Andragogy has gained a lot of relevance in the last two centuries. Traditionally, education was perceived as a general process of imparting knowledge to student irrespective of their ages. Later, researcher came to realize that adult education had some differences from that of children. An adult who is undertaking education would be motivated by different factors from those that would a child. An adult can be self-motivated, unlike a child who would have the feeling that they are being forced to learn.
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A child may not understand the consequences of education. It would go to school because it has been told to do so. As Neary (2002) says, an adult appreciates practicality in education. They want to be taught what can be applied in a practical context. On the other hand, most children fear practical subjects. They want theories that they can easily memorize. This has lead researchers in this field to believe that there is a difference between adult education and that of children.
Although many scholars have come to appreciate this difference, there are those who still believe that there are some similarities between adult education and that of children. There are those children who are self-motivated, just like the adults. Some children also like practical learning that can be applied in the real life context. On the other hand, some adults go to school in order achieve some set goals and as a result, they would want things that are easy to memorize and pass easily.
Therefore, there has been a belief that the concepts of Andragogy, though they are dominantly applicable to adults are also applicable to children. It is important for a teacher to understand andragogy in order to be in a position to know how to handle students. A learner should also be in a position to understand the concepts of andragogy in order to appreciate the importance of the learning process.
This study seeks to analyze the concepts of andragogy, how it is applicable in a learning set-up and its relevance to educators and the learners of all ages.
Traditional Learning Context
Traditional learning context has always been based on a set up where the teacher is an adult and the learner is a child. In such set ups, the teacher would have the supreme powers as the age difference makes him or her take both the role of a teacher and a parent.
Tannehill (2011) notes that this may not be the case in adult learning where in some cases, the teacher might be younger that the learner. As such, the teacher must be in a position to assume the role of a teacher and not a parent. The learning process should be more of a dialogue than an instructive kind of learning.
I remember being part of a class in a conference that was organized by the company. The topic chosen was good and very interesting, but the type of lecture was very boring. The lecturer took the approach of traditional education. We as adults, who had experience in life as we had been in the job market, expected a consultative forum where we would be allowed to share our experience and the lecturer would try to fit them into the existing theories and explain them to us to expand the knowledge we had gained through experience.
The purpose of the lecturer was to bring to perspective, the effects of environmental degradation to the changing weather patterns. Instead of the lecturer taking the practical approach, the lecturer took the traditional concept of learning where he completely dominated the process, bringing theories related to environmental degradation and the consequences of the same. Most of the participants, I included, got extremely bored with the process.
The recent researches have revealed that adult education has a completely different approach from that of children. The lifelong education where an adult takes education (at whichever level) to enhance his or her knowledge has a different approach from that where a child goes to school because the parent demands so or the circumstances that are prevailing forces one to be in school. Most of the traditional learning contexts do not consider adults.
Knowles argued that classroom climate should be a reflection of conditions that are amenable to the qualities of an adult. As stated in the section above, the lecture got boring because the concerned teacher failed to appreciate the fact that the involved learners were adults who had a lot of experience in matters of the environment. Instead of taking a consultative approach, the lecturer based the learning process on existing theories, making the process so plain for the participants.
Adult education demands that when learning, the educator should try as much as possible to ensure that the process is based on the experience of the participants. It is important to make the process a solution to the daily problems they face. This would demand that the process be explorative and consultative.
As Vodde (2009) notes, the educator should ensure that learning is student focused, trying to make practical some of the commonly held beliefs and theories. The lesson should not be meant to be memorized and it should not be exam centric. In order to bring more understanding to the concepts of andragogy, the following six assumptions of Knowles are very important.
One of the most defining characteristic of adult learners is that they have the ability to direct themselves without the guidance of the teacher. They know what they want from school.
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Therefore, would not wait for the teacher to come and give them the direction. They would arrange their work accordingly and conduct further reading as might be necessary without any instructions. In the above, case, the teacher forgot to appreciate this fact and dealt with his students as people who need total direction and guidance in every step of leaning. Instead of bringing satisfaction, it led to student dissatisfaction.
Experience is another very important factor in adult learning. An adult learner always has the experience gained from various workplaces or life in general.
As such, when learning, it is very critical that this experience is taken into consideration. Knowles says that unlike children who have very little knowledge in life, adults have amassed a lot of experience, which an educator should always make an effort to turn into classroom knowledge (Knowles, Elwood, & Swanson, 2005).
It is important for the teacher to use the knowledge of the learner gained from the experience and make it relevant to the classroom process. This would make them realize that the problems they had faced in various fields are real in a classroom set up and that they can easily be solved in the classroom.
As Conaway (2011) says, an adult student would be ready to learn the moment they realize that the knowledge to be gained is relevant to their social set up. In the above lecture case, the concerned teacher failed to realize that the students were social people who should be allowed to share their experience in the learning process.
The lecture was very relevant to the learners. If it were delivered in a consultative manner, it would have had immediate application to the learners. The learners would find it easy to relate the lecture to real life experience.
It is important that a learner, especially adult learners, understand information or knowledge from a personal perspective. This would make him or her be in a position to generate internal motivation that would be the drive in the entire learning process.
Reason for Learning
Learning is a life-long process that never ceases. It is always important for learners to understand the reasons for learning. It should be clear to the learner the objectives that should be achieved in the process of learning. The information or knowledge should be based on the learners needs. This is because the learner wants solutions from such sessions.
Learning is one of the most important processes in life. Learning does not know age. An adult learner has some characteristics that a child learner may be lacking. An adult has experience in life, which a child does not. Some of them have gone through challenges and therefore go to school to find solution for them. It is therefore very important that an educator avoids the traditional context of learning which is instructive, and embraces the consultative learning process where the learner is allowed to share the in experience and knowledge.
Conaway, W. (2011). Andragogy: Does One Size Fit All? A Study to Determine the Applicability of Andragogical Principles to Adult Learners of All Ages. New York: Cengage.
Knowles, M. S., Elwood, H., & Swanson, R. A. (2005). The Adult Learner. New York: Routledge.
Neary, M. (2002).Curriculum Studies in Post-compulsory and Adult Education: A Study Guide for Teachers and Students. London: Nelson Thornes.
Tannehill, D. B. (2011). Andragogy: How Do Post-Secondary Institutions Educate and Service Adult Learners. New York: Wiley.
Vodde, R. F. (2009). Andragogical Instruction for Effective Police Training. New York: Cambria Press.