Adult Learning in Andragogy Essay

Adult Learning in Andragogy

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            One of the many overlooked aspects of learning and education in the past is the aspect of adult learning. In depth research and analysis of adult learning have only been instigated in recent times when awareness and sensitivity to adult learning has been realized, widening the scope of education which is primarily focused on educating the child. Like various learning theories revealed through research studies in child development and psychology, some theorists have also published the results of their studies concerning adults as part of the learning situation. One of these theories is the concept of Andragogy, as supported by Malcolm Knowles’ assumptions about adult learning in one of his transcripts. With this in mind, the remainder of this text will explore adult learning better, considering the ideas and points of view of Andragogy as it is related to adult learning. In addition, a critical analysis of Knowles’ arguments shall be conducted in order to provide a position

            Adult learning, like other levels of education, is a complex process that is dependent on the features or characteristics adults as learners, as well as the distinct and specific learning goals that adults are required to accomplish. For instance, one particular characteristics attributed to adult learners is their inclination for self-direction. This particular characteristic of adult learners was closely attributed to the concept of lifelong learning. Melding these two concepts together, the foundations of adult learning at present time were traced to the capacity of adults to propel or direct their learning and to do so with the purpose of going through continuing education. Because of these two concepts related to adult learning, the educative process that is determined to suit the characteristics of adult learners is fashioned after non-formal education. (Brockett & Hiemstra, 1991)

            The same concepts – that is of self-direction and life-long learning – constitute the basics of Knowles’ theory of adult learning which is Andragogy. Knowles’ primary arguments were founded on his belief that adults and children are two distinct learning groups; therefore, learning situations and conditions of the learning process and development are different between these two populations. Since Knowles’ introduced this particular learning theory pertaining to adult learners in 1970, a series of research studies and inquiries were conducted by other groups and individuals in order to either support or dispute Knowles’ assumptions. (Knowles, Holton, & Swanson, 2005) Narrowing down the argument of Knowles into two concrete ideas for the purpose of arguing whether these assumptions are mostly right or wrong, the concepts of natural curiosity as it is related to an adult’s inclination to self-direction and the presence or lack of knowledge and skills in adults predict his dependency on the teacher as his personal arguments for Andragogy as a technology for adult schooling shall be central to the succeeding discussions.

            Andragogy veers away from the traditional science of teaching for children, which is Pedagogy. As a technological tool for facilitating education, Andragogy views the adult learner as a mature being, leading him to become aware of his social roles and responsibilities that he needs to accomplish. In addition, through time, the adult is able to gain adequate experience, whether within formal learning situations or the real world that provides him with extensive knowledge and wisdom. Another founding detail in Andragogy is how adult learners are capable of directly applying thing or concepts learned through the immediate and problem-centered appliance of knowledge and skills obtained through the learning process. (Edwards, Hanson, Ragatt, Open University, 1996) Although these ideas may be primary to the theory of Andragogy, Knowles’ contributions to retransform it through his presentation of arguments aforementioned are mostly wrong.

            For instance, the basis of adult learning in Analogy, which is self-direction, is also affected by an adult’s behavior even from childhood according to Knowles. Moreover, Knowles argued that if the child does not exhibit natural curiosity to learn, as an adult he will not also be able to exhibit a self-directing character. In this argument, Knowles failed to consider how learning may be fashioned and implemented for the modifying the insights and behaviors of learners. As the child grows to adolescence and adulthood, he experiences various events and situations with other people that change his insights and behaviors. If a child does not exhibit natural curiosity at a young age as a rationalization of his inability to display self-directed behavior as an adult, it may be argued that as a child grows and develops, his behavior also changes through time and experience. (Jersild, 2007) This means that the desirable behavior of self-direction which is attributed to adulthood and maturity may be developed within learning situations, social situations, and environments that foster autonomy, leadership, and self-reliance.

            The second argument of Knowles’ which is regarded as erroneous is the view that an adult’s lack of knowledge and skills makes him dependent on the teacher. Although lack of knowledge might be the reason why learners establish dependency on teachers, this may not always be the case. In addition, this particular assumption by Knowles is contradictory to Andragogy which defines the adult as a self-directing learner. Self-direction is character or a behavior exhibited by a person who is able to controls or commands his decisions and his way of life based on his needs, insights, worldviews, and such. Self-direction is in no way related to learning, as it is observable in terms of actions and behavior. Therefore, self-direction will not be influenced by lack of knowledge or skills. (Knowles, Holton, & Swanson, 2005) This particular argument also debunks Knowles’ assumptions about teacher dependence of adults lacking knowledge and skills. If an adult does exhibit lack of knowledge and skills, it does not mean that he will directly become dependent on the teacher. As an adult is self-directed, there are various avenues available for him to obtain knowledge and skills aside from the teacher. This means that he might not exhibit dependence on the teacher.

            Overall, these two selected assumptions by Knowles are proven wrong by presenting some features or characteristics inhibited by adults and evidences from the conditions of learning, growth, development, and the technological use of Andragogy to facilitate education. Although some of Knowles’ assumptions, which were the primary bases for Andragogy are mostly right; the two selected arguments as presented above are mostly refutable and questionable


Brockett, R. G. & Hiemstra, R. (1991). Self-Direction in Adult Learning. Oxford, UK: Routledge.

Edwards, R., Hanson, A., Ragatt, P., & Open University. (1996). Boundaries of Adult Learning. Oxford, UK: Routledge.

Jersild, A. T. (2007). Child Development and the Curriculum. Jersild Press.

Knowles, M.S., Holton, E. F., & Swanson, R. A. (2005). The Adult Learner, 6th Ed.       Amsterdam; Boston: Elsevier.

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