Adult learning is no longer the mystery that it once was. This paper explores how adults learn and has become the frequent word in adult education. The paper is divided into three sections. The first section clarifies the meaning of andragogy. The second section discusses the major assumptions of the concept (the concept is andragogy, and how adults learn). The third and final section describes the writer’s philosophy regarding adult learning using three education theorists to anchor the writer’s philosophy. These three key theorists are: Carl Rogers, Lev Vygotsky, and John Dewy.
After discussing each of the three sections, the writer then makes a solid conclusion about the topic, andragogy and how adults learn. Before delving into the first section, which examines the meaning of andragogy or adult learning, let’s begin with a working definition of learning. What exactly is it? There are a number of definitions for learning. Here’s one that we like. “Learning is a change in individuals, due to the interaction of the individuals and their environment, which fills a need and makes them more capable of dealing adequately with their environment” (Burton, 2003).
The key words and phrases in this definition include change, fills a need, and makes them more capable of dealing adequately with their environment. Once adults have learned something, they should be able to recognize changes in their behaviors and attitudes. Finally, this change in behavior and attitude allows them to more effectively manage their environment. For example, educating customer service employees how to handle irate customers makes them more effective on the job. It makes them more effective in managing their work environments.
Now that the writer has defined the word learning, the word andragogy will be clarified next. Andragogy is a term coined by Malcolm Knowles, a leading author in the field of adult education. Andragogy is the science and art of teaching adults. An andragogical approach to learning is self-directed rather than teacher-directed and is based upon the Greek word aner, which means “adult. ” To compare an contrast andragogy from pedagogy, the writer will also define the word pedagogy. Pedagogy, on the other hand, is the science and art of teaching children.
It refers to a teacher-directed approach to learning that is based on the Greek words paid, which means “child,” and agogus, which means guide. At this point in the section it’s important to clarify what we mean by the adult learner. For example, what about the traditional-age college student? What about young adults? Are they considered adult learners? It’s not so much about chronological age as it is about maturity. Maturity is the degree of experience that adult learners bring to the classroom. Not all young adults are inexperienced or immature, and not all adults are experienced and mature.
Andragogy is based on five assumptions. These major assumptions of the concept may help the writer differentiate andragogy from pedagogy. The first assumption focuses on the relevance of learning. Adult learners need to know “why” they’re learning something. It needs to be meaningful and directly related to their lives and the problems they experience on a daily basis. Children learn for learning’s sake. They don’t often ask, “Why is this important? ” They might assume it’s important because the teacher is asking them to learn it.
Adult learners remain more critical of what they are asked to learn. The second assumption focuses on the role of the learner’s experience. Adult learners bring many years of life and work experience to the classroom. They’re not blank slates. They want to use the information they have learned from their experiences in the classroom. With adult learners, teachers don’t often have to start at the very beginning of a course or program. Rather, teachers can begin with what their adult learners already know. Children, on the other hand, have limited life experience.
Teachers have to be more thorough and cannot assume what a child might and might not know. Although teachers use children’s experiences in the classroom, their experiences remain more limited, and teachers have to create experiences for the children. Unlike children whose life experiences are more limited by virtue of their age, adults bring to the classroom a rich array of life experiences. Many adult learners are seasoned. They have done and seen it all, or so they think. Teachers must recognize and use their adult learners’ experiences to facilitate the learning process.
They bring the learning content to the classroom, but it’s the adult learners who must not only learn the content, but also learn how to apply it to their jobs and personal lives. One of the general rules of adult learning is that “it’s always better to get a message out of someone rather than put one in them. ” If the adult learning class is in how to handle customer complaints or how to process a conflict, the teacher should ask the adult learners how this learning content could be applied immediately to their jobs on the front line. This way, adult learners learn from each other.
Additionally, they learn multiple ways to apply the training content. The third assumption focuses on the motivation of learners. Adults tend to be self or internally motivated. Many children learn because they know that learning or getting all good grades on a report card will be externally rewarded by others in the form of praise or financial rewards from parents. Adults are internally motivated to learn because they get a sense of personal satisfaction and accomplishment. They’re less motivated by what others will think of them and more motivated by how they’ll personally feel about themselves once they learn.
Adults understand fully that learning is one thing that no one can ever take from them. Once you learn something, it can be yours for a lifetime. Adults are motivated to learn because they know that learning will enrich their lives, making their lives more meaningful. Adult learners are usually internally motivated to learn, whereas many children remain externally motivated to learn. Here’s the difference. Adult learners tend to be motivated by internal drives such as increased job satisfaction, self-esteem, their sense of accomplishment, and quality-of-life issues.
Again, they are often motivated to learn by life-changing events such as job promotions or possibly losing a job. Their drive to improve their own condition in life comes from within. They reward themselves. Children are usually motivated by external drives such as a better-paying job, prestige and status, and pleasing others. Their drive to improve their own condition comes from outside. It’s not what’s necessarily good for them, but it’s perceived to be good, and therefore others reward them. They do it for others rather than for themselves.
One example might be the less-mature college student’s motivation for attending college. Some less-mature students attend college not because they necessarily want to, but because it’s what they perceive others wanting them to do. In order to obtain the rewards of college (good job, status) and to avoid the punishers of not attending (being perceived as a deadbeat), they go through the college experience lacking interest and direction. They’re there to please others and not because of their intellectual curiosity or to better themselves. The adult learner returns to the college classroom for some of the same reasons
that a traditional-age student will attend college (good job, status), but also for different reasons. At this point, the writer would like to give few suggestions for how an adult learner might use this principle of adult learning: 1. Take advantage of the internal motivation. Adult education teachers should challenge their adult learners and keep them focused and on task. Encourage them to keep moving forward, because the momentum doesn’t always last. Adult learners encounter numerous roadblocks. Many times they are discouraged from returning to school because it remains disruptive to their already-complicated lives.
For example, many adult learners have to find alternative arrangements for family obligations or they have to negotiate with their employers for getting off work early to attend class. 2. Set realistic expectations. Adult educators must develop reasonable expectations for adult learners given the amount of training time coupled with their abilities and work experiences. Trainees must feel as though they can successfully learn. Whether they are learning information or skills, trainees must feel as though they can be successful in the training classroom. Provide constant support, praise, encouragement, and constructive feedback.