Associates. (1984). Andragogy in action. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass