Sunday, June 18, 2017

Androgogy vs Pedagogy

How will understanding the history of Andragogy, and how it differs from Pedagogy, help you in your practice?

Learning the difference between how and why adults learn compared to children is important. It really boils down to two key areas: motivation and responsibility.

First, let's look at motivation. Kids and adults are similarly motivated.

 There  are some students who are internally motivated who love learning for the sake of learning, other students are motivated by rewards and punishments, and others who simply are not motivated and invested in learning at all.

Adults, when they go back to school or take a class, are usually doing it because they are getting something out of it. It may be an increase in pay or an increase in self-esteem. Sometimes, they are taking a class simply because they are told to for their jobs.

Responsibility of learning is a huge difference. 

The most accepted pedagogy is that children do not hold primary responsibility for their learning. They lack prior knowledge and experience and must rely heavily on the teacher not only for what to learn, but how to learn. Students are not often given the chance to reflect on their learning and how they learning before moving on to the next skill. Students often wonder, "Why do we have to know this?" for all sorts of topics and if the student does not find the connection, they may not retain the information.

Adults, however, are expected to take responsibility for learning. They have many years of experience and instructors value those experiences. Typically, an adult in a learning setting is learning material that is relevant to their lives. The "Why do we have to know this" is tied to why they are taking the class. A teacher knows why he or she is attending professional development. An engineering student understands the value of taking calculus. This results in the learning making consistent meaningful connections to the information.

I do not understand the assumption that children are not expected to take responsibility for their learning and participate in reflections of what they have learned. A good teacher will take the experiences children have and tie it into what they are learning. Young students should have the opportunity to have responsibility for their own learning. This should increase student motivation.

When it comes to teaching adults, we also can't forget that sometimes adults have to take classes and do things that they don't want to do. And, typically the same type of motivations that work for unmotivated children, work for unmotivated adults. Someone once told me you could judge how interesting a PD would be by what was on the table: If there were plenty of treats, expect it to be extremely boring.

According to Educational Technology and Mobile Learning, there are six principles of adult learning:

  • Adults are internally motivated and self-directed
  • Adults bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences
  • Adults are goal oriented
  • Adults are relevancy oriented
  • Adults are practical
  • Adult learners like to be respected

To be perfectly honest, you can substitute children for just about every one of those besides internal motivation and goal oriented, and even then, you will find those children who could be described in those terms.

Perhaps because I teach older children and have homeschooled in the past (and again this next school year!) that I expect students to be more self-directed. Students definitely want to know why, they want the steps to be clear and practical, and they definitely want to be respected. We can't discount how their life experiences and prior knowledge add to (and unfortunately, sometimes detract from) the classroom.

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