In 1968, Malcolm Shephard Knowles put forward a theory that distinguished adult learning (andragogy) from childhood learning (pedagogy). He expounded his ideas using five main assumptions. Out of these five points, he extrapolated four principles to make adult learning education more effective.
Malcolm Shepherd Knowles (1913 – 1997) was an American educator well known for the use of the term Andragogy as synonymous to adult education. According to Malcolm Knowles, andragogy is the art and science of adult learning, thus andragogy refers to any form of adult learning. (Kearsley, 2010).
The term andragogy can be supposedly equivalent to the term pedagogy. Andragogy in Greek means man-leading in comparison to pedagogy, which in Greek means child-leading. However, it should be noted that the term pedagogy has been used since the Ancient Greek times, while Alexander Kapp, a German educator, first used the term andragogy in 1833.
Knowles’ 5 Assumptions Of Adult Learners
In 1980, Knowles made 4 assumptions about the characteristics of adult learners (andragogy) that are different from the assumptions about child learners (pedagogy). In 1984, Knowles added the 5th assumption.
As a person matures his/her self concept moves from one of being a dependent personality toward one of being a self-directed human being.
- Adult Learner Experience
As a person matures he/she accumulates a growing reservoir of experience that becomes an increasing resource for learning.
- Readiness to Learn
As a person matures his/her readiness to learn becomes oriented increasingly to the developmental tasks of his/her social roles.
- Orientation to Learning
As a person matures his/her time perspective changes from one of postponed application of knowledge to immediacy of application. As a result his/her orientation toward learning shifts from one of subject- centeredness to one of problem centeredness.
- Motivation to Learn
As a person matures the motivation to learn is internal (Knowles 1984:12).
Knowles’ 4 principles of andragogy
In 1984, Knowles suggested 4 principles that are applied to adult learning:
- Adults need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction.
- Experience (including mistakes) provides the basis for the learning activities.
- Adults are most interested in learning subjects that have immediate relevance and impact to their job or personal life.
- Adult learning is problem-centered rather than content-oriented. (Kearsley, 2010)