Outside of Pedagogy:
The Emergence of Andragogy and other Adult Learning Theory Methodology
Various learning theory methodologies have distinctive purposes in education. In investigating these different methods and philosophies, it is important to look at them each individually and determine which works best for the respective student and the type of class taught. The specific question to be address in this document is “which method(s) work best for adult learners?” Many educators seem to be familiar with pedagogy and similarly andragogy, some will argue that one method is better than the other is. Malcolm Knowles, who literally wrote the book on andragogy, stated “a number of trainers and teachers of adults described situations in which they found that the andragogical model did not work” (Knowles, Elwood, & Swanson, 2014).
When conducting research to determine which model works best, one might often find various writings that attempt to persuade the reader andragogy is most promising or pedagogy is always the right method. To adequately evaluate the pedagogy versus andragogy argument one must also know all of the alternatives involved. There is metagogy, meant to blend pedagogy and andragogy while filtering instruction based on what the student needs to know (Peterson & Ray, 2013). Then there is Pedandragogy, which blends andragogy and pedagogy philosophy as applied to children and adults (Samaroo, Cooper, & Green, 2003). Lastly, there is heutagogy, this is the study of self-directed learning, this method encourages students to “reflect” and adjust education and training practices on said reflections (Eberle, 2009).
At the root of making a determination about which model works best for adult education, one must determine two things. First, whether the definitive meaning or translations of these methodologies makes a difference. Second, the educator must decide which of the aforementioned methodologies is, in fact, better when it comes to adult learners of their specific courses. The intent of this literature review is to not to make that determination for the reader, but instead, to provide the reader with various perspectives into the topic of learning theory methodology, which allows one to form an independent opinion on the topic.
Learning Theory and Neologisms
A person reading this may be asking themselves, “what is learning theory methodology, and how does it apply to me?” It is, simply put, a method of teaching practices, in the academic realm, as they apply to a specific subject or theory. By determining which learning theory applies to one’s specific cohort and subject matter, educators are better equipped to maximize students’ academic growth and learning outcomes. Many of these methodologies are neologisms, which are words or phrases coined for a specific use. They become popular and obtain regular use, and as they lose traction are removed from modern vocabulary (Peterson & Ray, 2013). The interesting thing about neologisms, is they allow one to see when a method is no longer being used or referred to as often as it once was. When a word is no longer found in the encyclopedia, this may be symbolic of the method no longer being relevant, or viewed as relevant based on the lack of use.
Pedagogy is the most common learning theory methodology used in modern academia; it also has the oldest and longest use. Pedagogy held the only acceptable model of assumptions until the early 20th century. However, post-World War I educators began to see problems with pedagogy and its application to adult learners. The problem was that the preceding studies based on pedagogy only involved children and animals, researchers did not test the effectiveness of pedagogy on adults. This made some adult education practitioners about wonder the validity of pedagogy and if it were applicable to the adult learner (Knowles, 1970). Children and adults do not learn in the same way and have different life experiences, thus continuing the same learning process with adults as one would with children is futile (Lindeman E.C., 1961). In short, pedagogic assumptions do not apply to adults (Knowles, 1970).
It is not just here in the Unites States that pedagogy’s usefulness has been questioned. More recently, in Europe, educators were asked about their knowledge of pedagogy and the vast majority were aware of pedagogy. What was most interesting was while many of the Slovenian educators thought that pedagogy was an important theory to learn, they found it was not useful in practice and in fact that it “muddied” the waters in terms of curriculum formation (Ermenc, Vujisic ; Spasenovic, 2015).
The Emergence of Andragogy
Andragogy was not the brainchild of one mind, but the development over time of multiple learned minds and researchers. These people saw a need for a new learning theory methodology that was specifically geared toward adults and their unique learning needs, something they felt pedagogy did not provide.
As stated above, in the early 20th century researchers and educators began looking into other learning theory methodologies. After World War I Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, a law professor, found that many in post-war Germany needed job skills, in response to this need he founded a school for laborers. These college-like schools focused on employment skills and previous life experiences. He created work-groups that made students co-educators and part of their own learning process. This process brought together people from various socioeconomic backgrounds to learn from one another. Many of his fellow law professors had distain for his practices because they did not follow the pedagogic method. However, after the rise of Hitler, Rosenstock-Huessy immigrated to the United States (US) leaving the school he had established behind. After establishing himself in the US, Rosenstock-Huessy expanded on his work and began using his “work-group” concept again. Rosenstock-Huessy thought he discovered andragogy until he learned Alexander Knapp had used the term in 1833, he then felt he “rediscovered” it (Loeng S., 2013).
Eduard Lindeman, who only used the term Andragogy when referring to Rosenstock-Huessy’s labor schools and work-groups, inspired Malcolm Knowles, known as the father of andragogy (Loeng S., 2013). Lindeman expanded on Rosenstock-Huessy’s work by establishing vocational education practices, he too, felt the need for adults to have employability skills and build upon life experiences outweighed the need to stick to the pedagogic method. Lindeman believed adults learned differently than children and the power associated with knowledge should go to the learner not the educator, “adult education presumes…to serve as one of the means by which the mind may be kept fresh for the assimilation of that knowledge which is synonymous with power” (Lindeman E., 1961).
As before mentioned, Lindeman inspired Malcolm Knowles, who identified the common reference to pedagogy within adult education was directly linked to the lack of learning theories specific to adult education. Knowles felt there were four assumptions of adult learners, 1) they are self-directed; 2) their life experiences area a learning resource; 3) their readiness to learn is dependent on the tasks needed in their social roles; 4) they have an immediate need to use their knowledge and it is not subject-centered, but performance-centered (Knowles M.S., 1973).
Andragogy seems to have found a place in on-line education according to Christopher Pappas. He expressed a belief that in order for on-line learners to be successful they must be self-directed. In a sense, they already know what they want/need to learn when they select the programs in which they want to participate. Pappas notes that all on-line learners need to meet the assumptions of andragogy, which are now five as Knowles added the fifth, self-motivated, in 1984. With online education becoming more prevalent in the modern technological era, there seems to be an increased need for use of the andragogic methodology (Pappas, 2013).
Not everyone agreed with Knowles, in response to Knowles work The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species Geoffrey Norman penned The Adult Learner: A Mythical Species. Norman argued that self-directed learning does not equate to a greater level of competence. While Norman acknowledges that even medical students need to be self-aware, motivated, critical thinkers who can build on life experiences (the assumptions put forth by Knowles), they still need direction under the pedagogic methodology because they did not know what they needed to learn. He concluded, the self-directed learning set forth with andragogy by Knowles, had no place in medicine or adult education (Norman, 1999).
Andragogy versus Pedagogy
The andragogy versus pedagogy debate has multiple angles. Some argue the difference in the terms literal translations makes them specific to certain learning demographics, while others believe it is more the methodological differences that are significant.
Pedagogy in Greek literally translates to “child-lead” whereas andragogy in the same language translates to “man-led.” Stephen Forrest and Tim Peterson believe pedagogy has no place in adult education because it is specifically geared toward children. They acknowledge, there are cases in which adult learners need to be teacher-directed as pedagogy suggests, but believe andragogy leaves room for this (Forrest ; Peterson, 2006).
On the other hand, Popie Marinou Mohring finds both words to be erroneous because neither applies to all adult learners. Pedagogy excludes adults because it is child-led, and andragogy excludes women because it is man-led. While Mohring concedes the term “man” has often been used to include both sexes, it would be better if English words were used to avoid the scholarly debate about the terminology altogether. Mohring concludes by suggest a better term derived from Greek, teleiagogy, which is inclusive of both males and females (Mohring P.M., 1990).
Not all scholars where concerned with the vernacular differences and focused more on the methodological differentiations. Stephen Pew found that pedagogy and andragogy each had their place and which methodology worked better depended on the students’ motivating factors. He also found that educators tended to stick with pedagogy for surprising reasons: 1) It had always been done that way; 2) teachers liked it when students were dependent on them, (he called this the catnip motivator); 3) the mutual impact (between both teachers and students) of low expectations caused by systematic issues. While Pew found that self-reliance was the ultimate motivating goal, which is in line with andragogy, he also found in some cases students needed to be teacher directed because they were not always internally motivated thus, a need for pedagogy was apparent (Pew S. 2007).
Likewise, Darrin Murray found that many communications educators were not using the andragogic methodology as well but for a different reason. The communications study literature referenced pedagogy so educators did not consider andragogy. Murray conducted a study in which he used face-to-face interviews as well as surveys to determine if andragogy was useful for communications educators. What he found was that educators who had an understanding of students’ life experiences saw better results, and when educators collaborated with their students, the outcomes were better. Students’ motivation was based on their life experiences, as Knowles suggested and effective teacher-to-student communication strategies depended on what the students’ previous life experiences had been (Murray D.S., 2014).
The pedagogy versus andragogy debate is not only useful in terms of finding out which methodology works best for individual educators but also because it encourages additional research on the learning theory methodology. Sharon Merriam called andragogy the “pillars of adult learning theory.” While she praises the andragogic self-directed learning practices, she more so praised the dialog that has occurred because of the emergence of andragogy. This debate has encouraged relevant studies, and challenged the use of the, more commonly known, pedagogic methodology (Merriam S.B., 2001).
The Emergence of Other “Gogies”
Pedagogy and andragogy are, arguably, the most commonly known adult learner theories and methodology; however, they are not the only ones in existence. Other, less known, “gogies” have emerged in recent years, some with all new perspectives, and other meant to combine the well-known methods and end the debate.
Pedandragogy is used as a way to literally combine the two previously listed methodologies in words and practice. Children do not only learn from direction but also from their experiences. For example, a child does not only learn a new word simple because they are repeatedly told to say it, but also from hearing it and learning its use and meaning via their own experiences. Likewise, adults do not only learn what they think they should learn, but also what they are instructed is important for them to know. Pedandragogy is not child or man-lead, but learner-lead, regardless of age and can be used from early childhood through adulthood. It is a symbiotic relationship between the two methodologies, which benefits learners at various levels (Samaroo, Cooper ; Green 2013).
Metagogy is similar to pedandragogy as it combines the use of both pedagogy and andragogy except it is the combination of continually using both methods but using these methods on a spectrum. It is a process of collaborative learning; students begin on a teacher-directed path that leads to self-direction. However, the term metagogy was copy written by David Lauvoie which is probably why it has not often discussed in education literature and never became a neologism (Peterson ; Ray, 2013).
Heutagogy is a “double-looped” methodology, in which students learns something, reflects on what they have learned, and either readdresses it or moves on to something new based on self-reflection. The personal growth developed by self-reflection directs the students’ learning path. It is a combination of left and right brained thinking, which merges creativity with intellect. This particular methodology is often used in online learning although not called heutagogy (Eberle J., 2009).
Is it the verbiage or the practice that matters the most? Neologisms are no longer neologisms when they stop being used. Andragogy had its own encyclopedia entry in 1994, but by 2010 it was mentioned but no longer had its own reference. This could be because the term and methodology are not as commonly used as they once were, or because the importance of the debate has lessened. Meanwhile other “gogies” have yet to become neologisms.
The learning theory methodology and terms used by educators depends on many things. Which theory/theories they are familiar with, the demographics and life experiences of the students taught, the type of course, and the level of rigor related to learning specific concepts. However, even the “father of andragogy”, Malcolm Knowles, acknowledges there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to learning theory methodology. “I am at a point now of seeing that andragogy is simply another model of assumptions about learners to be used alongside the pedagogical model of assumptions, thereby providing two alternative models for testing out the assumptions as to their ‘fit’ with particular situations” (Knowles M.S., 1973).
Outside of Pedagogy: