Adult learning: The five key assumptions of andragogy

Knowles, M.S. (1984b). Andragogy in action (1st ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Model Two: The Nature of Andragogic ..

After this experience, Knowles was tempted to resign, but he discovered that the university did not care what he did in his classroom, as long as he turned in his grades at the end of the semester. So, it was at this point that Knowles began, "... experimenting with competency-based course syllabi, performance assessments, rather than tests, and other innovations" (Knowles, 1989). Knowles states, "My fourteen years at Boston University were years of tremendous growth for me. I learned a good deal about university politics and how 'academic standards,' often interfere with learning. Perhaps most important, I had a living laboratory in which to test the andragogical model; by the time I left, I had refined it to the point that I felt it was at least a sound basis for further research and theorizing" (Knowles, 1989).

The Adult Learning Theory - Andragogy - of Malcolm Knowles

Third, it is not clear whether this is a theory or set of assumptions about learning, or a theory or model of teaching (Hartree 1984). We can see something of this in relation to the way he has defined andragogy as the art and science of helping adults learn as against pedagogy as the art and science of teaching children. There is an inconsistency here.

First, as Merriam and Caffarella (1991: 249) have pointed out, Knowles’ conception of andragogy is an attempt to build a comprehensive theory (or model) of adult learning that is anchored in the characteristics of adult learners. Cross (1981: 248) also uses such perceived characteristics in a more limited attempt to offer a ‘framework for thinking about and adults learn’. Such approaches may be contrasted with those that focus on:


Malcolm Knowles’ Theory of Andragogy: ..

Knowles, M. (1980) (2nd edn). Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall/Cambridge. 400 pages. Famous as a revised edition of Knowles’ statement of andragogy – however, there is relatively little sustained exploration of the notion. In many respects a ‘principles and practice text’. Part one deals with the emerging role and technology of adult education (the nature of modern practice, the role and mission of the adult educator, the nature of andragogy). Part 2 deals organizing and administering comprehensive programmes (climate and structure in the organization, assessing needs and interests, defining purpose and objectives, program design, operating programs, evaluation). Part three is entitled ‘helping adults learn and consists of a chapter concerning designing and managing learning activities. There are around 150 pages of appendices containing various exhibits – statements of purpose, evaluation materials, definitions of andragogy.

Introduction to Malcolm Knowles's andragogy theory

There are those, like Davenport (1993) or the Nottingham Andragogy Group (1983) who believe it is possible to breathe life into the notion of andragogy – but they tend to founder on the same point. Kidd, in his study of how adults learn said the following:

The notion of andragogy has been around for nearly two centuries

Nottingham Andragogy Group (1983) , Nottingham: University of Nottingham Department of Adult Education. 48 pages. Brief review of the andragogy debate to that date. Section 1 deals with adult development; section 2 with the empirical and theoretical foundations for a theory of andragogy; and section 3 proposes a model and theory.

The modern practice of adult education;: Andragogy …

By 1984 Knowles had altered his position on the distinction between pedagogy and andragogy. The child-adult dichotomy became less marked. He claimed, as above, that pedagogy was a content model and andragogy a process model but the same criticisms apply concerning his introduction of behaviourist elements. He even added the fifth assumption: As a person matures the motivation to learn is internal (1984: 12). Yet while there have been these shifts, the tenor of his work, as Jarvis (1987b) argues, still seems to suggest that andragogy is related to adult learning and pedagogy to child learning.