The Concept of Andragogy and its Impact on Debates about Adult Learning and Teaching

Andragogy refers to the form of teaching technique that is meant for the grown up students. Its emphasis is on enabling them to take part in this process that is critical for the acquisition of knowledge. This method involves both practical and theoretical bits of this practice that has been there for some time now. The learner is seen to be quite independent on how he gains this knowledge, and the teacher only participates in guiding him or her to do this effectively.

The individual who started this method of the teacher-student for the grown-ups was called Alexander Kapp. However, its theory was made by Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy. Andragogy was made popular by an educator from America known as Malcolm Knowles (Wilson, 2005). This is the man who came up with the following from its Greek meaning; that Andragogy referred to the guidance on a grown person as opposed to pedagogy, which in Greek terms meant “child leading”.

In the theory that he developed, Knowles came up with six assumptions on Andragogy. The first assumption was that grown-ups had to be told why they learnt something. Knowles also insisted that all learning was based on experience, including the mistakes made during the process. The grown people have to be involved in the way they acquire the knowledge. He argued that adults like gaining knowledge that they can make use of in their lives and that is the reason they should be involved in every step of their learning. Next, grown-ups prefer knowledge that enable them find solutions in their lives. In the final assumption, Knowles put it in his theory that internal motivators were better for adults as compared to external ones (Wilson, 2005).

The effect that Andragogy has had in the education of adults can only be described as phenomenal. Its theorizer describes it as a model whose main target is to mold the person into what they are actually taught, and not merely vessels that hold this knowledge. In the world today, it is not possible to distinguish Andragogy and adult education theory, and almost all the people who act as teachers of adult education know about Andragogy and its contribution towards the achievement of good learning environment by the adult. We can say that any further changes in the learning system would majorly be based on this theory (Wilson, 2005).

For a long time now, the suitable model for learning by adults had been identified as Andragogy. This model does not center on the teacher as a facilitator of the process rather it is the student who is left responsible for many other things apart from directing their studies. That is why pedagogy has not been proposed for learning by children. This is also because adults learn differently from children since, in many cases, they possess the drive that makes them want to find a solution to a problem. When a person grows up, he also becomes responsible and seeks to control his own life and destiny.

On the contrary, the model that is preferred for children learning could make them hate the learning process all together because of the role that the teacher plays in the process. This model is known as pedagogy, which requires that the student is overly submissive to his teacher and obeys all the instructions that he or she gives. The student is encouraged to learn what the teacher gives only (Hiemstra and Sisco, 1990). This relatively new model of teaching can be viewed as an alternative to pedagogy. However, this has not taken a short period to achieve. In Canada and America where it was first embraced, it took a total of thirty years to achieve this in the education of the adults. Andragogy has since then played an important part in the development of suitable methods that can be used in teaching adults (Hiemstra and Sisco,1990).

Andragogy cannot be described as a complete solution to the delivery of education to mature individuals. This model has received its own fair share of critism on some of the shortcomings it has in achieveing effective educating of the adult. In the early years when Knowles first sought to make it known to as many as possible, there were questions on whether adults learnt differently from children or not.

However, as time went by, there came up other forms of criticism that were majorly social in nature. One such example is by Griffin who was a teacher to adults. He raised the argument that a number of things were lacking in andrology that would make the learning model that enables the learner in question grow and transform. This is what he referred to as lacking senses in history, economics and culture. Since then, many other criticisms have been raised by other scholars, who possess different basis for their stand on the subject. Many of them came up with five issues that can be summarised as follows. Andragogy makes wrong assumption that education has neutral values and it is not politically inclined. The model encourages the mature learner to develop the traits of the middle class white people. Andragogy only seeks to promote itself as the preferred model of learning. It does not consider how the learner and the society relate. The model perpetuates the formation of the status quo in societies that have inequalities among its citizens. There is one thing on adult education that this model leaves out and which is not good for the development of the student. It is the political nature of the acquisition of knowledge. It also does not acknowledge the sociological aspect of education (Sandlin, 2005).

Studies have been carried out on how people of different age groups are able to learn. It has been established that mature people are better off in certain areas as compared to some other areas. For many years, those who conducted these studies were mainly psychologists both with and without enough backgrounds on education issues. The study was majorly based on the behaviour of students, and the main question asked most of the times was on the ability of the mature individuals to learn. After this question had been answered, then the other which followed was whether their mode of taking in knowledge had changed or not. As a result of this, there was emergence of many models of Andragogy, or what has been described as learning directed by the student(Merriam,2011).

Andragogy has grown since then from its foundation in Europe until the present day, whereby, it is the basis that stakeholders use in making adult education a profession in its own right. Many scholars today agree that Andragogy can be referred to as a science as theorised by Knowles. This interest has been brought about by the need by people in this discipline to categorise themselves and be distinguished from the other education professionals (Merriam, 2011).

It turns out that Andragogy is an important aspect of modern adult education. This model helped in scientifically differentiating between the learning behaviour of the adult learner and the other who is still a child. Andragogy has mainly centered on the student who is the center of attention and enables him or her to develop much more as compared to pedagogy. As the days go by, better methods of educating adults will be innovated which would improve it further. However, this will be based on andragogy.

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