Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Want to become a better teacher? Shift your focus from pedagogy to andragogy

A few months back I explained why I will no longer work to differentiate instruction because it really isn’t the teacher’s instruction that should be at the heart of the matter but rather the child’s learning.  I was recently introduced to a new term, “Andragogy” from the Mystified Mom blog which takes this concept even further.  She explains that someone shared with her that child led learning is basically looking at how adults learn and then applying that to children. This led to some research about how adults learn which resulted in the discovery of the term andragogy.


Mystified Mom (MM) explains that Andragogy is basically learning theory as it applies to adults. It focuses on the learner whereas pedagogy is learning theory that is focused on the teacher.  Some people say it applies to adult learning only and some people are trying to push for it to be used in all contexts to refer to any learning that focuses on the learner. MM explains that what’s important here is the shift in thinking about learning as that which focuses on the learner and what he or she brings to the table rather than focusing on what the teacher brings to the table.


Mystified Mom shares that Malcolm Knowles is the one that began using the term in an academic sense and shares his six basic principles of adult learning or andragogy which are:

  • Need to Know: Adults need to know why they are learning something. There needs to be an underlying purpose.
  • Self-concept: Adults need to be responsible for their own learning and should be treated as if they are capable of self-direction.
  • Learner's experience: Adults have a variety of experiences that they can use as a source for learning. They have a lot of background knowledge, which may include biases.
  • Readiness to learn: Adults are usually ready to learn when they experience a need for it in real life.
  • Orientation to Learning: An adults orientation towards learning is typically focused on tasks. It is focused on life or problem solving.
  • Motivation: Adults are motivated to learn by internal forces rather than external forces.
Mystified Mom then considers the different implications of moving from a focus on pedagogy to andragogy in all educational settings by takings Knowles principals and explaining how they can apply to helping kids learn.  For instance...
  • Need to Know: Kids need to know why they are learning something. The tendency is for parents/teachers to teach kids stuff that have no immediate purpose. Kids don't learn things or don't do well in school because they fail understand WHY the information is relevant beyond school. I think a lot of people sell kids short. Kids are perfectly capable of understanding WHY they need to know some things. For example, my oldest daughter asked me to help her learn to write better. She understands that, in order to communicate and be understood online or in person, she needs to be able to write and speak in a coherent fashion. If you can't explain why a kid needs to know something in terms that a kid can understand, then perhaps the kid is right when he/she resists learning.
I think MM is onto something and I encourage you to check out her whole piece as well as the other five principals on her original post here.  

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Mystified Mom
I am passionate about learning. I have four beautiful daughters (10, 7, 4, & 2) and I am married to my best friend. We live a lifestyle of learning, which means that learning is a part of everything that we do. As somebody that is always learning and always seeking new ideas and perspectives, I am not tied to any one method of learning. My goal is to examine my life and the world around me so that I may grow as a mother, wife, and human being. I am very interested in child advocacy, especially as it relates to the rights of children.
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