Monday, September 17, 2007

Pedagogy vs. Andragogy

In a class recently, we were discussing a constructivist environment for learning, and I made a contrast between constructivism and pedagogy. The professor looked really confused, and it only took a moment for me to figure out the problem was with my use of the word pedagogy. Defining pedagogy generally as the study or practice of instruction and tools the facilitate such, my statement definitely did not make sense, since constructivism is a theory/tool used in learning.

I modified my statement, substituting something along the lines of "a traditional classroom approach" instead of the word pedagogy, but I'm not quite so sure that was necessary. I think of pedagogy as a contrasting theory with andragogy. Pedagogy is traditionally an approach for teaching children and andragogy is a relatively new approach for teaching adults. Pedagogy is generally teacher-centered, with the teacher deciding who should learn what when and how. Andragogy is learner-centered, allowing learners to direct how learning occurs.

Andragogy brings with it a few principles, popularized by Knowles, which point out that adults, unlike children, have much life experience which allows them to more immediately contribute to a discussion, and because of that experience and the busy lives they lead, adults prefer problem-based learning that is applicable to their lives. Following an andragogical approach, a teacher becomes a facilitator of learning, providing materials and resources and keeping discussions in the right direction, but stays out of the way to let learning happen.

Taking andragogy to an extreme, some have suggested the term heutagogy as completely self-directed learning. I suppose my teaching myself how to put up drywall, texture walls, lay tile, and replace light fixtures as I've been working on renovating our bathroom has been a heutagogical approach, in addition to being very slow. (Of course, my slowness has not necessarily been due to heutagogy itself as much as a lack of time with work, school, scouts, and other family things taking precedence.) I could have taken some classes at the tech school in town or found a mentor to work with, but I've survived by using the internet and reading the little pamphlets at the home improvement stores as well as some trial and error.

These approaches need not be restricted to some set line, so when a person turns 16, he or she moves to a new class that uses andragogy instead of pedagogy. Andragogy can be used with children, and pedagogy with adults, just depending on the preferences and experience of the learners and the type of material being taught. As adults, we like being in control and a pedagogical approach is where we're most comfortable whether we're teaching children or adults, but are we willing to step back and let the lunatics run the asylum to some extent?


Carolyn said...

"Andragogy vs Pedagogy"

I have been pondering just this issue lately in my own doctoral studies. In terms of teaching high school students, I think of pedagogy as a "constructivist andragogical" approach to teaching children. As a teacher in the 21st century, I cannot adhere to a strictly traditionalist approach to pedagogy.

What I mean is, I can certainly apply the principles of andragogy to my online high school course. However, since I am still teaching children (albeit ones who are older than 16 and are considered to be pre-adult)there is still a certain level of "teacher control" that I must maintain in WHAT I teach. I can let go of that control and design activities that are more learner-centered and allow choice in the HOW I teach it.

Have you heard or read about the term coined by Knudson (1980) of humanagogy? I think that is more applicable. You know even Dewey was using principles of andragogy when he talked about teaching children!

Knudson, R. S., (1980). An alternative approach to the andragogy/pedagogy issue. Lifelong Learning: The Adult Years, 3(8), 8-10.

Lene said...

I'm learning Information Science at the Open University Tafnitech, Haifa. At the moment we practice mind maps - great tool for adults, I had almost forgotten how to work with colours and paper - and for today we have an article about Andragogy by Malcom Knowles - in it Knowles refer to Alexander Kapp 1833 as coining the phrase "Andragogy" - so new it is not.Ruth

robmba said...


I didn't say andragogy was new, but relatively new. Of course, some claim that Plato practiced andragogical principles, so it may go back even further than Kapp, whether or not there was an actual term for it. However, when Plato, Kapp, and presumably others have introduced such principles, they have not been widely accepted.

The prevailing teaching method for the past 1,000 years or more has undoubtedly been teacher-centered instruction. In terms of actually being accepted and widely studied, andragogy is definitely a newcomer, but it has been around, behind the scenes somewhat, for awhile.

I can just imagine some rogue monks running an underground tech school back in the 14th century and being killed by the church when it is found that they are facilitating rather than expounding to their students.

some additional background on andragogy

Arthur said...

I find the use of the terms andragogy vs pedagogy strange if they are being presented as being in opposing fields. Are we trying here to create a negative bias onto the pedagogy concept in order to create the 'newer' andragogy. Wasn't andragogy always there in the wings of pedagogy. Has a good pedagogy always had andragogy as an important element within its practice, and if it didn't then it could hardly be accepted as a useful pedagogy. More simply put has effective teaching always had the needs and aspirations of the student in a central place and if it didn't (and was overtly teacher dominant) then it could hardly be regarded as effective pedagogy.

The reinterpretation of the term pedagogy is hardly needed but simply to say that andragogy is an important part of one's pedagogy. However, not to be overly negative, if the effect of discourse surrounding andragogy is to create a greater awareness of, and increased focus upon the student, then it is a helpful development.

robmba said...

Arthur, I think we're on the same side here. I'm not one to recommend a new term just for the sake of the new term itself.

Your last statement there is exactly why 'andragogy' is needed. Andragogy is generally though of as methods for teaching adults, although we've already had Carolyn previously comment about how andragogical principles can be used for children as well. Of course they can.

The main issue is that it's easy for people to understand that adults need to learn differently, so they are willing to accept 'new' techniques for teaching them (of course, the principles are not new, but think of it as a renewed focus on those principles). What people don't understand is that common teacher-centered methods of teaching younger students are not effective, and learner-centered classrooms are needed for them as well.

The interesting thing is that if you look at K-3 classrooms, they are learner-centered. There is such a variety of students of mixed abilities, learning together, helping each other. Some assignments are for all, while some assignments are adjusted for each student's individual level. By the time you get to fourth grade, students begin to be split out based on how advanced they are. The smart kids are put together and the slower kids are grouped in another class, and from that point on, they are required to move at the same speed as the rest of the class. By the time students finish high school and get into college, they have long forgotten that they have the right to be taught in the way that is most effective for each individual student, not the way that is most effective for the professor who is more focused on getting tenure than on paying attention to his or her students.

I think it's a big enough issue that it's worth using a different term.

Tammy Barnett said...

I must agree with Arthur,"Pedagogy is an important part of ones andragogy." I believe, in schools today, our children should be taught in a sequence of all learning styles. That way no child would be left behind. Kids need Both pedagogy and andragogy. Implementing both would improve our scores in american schools. This would be a great way for adults to learn as well.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, in PhD program, used your posting Rob to inquire firther on huetagogy

Anonymous said...

Is age really the criteria for pedagogy or andragogy or heutagogy? Shouldn't this be a progression even from infancy? So Andragogy is a misnomer if we think in terms of age. Not all 18 or 25 or 35 year old people are independent learners for various reasons. therefore, to teach them in an adragogical manner is to do them an injustice. To expect them to instantly be/ become independent for andragogical purposes is only to develop frustration in the learner and between the learner and teacher, however that is defined.

robmba said...

Age is absolutely not the criteria for which teaching style to use, and I hope it didn't come across that way. As I wrote, it depends on the experience and preferences of the learners and the content being covered. The progression to independence is very much necessary. Unfortunately, I don't think it starts happening soon enough generally.

pakliam said...

I think it is more of a continuum than two absolutes. Good teaching practice would require educators to be striving towards the Andragogy style most of the time.