Andragogy focuses on the adult learner and his or her life situation. Knowles’s Andragogy is based on a number of assumptions about the adult learner (Merriam, Caffarella, & Baumgartner). Knowles supported the idea that learning should be more self-directed and focused on the development of the individual.
According to Malcolm Knowles, individuals take the initiative, with or without the help of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying human and material resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies, and evaluating learning outcomes.
Today’s changing demographics, globalization, and technology are three main sociocultural/economic forces that are driving adults to learn new skills and acquire new information. Each of these three forces is responsible for adult learning as follows:
The increase in adult population is one factor that is contributing to changing demographics. The “baby boomers” (adults between the ages of 45 and 60 roughly) are living longer. I think that advances in medicine and the health conscious adult are two factors that are contributing to longevity. Many of these aging adults are choosing to remain in the workforce. They seek education to bring them up to speed on work related skills. Other adults find that they can afford formal education, and they are seeking education for the sake of learning (self-actualization).
In addition, cultural and ethnic diversity is contributing to changing demographics. Immigration is increasing and with it the need for education. Immigrants are seeking learning opportunities to gain language and work-related skills.
Global economics has prompted organizations to focus on training and development of its workforce. Organizations that have decided to conduct their business internationally are addressing such educational issues as communication, economic systems, diversity, and technology.
Technology changes rapidly in our society. One moment you are purchasing the most up to date cell phone or personal computer, and the next moment it is out of date. The way we conduct business is changing with technology. We use self-checkouts at the grocery store and conduct our banking transactions online from the comfort of our own homes. Technological advances are making adult learning mandatory in that we must learn to conduct transactions online or at the self-checkout counter, but these advances are also making learning more accessible by offering training and education online.
Although we may be well established in our professional roles, constant changes in the workplace influenced by such aspects as new technology, demographics, and adoption of new ideas or new structure, require that we engage in a set of activities or experiences that lead to learning.
Merriam, S. B., Caffarella, R. S., & Baumgartner, L. M. (1999). Learning in Adulthood: A Comprehensive Guide (3rd Ed.). San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
By Shirley J. Caruso, M.A. Human Resource Development