Knowles (1968) popularized this European concept over thirty years ago. Andragogy, (andr –
‘man’), contrasted with pedagogy, means “the art and science of helping adults learn” (Knowles, 1980). Knowles labeled andragogy as an emerging technology which facilitates the development and implementation of learning activities for adults. This emerging technology is based on five
andragogical assumptions of the adult learner:
1. Self-Concept: As a person matures, his or she moves from dependency to self-directness.
2. Experience: Adults draw upon their experiences to aid their learning.
3. Readiness: The learning readiness of adults is closely related to the assumption of new
4. Orientation: As a person learns new knowledge, he or she wants to apply it immediately in
5. Motivation (Later added): As a person matures, he or she receives their motivation to learn
from internal factors.
These five assumptions dovetail with the thoughts and theories of others. Merriam and Caffarella
(1999) point to three keys to transformational learning: experience, critical reflection and development.
The aspect of experience (the second assumption to andragogy) seems like an important consideration in creating an effective learning opportunity for adults. The learning opportunity needs to be relevant and applicable to a person’s set of experiences. Argote, McEvily, and Reagans (2003) point to experience as an important factor in one’s ability to create, retain and transfer knowledge.
Critical reflection is the second key to transformational learning and part of andragogy’s selfdirected learning. Reflection/think time is yet another essential principle to creating an effective
learning experience for adults. Garvin (1993) shares the importance of fostering an environment that is conducive to learning including time for reflection and analysis. Adult learners need time to
contemplate the ramifications of the learning experience to their experience and responsibilities.
The third key to transformational learning is development (corresponding to the third assumption
of andragogy). Merriam and Caffarella state that “the ability to think critically, which is mandatory to
effecting a transformation, is itself developmental” (p. 330). If development is the outcome of
transformational learning, then an effective adult learning opportunity needs to be created that will take personal development into consideration
Andragogy assumes the following about the design of learning:
- Adults have the need to now why they are learning something.
- Adults learn through doing.
- Adults are problem-solvers.
- Adults learn best when the subject is of immediate use.
According to Knowles ( 1984, Appendix D) an example used to apply the principles to personal
1. Explain why certain skills are taught (functions, commands).
2. Task oriented instead of memorizing. Tasks should be common tasks .
3. Take diversity into play. Acknowledge different learning levels and experience.
4. Allow adults to learn on their own and from their mistakes. ( M.Knowles)