What is Andragogy? Less Than 100 Words

Andragogy, or Adult Learning Theory, is a theory developed by Malcolm Knowles that is based on a self-directed, independent learning method for adults. This theory asserts that learning programs must support the notion that adults are self-driven and take responsibility for decisions.

Andragogy makes the following five assumptions about the design of adult learning.

  • Adults thrive in independent learning scenarios.
  • Adults learn experientially.
  • Adults are attracted to learning most when they know clear objectives. 
  • Adults learn best when the topic is of immediate value.
  • Adults are motivated by internal factors rather than external pressures. 

Ready to learn more about Andragogy? Let’s dive into what the model is, its implications for learners and facilitators, and examples of andragogy in action.


What is Andragogy?

Malcolm Knowles’s theory of andragogy is concerned with the teaching and learning styles of adult learners. Andragogy is based on a self-directed, independent learning method for adults and defines the best practices for teaching adults. 

Characteristics of andragogy are covered in the following five assumptions.

  • Self-Concept: Adults thrive in independent learning and training scenarios.
  • Experience: Adults learn experientially, meaning they learn from first-hand observations and interactions. 
  • Readiness to Learn: Adults are attracted to learning most when they know clear objectives. 
  • Orientation to Learning: Adults learn best when the topic is of immediate value.
  • Motivation to Learn: Adults are motivated by internal factors rather than external pressures. 

Andragogy is important because it frames instructional designer’s approaches to corporate training programs. In knowing the characteristics of adult learners, learning programs can be more targeted and effective in the long-term. 


Implications For Adult Learners

Applying andragogy to learning courses can be beneficial in supporting adult learners’ needs. For adult learners, an andragogical approach helps to centralize their learning needs, leading to higher knowledge retention rates

When adult learners recognize their learning needs and understand their independent learning style, they can become increasingly self-directed and reflective. Additionally, adult learners can quickly apply what they’ve learned to their specific role and stay motivated. Acknowledging these elements early on in the learning process creates more personal and professional growth opportunities for adult learners.


Implications For Facilitators of Adult Learning

For facilitators who create and lead courses, andragogy should be at the center of the design. This theory helps facilitators develop and guide adult learners toward success. By taking the following steps, facilitators can create programs that cater to adult learners’ needs. 

  • Set a cooperative climate for learning that assesses learners’ specific needs.
  • Develop learning objectives based on learners’ skill levels, needs, and interests.
  • Design activities to achieve objectives.
  • Collaborate with learners to find methods, materials, and resources for instruction.
  • Evaluate the quality of the learning experience and make adjustments as needed while assessing needs for future learning. 

This theory relies heavily on autonomy, collaboration, enablement, and self-direction. For facilitators, an andragogical approach to learning informs them of the needs of their adult learners and can lead to more successful programs.

Andragogy In Practice

Andragogy can enhance learning experiences for both learners and facilitators, but what does this model look like in action? 

For example, if employees are being trained on a new piece of machinery, it’s important to let them try to operate the machinery on their own. To avoid injury and safety hazards, a virtual reality (VR) program could be used that allows the learner to operate simulated machinery independently. This way, the program allows learners to be active, engaged, and independent.

Another example that utilizes an andragogical approach to learning is incorporating healthy competition into an instructor-led course. This type of program is beneficial for soft-skills and technical training. A little healthy competition with incentives for involvement can be motivating for adults to learn. 


Andragogy To The Rescue!

As we’ve covered, applying andragogy to learning programs helps adult learners leverage what they already know with new information. Andragogy provides a glimpse into the minds of adult learners, which in turn can help developers and facilitators create more effective learning programs. 

Are you ready to cater to your adult learners’ needs with andragogy? Get started developing your learning program today!