Child learning is built on the concept that children need to be fully guided on what they need to learn, how they will learn it and when it will be learned. “Pedagogy is the art and science of teaching children” (Knowles, 1984, p. 13). This type of learning promotes dependency of the learners on the educator or instructor. The counterpart of pedagogy is “Andragogy” which is “the art and science of helping adults learn” (Knowles, 1984, p. 13). It is assumed that adults have capabilities to take responsibility for learning so that there is more independence from the educator or instructor.
Basing Andragogy on six assumptions about the adult learner, Knowles distinguished andragogy from other areas of education, especially pedagogy. Although Knowles’ assumptions sparked controversy from other learning theorists such as Davenport and Davenport, Hartree, Grace, Sandlin, Alfred, Lee, St. Clair, and Rachel, Malcolm Knowles is known as the “Father of Andragogy”, and is considered a major thinker of andragogy.
Curricula for child learning are very much controlled. They are age specific so that children depend much on what the teacher will teach. It is expected that the teacher will provide all the answers. For adult learners, teachers do not have much control of the curriculum and they are not expected to provide answers but only to guide the adults to find the answers. It is expected that adults have fundamental knowledge and experience so that their kind of learning is more self-directed.
Children are more subject-centered while adults are more performance-centered
When children learn, they are guided by role models and substitute knowledge and experiences of others. Teachers tell them when situations are worth following and when situations are to be avoided. Adults learn by performing in their own environment and problem situations. Children’s learning is enhanced by rewards and punishments. To recognize their acquired learning and also to encourage them to learn more, they are provided with rewards like high grades and verbal praise. Adults are more goal-oriented. Their readiness allows them to immediately apply their learning to achieve their goals.
Speck (1996) notes that the following important points of adult learning theory should be considered when professional development activities are designed for educators:
- “Adults will commit to learning when the goals and objectives are considered realistic and important to them. Application in the ‘real world’ is important and relevant to the adult learner’s personal and professional needs.
- Adults want to be the origin of their own learning and will resist learning activities they believe are an attack on their competence. Thus, professional development needs to give participants some control over the what, who, how, why, when, and where of their learning.
- Adult learners need to see that the professional development learning and their day-to-day activities are related and relevant.
- Adult learners need direct, concrete experiences in which they apply the learning in real work.
- Adult learning has ego involved. Professional development must be structured to provide support from peers and to reduce the fear of judgment during learning.
- Adults need to receive feedback on how they are doing and the results of their efforts. Opportunities must be built into professional development activities that allow the learner to practice the learning and receive structured, helpful feedback.
- Adults need to participate in small-group activities during the learning to move them beyond understanding to application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Small-group activities provide an opportunity to share, reflect, and generalize their learning experiences.
- Adult learners come to learning with a wide range of previous experiences, knowledge, self-direction, interests, and competencies. This diversity must be accommodated in the professional development planning.
- Transfer of learning for adults is not automatic and must be facilitated. Coaching and other kinds of follow-up support are needed to help adult learners transfer learning into daily practice so that it is sustained.” (pp. 36-37)
Knowles, M. & Associates. (1984). Andragogy in action. Applying modern principles of adult education. San Francisco: Jossey Bass
Speck, M. (1996). Adult learning theory. Retrieved on April 4, 2011 from www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/methods/technlgy/te10lk12.htm
By Shirley J. Caruso, M.A., Human Resource Development