Theorist: Malcolm Knowles

Theory: Andragogy

Timeline: 1913-1997

Andragogy- Adult Learning theory emphasizing adults' responsibility as self-directed learners.
  • Adults need to know why they need to learn something.
  • Adults need to learn experientially.
  • Adults approach learning as problem-solving.
  • Adults learn best when the topic is of immediate value.
  • Adults need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction.
  • Experience (including mistakes) provides the basis for learning activities.
  • Adults are most interested in learning subjects that have immediate relevance to their job or personal life.
  • Adult learning is problem-centered rather than content-oriented.

Learning Transfer:

The Assumptions and Principles of Andragogy are all intended to promote learning transfer, especially and specifically with adults. Andragogy is specifically made to identify key characteristics of effective adult learning, and places concerted emphasis on adults as self-directed learners who are responsible and accountable for their own quality and quantity of learning. While seeing adult learners as self-directed and important participants in the entire learning process- from planning to evaluation-the theory also acknowledges their need for explanation(s) of the need and also the be able to understand the (immediate) value of a learning experience.

Major Works:
  • Knowles, Malcolm S. (1950). Informal adult education: a guide for administrators, leaders, and teachers. New York: Association Press.
  • Knowles, M. S., & Knowles, H. F. (1955). How to develop better leaders. New York: Association Press.
  • Knowles, M. S. (1968). Andragogy, not pedagogy. Adult Leadership, 16(10), 350–352, 386.
  • Knowles, M. S. (1973). The adult learner: A neglected species. Houston: Gulf Publishing Company. Revised Edition 1990.
  • Knowles, M. S. (1975). Self-directed learning: A guide for learners and teachers. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall/Cambridge.
  • Knowles, M. S. (1977). The adult education movement in the United States. Malabar, FL: Krieger.
  • Knowles, M. S. (1980). The modern practice of adult education: From pedagogy to andragogy.Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall/Cambridge.
  • Knowles, M. S., et al. (1984). Andragogy in action: Applying modern principles of adult education. San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Knowles, M. S. (1986). Using learning contracts. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Knowles, M. S. (1989). The making of an adult educator: An autobiographical journey. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Knowles, Malcolm; Holton, E. F., III; Swanson, R. A. (2005). The adult learner: The definitive classic in adult education and human resource developent (6th ed). Burlington, MA: Elsevier.

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