Last month we start an article about the meaning of andragogy. Let’s continue with the second part.
The American educator Malcolm Shepherd Knowles published his first article in 1968 defining the concept of andragogy–the art and science of helping adults to learn–and its defining attributes. Knowles theorized that adult learners are self-directed and autonomous. Second, he defined the role of the teacher as facilitator, not presenter.
Knowles explained that all adult learners share five characteristics: self-concept, experience, readiness to learn, orientation to learning, and motivation to learn. Adults are self-directed human beings with experiences that shape their resources for learning. Their self-concept moves from being dependent to being self-directed. An adult’s social roles also influence his or her readiness and orientation toward learning. Finally, adults have an intrinsic motivation to learn because they are mature individuals.
Knowles’ theory of andragogy makes four assumptions about adult learners. First, adults need to know why they need to learn something. Second, adults need to learn through experience. Third, adults approach learning as problem-solving. Fourth, adults learn best when they feel the topic is of immediate value to them.
Teachers of adult learners function as facilitators of an adult’s learning. They should offer support early on in a course, and then gradually withdraw that support until a learner becomes self-reliant. A good facilitator will realize that adults need to be involved in the planning of their instruction, and that any course should be problem-oriented instead of content-oriented. Teachers should push adult learners past their comfort zone to gain a deeper understanding of the material.