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Andragogy are teaching strategies developed for adult learners. Knowles, Holton, and Swanson (2005) described andragogy as the "art and science to teaching adults to learn". It is often interpreted as the process of engaging adult learners with the structure of learning experience. The term ‘andragogy’ has been used in different times and countries with various connotations.[citation needed] Nowadays there exist mainly three understandings:

  1. In many countries there is a growing conception of ‘andragogy’ as the scholarly approach to the learning of adults. In this connotation andragogy is the science of understanding (= theory) and supporting (= practice) lifelong and lifewide education of adults.[citation needed]
  2. Especially in the USA, ‘andragogy’ in the tradition of Malcolm Knowles, labels a specific theoretical and practical approach, based on a humanistic conception of self-directed and autonomous learners and teachers as facilitators of learning.
  3. Widely, an unclear use of andragogy can be found, with its meaning changing (even in the same publication) from ‘adult education practice’ or ‘desirable values’ or ‘specific teaching methods,’ to ‘reflections’ or ‘academic discipline’ and/or ‘opposite to childish pedagogy’, claiming to be ‘something better’ than just ‘Adult Education’.[citation needed]
The oldest document using the term "Andragogik": Kapp, Alexander (1833): Platon's Erziehungslehre, als Pädagogik für die Einzelnen und als Staatspädagogik. Leipzig.

Originally used by Alexander Kapp (a German educator) in 1833, andragogy was developed into a theory of adult education by Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy and was popularized in the US by American educator Malcolm Knowles.

Knowles asserted that andragogy (Greek: "man-leading") should be distinguished from the more commonly used pedagogy (Greek: "child-leading").

Knowles' theory can be stated with six assumptions related to motivation of adult learning:[1][2]

  1. Adults need to know the reason for learning something (Need to Know)
  2. Experience (including error) provides the basis for learning activities (Foundation).
  3. Adults need to be responsible for their decisions on education; involvement in the planning and evaluation of their instruction (Self-concept).
  4. Adults are most interested in learning subjects having immediate relevance to their work and/or personal lives (Readiness).
  5. Adult learning is problem-centered rather than content-oriented (Orientation).
  6. Adults respond better to internal versus external motivators (Motivation).

The term has been used by some to allow discussion of contrast between self-directed and 'taught' education.[3]

Knowles collected ideas about a theory of adult education from the end of WWII until he was introduced to the term "andragogy." In 1966, Knowles met Dusan Savicevic in Boston. Savicevic shared the term andragogy with Knowles, and explained how it was used in the European context. In 1967, Knowles made use of the term "androgogy" to explain his theory of adult education. Then, after consulting Merriam-Webster, he corrected the spelling of the term to "andragogy" and continued to make use of the term to explain his collection of ideas about adult learning. (Sopher 2003)

In the fire service in North America if not the world, this is the corner stone of adult learning and continuing education. Firefighters have limited time to train, so the training needs to be on point to be effective. It is as much the learners responsibility to prepare and learn information before the training session as it is for the instructor to teach.

Etymology and Generalization[edit]

The word derives from the Greek ἀνήρ (άndras)[4] or “man” [rather than ενήλικ[4] which means “adult”] and άγω (ago)[4] to "lead"; so it literally means, "to lead the man.”

In andragogical instruction, the learner develops in depth knowledge of self and others through guided interaction that evokes the affective component of learning to motivate fulfillment of maximum potential. Learning strategies focus on mature learning with a mentor that encourages, enables the mature learner by providing access to appropriate resources, and refrains from obtrusive interference. This is consistent with the Humanism of Maslow, 1954; Rogers 1951, 1993; Glasser, 1984, 1996; and Motschnig-Pitrik, 2005. This learning is a needs based, adaptive, holistic learning where personal interpretation, evaluation, decision making, reasoning, and strategy are developed to give expertise. The learning is a self-directed acquisition, development, and integration of knowledge. Interpersonal/Intrapersonal intelligences are refined so that the learner becomes self-actualized with intrinsic motivation toward accomplishment. The learner adapts prior knowledge to new experience with others and the environment to develop knowledge of synergy. The level of learning is high order learning where strategy, expertise, procedural knowledge, reasoning, and analytical abilities are developed.[5]


Knowles himself changed his position on whether andragogy really applied only to adults and came to believe that "pedagogy-andragogy represents a continuum ranging from teacher-directed to student-directed learning and that both approaches are appropriate with children and adults, depending on the situation."[6][7]

The European development: towards Professionalisation[edit]

In most countries of Europe the Knowles-discussion played no role or at best a marginal one. ‘Andragogy’ was, from 1970 on, connected with the in existence coming academic and professional institutions, publications, programs, triggered by a similar growth of adult education in practice and theory as in the USA. ‘Andragogy’ functioned here as a header for (places of) systematic reflections, parallel to other academic headers like ‘biology’, ‘medicine’, ‘physics’. Examples of this use of andragogy are the Yugoslavian (scholarly) journal for adult education, named ‘Andragogija’ in 1969; and the ‘Yugoslavian Society for Andragogy’; at Palacky University in Olomouc (Czech republic) in 1990 the “Katedra sociologie a andragogiky” was established. Also Prague University has a ‘Katedra Andragogiky’; in 1993, Slovenia’s ‘Andragoski Center Republike Slovenije’ was founded with the journal ‘Andragoska Spoznanja’; in 1995, Bamberg University (Germany) named a ‘Lehrstuhl Andragogik’; the Internet address of the Estonian adult education society is ‘’.

On this formal level ‘above practice’ and specific approaches, the term andragogy could be used relating to all types of theories, for reflection, analysis, training, in person-oriented programs as well as human resource development.

Andragogy: Academic discipline[edit]

The field of adult education worldwide went in the last decades through a process of growth and differentiation, in which a scholarly, scientific approach emerged. An academic discipline with university programs, professors, students, focusing on the education of adults, exists today in many countries. And a new type of ‘adult educators’ was born, which was not qualified by missions and visions, but by academic studies: reflection, critique, analysis, historical knowledge qualifies this new type of academic professionals. Dusan Savicevic, who provided Knowles with the term andragogy, explicitly claim ‘andragogy as a discipline, the subject of which is the study of education and learning of adults in all its forms of expression’ (Savicevic, 1999, p. 97,[8] similarly Henschke, 2003,[9] Reischmann, 2003[10]).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Instructional Design: Theories – Andragogy (M. Knowles)". Encyclopedia of Psychology. Retrieved 2011-05-16. 
  2. ^ "andragogy @ the informal education homepage". the encyclopaedia of informal education. Retrieved 2011-05-17. 
  3. ^ Hansman (2008) Adult Learning in Communities of Practice: Situating Theory in Practice
  4. ^ a b c "Google Translate". 
  5. ^ Lombardi, S.M. (2011). Internet Activities for a Preschool Technology Education Program Guided by Caregivers. Doctoral dissertation, North Carolina State University. p. 140. 
  6. ^ Merriam, et al (2007). Learning in Adulthood: A Comprehensive Guide, p. 87
  7. ^ (Merriam, Caffarella & Baumgartner 2007, p. 87)
  8. ^ Savicevic, Dusan (1999): Understanding Andragogy in Europe and America: Comparing and Contrasting. In: Reischmann, Jost/ Bron, Michal/ Jelenc, Zoran (eds): Comparative Adult Education 1998: the Contribution of ISCAE to an Emerging Field of Study. Ljubljana, Slovenia: Slovenian Institute for Adult Education, p. 97-119.
  9. ^ Henschke, John (2003): Andragogy Website
  10. ^ Reischmann, Jost (2003): Why Andragogy? Bamberg University, Germany

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]