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Andragogy and Malcolm Knowles

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Tonya Knowlton

on 8 July 2013

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Transcript of Andragogy and Malcolm Knowles

Malcolm Knowles
Andragogy had been used in Europe since the 1800s to describe adult learning, but Malcolm Knowles brought the idea to the United States in 1968 with detailed assumptions for its success through his article on adult learning. Knowles introduced the new term and its definition and assumptions to the adult learning world, and it has been discussed, referenced and studied every since.
Andragogical Assumptions
1. Self-directed
2. Learner's Experiences
3. Readiness to Learn
4. Orientation to Learning
5. Motivation to Learn
6. Need to Know
Pedagogy vs. Andragogy
Adult Student
Adult Student
Adult Student
Adult Student
Adults are involved when decisions affect themselves. They depend less on others and more on self-direction in learning.

Adults take over their learning.

"The learner is the gatekeeper to their brain and no amount of lecturing, instructing, prescribed reading or showing of videos will make any difference if the learner is not convinced that they want their brains changed" (Shepherd, p.13, 2007).

"We become adult psychologically when we come to perceive ourselves as being essentially responsible for our own lives" (Knowles, p. 96, 1980).

The Learner's Experiences
Readiness to Learn
"An adult's desire to learn is often related to his or her sense of responsibility...."(Duxbury & Press, p. 14, 2007).

Adults are ready to learn when they need new knowledge in their life.
Orientation to Learning
Adult learning situations should focus on life situations and experiences.

"(Adults) want to solve problems and apply new knowledge immediately. Problem centered learning and practical assignments work well with this student group" (Nevins, p. 1, n.d.).

"That is, children master content to pass a course or be promoted to the next grade; adults seek the skills or knowledge they need to apply to real-life problems they face"(Lee, para. 10, 1998).
Motivation to Learn
Adults are motivated by internal pressures.

Adults are driven by an inner desire to gain specific knowledge.

"Recent motivation research suggests that motivation to learn is not a problem; the need to continue growing is a basic human need. The problem is in various blocks to learning, one of the most common of which is fear of failure" (Knowles, p. 36, 1979).
The Need to Know
Adults are driven and motivated by a personal necessity for acquired knowledge.

"Adults are task-oriented in their learning. We learn those things best which we learn in the context of what we want to do" (Knowles, p. 14, 1983).

"learning is a means to an end: Your message stands the best chance of being absorbed if it is immediately relevant to your audience" (Duxbury & Press, p. 14, 2007).

Adults will seek knowledge that they need for a situation or experience.
Strengths of Andragogy
Learning principles are direct and simple.

All adult learning situations are relevant.

Assumptions fit adult characteristics.

Observations support validity.

Principles are practical and actionable.

Recognized as valid theory for adult education.

Limitations to Andragogy
"...relatively little empirical work has been done to test the valididty of its assumptions or its usefulness in predicting adult learning behavior" (Merriam, Caffarella & Baumgartner, p. 90, 2007)

The impact of demographics is not considered.

The assumptions could relate to children as well.

There is no valid measurement tool.
Knowles' Summary
Malcolm Knowles is remembered as the "Father of Adult Education".

He took the European idea of Andragogy and built into it 6 assumptions for successful adult learning.

His written work and presentations created a paradigm shift in the focus of adult education.

He left a challenge to his peers in the study of adult learning. "Recruit as many pioneers as you can, so that the movement of adult education continues to flourish. Because the glory days are ahead" (Henschke, para. 53, 1997)

"(Knowles) was the first to chart the rise of the adult education movement in the United States; the first to develop a statement of informal adult education practice; and the first to attempt a comprehensive theory of adult education" (Smith, p. 9, 2002).
Andragogy Summary
Adult learning is different than pedagogy (learning of a child).

Adults have different characteristics than provide different components for learning.

"... the learner is defined as a self-directing organism and is put in the role of diagnosing his/her own needs for learning, translating these needs into learning objectives, identifying and using appropriate resources for accomplishing these objectives, and evaluating the extend to which they have been accomplished, with assistance from a facilitator as needed. This model results in more effective learning by most adults in most learning situations-especially those involving complex competence-development such as professional performance" (Knowles, p. 39, 1979).
(Nagler, 2010)
“The Father of Adult Education” (Henschke, p. 1, 1997)


Malcolm Knowles
Malcolm was born and raised in Montana.

He had a happy childhood with loving parents.

After high school, Malcolm went to Harvard on an academic scholarship, where he studied literature, history, political science, ethics and international law.

He met his wife Hulda while attending Harvard. They married in 1934 and had two children during their marriage.

He earned a MA and a PhD and he wrote more than 200 articles and 19 books during his lifetime.

A Brief Personal History

He became involved in varies voluntary service and was also drafted into the Navy.

He served as the director of adult education at the Boston YMCA where he also organized a school for adults.

He earned his MA in 1949 with a thesis over informal adult education. The work later became his first published book.

He and his wife authored books and gave seminars on leadership and adult education

His Professional Work

(1959)He served as an associate professor of adult education at Boston University.

(1974) He took a position as professor at North Carolina State University.

(1979) Malcolm Knowles officially retired, but he stayed very active in the world of research, seminars and workshops dealing with adult education.

Professional Life Continued

Malcolm Knowles popularized the use of andragogy as a description of adult education and the opposite of pedagogy.

His books, articles and seminars brought attention to the differences in learning by adults in comparison to children.

“He permeated the field of adult education” (Henschke, para. 36, 1997).

"He pioneered andragogy in this country in 1967 and managed to help it flourish in the ensuing three decades. The concept is now alive and well” (Henschke, para. 12, 1997).

His Legacy

He left behind the theory of andragogy and self-directed learning for successful adult education.

“Knowles did a great service to the field-and to adult learners, says Sharan Merriam, a professor of adult education at the University of Georgia in Athens” (Lee, para. 24, 1998).

Tonya Knowlton
EDUD 6301
Summer 2013
Thank you!
So who is Malcolm Knowles?
"The experiences of a lifetime of experience allow the adult learner to bring more to the table and ought to be celebrated and become part of the process" (Nevins, p.1, n.d.)

An adult has a large knowledge bank of experiences that provide stems and connectors for learning (Smith, 2002).

(Lee, para. 9, 1998)
(Smith, p. 1, 2002)
(Smith, 2002)
(Knowles, Holton & Swanson, 2011)
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