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Page history last edited by Debra Lee 14 years, 11 months ago




Malcolm Knowles first proposed the concept of andragogy in 1968. His theory, reflected above, includes five assumptions regarding adult learners. The adult learner is somehow who

  1. "has an independent self-concept and who can direct his or her own learning,
  2. has accumulated a reservoir of life experiences that is a rich resource for learning,
  3. has learning needs closely related to changing social roles,
  4. is problem-centered and interested in immediate application of knowledge,
  5. is motivated to learn by internal rather than external factors" (Merriam, 2001).


Knowles' theory has been criticized by some, who say it is not a theory, but instead a set of practices (Hartree, 1984 cited in Merriam, 2001). Knowles  also came to call andragogy a basis for an emerging theory (Knowles, 1989). Another criticism is that the five assumptions are not limited to adult learning, but also play a role in pedagogy (e.g., motivation) (Merriam, 2001). Eventually andragogy came to be associated with the learning situation, not the learner him or herself (Merriam, 2004).


Andragogy, though not recognized as a theory of adult learning by some, is often the way that educators approach adult learning practice (Merriam, 2004). In other words, anyone in adult education cannot ignore andragogy as a foundational theory of the field even if they are critical of its tenets.



Knowles, M. S. (1989). The making of an adult educator. San Fransciso: Jossey-Bass.


Knowles, M. S., Holton, E. F., & Swanson, R. A. (2005). The adult learner: The definitive classic in adult education and human resource development. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.


Merriam, S. B. (2001). Something old, something new: Adult learning theory for the twenty-first century. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, (89), San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


Merriam, S. B. (2004). The role of cognitive development in Merzirow's transformational learning theory. Adult Education Quarterly, 55, 60-68.



Web Links


     A great website detailing differences between pedagogy and andragogy.


     Useful site that includes overviews of many educational psychology theories (http://tip.psychology.org).


     From Roger Hiemstra's website, a link to an appendix andragogy resources.


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