1.1 What are your general thoughts on how humans learn? I feel as when you come out the whom the process of learning begins.

1.2 Based on personal experience, what key factors are related to adult learning?

1.3 Why is andragogy in practice (Figure 1.1) presented as a holistic learning model?

1.4 If you understood more about how adults learn, how would you use this information in your
day-to-day life?

1.5 If you understood more about how adults learn, how would you use this information in your work as an educator/teacher/trainer?


By Stephen Lieb
Senior Technical Writer and Planner, Arizona Department of Health Services

and part-time Instructor, South Mountain Community College
from VISION, Fall 1991

Adults As Learners

Part of being an effective instructor involves understanding how adults learn best. Compared
to children and teens, adults have special needs and requirements as learners. Despite the
apparent truth, adult learning is a relatively new area of study. The field of adult learning was
pioneered by Malcom Knowles. He identified the following characteristics of adult learners:

Adults are autonomous and self-directed. They need to be free to direct themselves.
Their teachers must actively involve adult participants in the learning process and serve
as facilitators for them. Specifically, they must get participants’ perspectives about what
topics to cover and let them work on projects that reflect their interests. They should
allow the participants to assume responsibility for presentations and group leadership.
They have to be sure to act as facilitators, guiding participants to their own knowledge
rather than supplying them with facts. Finally, they must show participants how the class
will help them reach their goals (e.g., via a personal goals sheet).

Adults have accumulated a foundation of life experiences and knowledge that may
include work-related activities, family responsibilities, and previous education. They
need to connect learning to this knowledge/experience base. To help them do so, they
should draw out participants’ experience and knowledge which is relevant to the topic.
They must relate theories and concepts to the participants and recognize the value of
experience in learning.

Adults are goal-oriented. Upon enrolling in a course, they usually know what goal they
want to attain. They, therefore, appreciate an educational program that is organized and
has clearly defined elements. Instructors must show participants how this class will help
them attain their goals. This classification of goals and course objectives must be done
early in the course.

Adults are relevancy-oriented. They must see a reason for learning something. Learning
has to be applicable to their work or other responsibilities to be of value to them.
Therefore, instructors must identify objectives for adult participants before the course
begins. This means, also, that theories and concepts must be related to a setting familiar
to participants. This need can be fulfilled by letting participants choose projects that
reflect their own interests.

PRINCIPLES OF ADULT LEARNING http://honolulu.hawaii.edu/intranet/committees/FacDevCom/gu…

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Adults are practical, focusing on the aspects of a lesson most useful to them in their
work. They may not be interested in knowledge for its own sake. Instructors must tell
participants explicitly how the lesson will be useful to them on the job.

As do all learners, adults need to be sh

When andragogy and the concept that adults and children learn differently was first introduced in the United States by Malcolm Knowles in the early 1970s, the idea was groundbreaking and sparked a great deal of research and controversy. Since the earliest days, adult educators have debated the essence of andragogy. Spurred in large part by the need for a defining theory within the field of adult education (AE), andragogy has been extensively analyzed and critiqued. It has been alternately described as a set of guidelines (Merriam, 1993), a philosophy (Pratt, 1993), a set of assumptions (Brookfield, 1986), and a theory (Knowles, 1989b). The disparity of these positions is indicative of the complex nature of adult learning. Regardless of what it is called, “andragogy is an honest attempt to focus on the learner. In this sense, it does provide an alternative to the methodology-centered instructional design perspective” (Feur and Gerber, 1988). Merriam, in explaining the complexity and present condition of adult learning theory, offers the following:
Attempts at codifying differences between adults and children as a set of principles, a model or even a theory of adult learning have been, and continue to be, pursued by adult educators. However, just as there is no single theory that explains all of human learning, there is no single theory of adult learning. Instead, we have a number of frameworks, or models, each of which contributes something to our understanding of adults as learner. The best known of these efforts is andragogy.
(Merriam et al., 2007, p. 83)
Despite years of critique, debate, and challenge, the core principles of adult learning advanced by andragogy have endured (Davenport and Davenport, 1985; Hartree, 1984; Pratt, 1988). Few adult learning scholars would disagree with the observation that Knowles’ ideas sparked a revolution in AE and workplace learning (Feur and Gerber, 1988). Brookfield (1986), positing a similar view, asserts that andragogy is the “single most popular idea in the education and training of adults.” Adult educators, particularly beginning ones, find these core principles invaluable in the practical challenge of shaping the learning process for adults.
It is beyond the scope of this introductory book to address all the dimensions of the theoretical debate raised in academic circles. Our position is that andragogy presents core principles of adult learning that in turn enable those designing and conducting adult learning to build more effective learning processes for adults. It is a transactional model that speaks to the characteristics of the learning transaction, not to the esoteric goals and aims of that transaction. Thus, andragogy is applicable to any adult learning transaction, from community education to human resource development (HRD) in organizations.
Care must be taken to avoid confusing core principles of the adult learning transaction with the goals and purposes for which the learning event is being co

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