Engaging the class. What is andragogy?
I began my teaching career as a mature aged student. My life had changed, and I felt that I needed to change direction to fulfill professional and personal ambitions – family life and less shift work.
Teaching is a family career. I think it forms part of my family DNA. So, naturally when I was told as a young person that I should be a teacher, I decided I would be a nurse. I am a rebel. Contemplating myself has always been an interesting journey.
Teaching got me in the end – but I have been unable to release my nursing career. I was a primary school teacher for many years before venturing into the world of adult education. I felt comfortable in a class of pre-hormonal children, with little ambition of contemplating anything else. But life isn’t simple and I found myself leading an adult classroom with people who knew more than me and who had experienced more life than me! I them found myself teaching language, literacy and numeracy and then health and community service to an adult classroom.
My Primary Education degree and experience had grounded me in a holistic approach to pedagogy. It guided insights into teaching, learning, planning and managing an adult classroom. But adults and children learn for different reasons and have had different experiences with learning that impact the how and the why we learn.
Why adults want to undertake education?
Adults undertake education for reasons different to children. Adults learn in ways different to children. These findings have implications for trainers and teachers of adult learners (Choy & Delahaye, 2003). Theories and principles of adult teaching and learning, i.e., the art and science of facilitating adult learning is referred to as andragogy (Knowles, 1970)
What’s really going on?
The essential differences between pedagogy, i.e., teaching children and youth (Knowles, 1970) and andragogy relates to the primary role of the teacher, trainer or facilitator. The practice of pedagogy requires a teacher centered approached where andragogy requires a learner centered (Choy & Delahaye, 2003).
Andragogy recommends meaningful learning experiences and outcomes by learners freely choosing goals, making “independent decisions about what how and when they want to learn” (Choy and Delahaye, 2003 p2). Choy and Delahaye (2003) redefine Hadley’s research of 1975 by establishing that adult learners participate in the creation and reconstruction of their learning goals (p2). Adult learners are usually self-directed, draw on past experiences and learn from each other (Merriam in Tannehill, 2009 p23).
Adult learners have responsibilities beyond those of youth or child learners (Tannehill, 2009). These responsibilities can impact learning outcomes. Stress caused through employment, marriage, children and finances are unique to the adult learner. Adult learners learn when:
Relationship is the key
The relationship a teacher develops with the student is different in the adult classroom. The adult learner may be ready to learn, but with poor previous learning experiences they remain resistive. The trainer or teacher needs to empower the learner by building self-confidence and self-esteem. The learner needs to learn to believe they can learn. They need to learn the art of confidence and belief to build knowledge building on a platform significant to them. Learning needs to be relevant to the adults needs, ie learning because of it is required for employment. Teachers and trainers need to understand the learner and why they are learning. When teachers have this knowledge, they can build the program.
Authentic and Meaningful Education is necessary.
In a learner centered environment, the job of the teacher or trainer is to build relationships. The partnership built between the teacher and adult student can be pivotal in achieving successful outcomes. Education needs to be authentic and purposeful to engage adult learners. The resources need to be contextualized. A strong relationship between education and employment contributes to the success of adult learner engagement (Dempsey, 2013).
Relationships are important components underpinning andragogy principles. Knowledge is a powerful economic driver, and the teacher or trainer can give a community of learners a lift. Teachers must understand and build relationships to form learning platforms that support the adult learner.
Choy, S., & Delahaye, B. (2003). Andragogy in vocational education and training: learners' perspective. In F. Ferrier, C. M. Down, E. Vocational, & A. Training Research Association (Eds.), Making a world of difference?: innovation, internationalisation, new technologies and VET: proceedings of the 5th annual conference of the Australian VET Research Association (AVETRA) (pp. p). [Nowra]: AVETRA.
Dempsey, M. (2013). Impacts of the changing nature of the Vocational Education and Traing (VET) System on Educators within the VET System in Australia. (Doctor of Education Portfolio), Edith Cowan University, Perth Western Australia. Retrieved from http://ro.ecu.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1587&context=theses
Knowles, M. S. (1970). The Modern Practice of Adult Education: Andragogy versus Pedagogy. Chicago: Follet Publishing Company.
Tannehill, D. B. (2009). Andragogy: how do post-secondary institutions educate and service adult learners? , University of Pittsburgh.