How is it different from K-12? Why is it important to us? Discuss andragogy and lifelong learning.
Adult education, how is it different? Before discussing the practical differences, let us first address the two main categories of education: pedagogy and andragogy. Simply put, in Merriam Webster’s online dictionary, pedagogy is the science of the art or profession of teaching. Within the profession, however, pedagogy more often refers to the K-to-12 type of approach; the Socratic approach, if you will, where teachers teach and students listen. Information is passed on from instructor to student – more of a rote learning approach, where the student depends on the instructor for all learning. The teacher or instructor takes full responsibility for what is being taught.
Andragogy, however, assumes that the student is self-directed. The student is responsible for his own learning. Self-assessment is characteristic of this approach. With Andragogy, the student brings their own experience into the learning process. Each adult learner is a source of knowledge and contributes to the overall learning experience. With this approach there is more of a predisposition to learning incorporated than in the pedagogical model. This self-motivation comes from the need to know in order to perform more effectively or to achieve one’s goals.
Hence, adult education focuses more on learning what we need to know to achieve our different life goals. The other educational approach is more of a process that is required to obtain certain basic credentials. It is often much less student-focused and more focused on specific achievements centered around a set curriculum. Adult education compared to K-12 is more student centered in expectation and more participation based on life experience.
The adult education approach becomes important for us as the goals are mainly different. Goals are centered around achieving a specific task outcome or learning new behaviors. The adult becomes less motivated by grade point average and more motivated by the achievement of specific goals. Most often these goals are more pragmatic and focus on specific outcomes that the student wants to achieve.
In this 21st century world of complexity, all of our senses are continually assaulted by multiple types of information. To survive and perhaps even thrive, learning becomes a lifelong process. Most of us learn throughout our lives whether or not we recognize that specific term. In essence, adult education is different primarily from our K-12 experience, and perhaps starting college, in both our motivation and our need. Adult education becomes a choice, not a responsibility.
Copyright November 4, 2009 Boyd K. Smith, Ph.D. All rights reserved