I have always been interested in different approaches to teaching and learning. As a young child, I was so excited about school that I would share all of my learnings with my younger sister as soon as I got home every day. Later, as a college student, I studied secondary education at a school that features a non-traditional academic schedule, where students focus intensely on one subject at a time.
Standing on the shoulders of giants
These days, I’m still intrigued by various approaches to learning, but my focus is now on adults and technology. I recently had the opportunity to learn more about Malcolm Knowles, an early influencer in adult learning theory. Andragogy is a term that Knowles popularized in the mid-twentieth century to describe his theory of adult education.
According to Mark Smith in a 2002 article for infed, “Malcolm S. Knowles was responsible for a number of important ‘firsts’. He was the first to chart the rise of the adult education movement in the United States; the first to develop a statement of informal adult education practice; and the first to attempt a comprehensive theory of adult education.”
Given my research and extensive experience in this realm, I believe any program designed to help adults learn, such a training initiatives, can benefit from a working knowledge of this framework.
The 6 cornerstones of andragogy
These 6 postulates summarize Knowles’ theory about adults’ motivation to learn:
Andragogy and employee training
These are some strategies I recommend for applying Malcolm Knowles’ expertise to your organization’s training efforts and with which of the cornerstones of andragogy they correlate.
The andragogy pioneer
While there are certainly detractors of Malcolm Knowles’ work and debate about its usefulness, I know first-hand through my own professional development and working with others how paying attention to these principles can clearly enhance your training efforts and help engage your learners.
Pioneers in any field inevitably come under scrutiny, but that doesn’t diminish their contributions. Thomas Edison: thank you for light bulbs. Mary Anderson: thank you for windshield wipers. Malcolm Knowles: thank you for andragogy.
About the author
Jennifer Patterson is Senior Director for Products and an active blogger for KnowledgeWave in South Burlington, Vermont. KnowledgeWave provides training for popular business software, and Jennifer’s focus is on virtual learning experiences.