Andragogy vs Pedagogy

In a recent Campus Technology article, Trent Batson quotes Connor’s five principles of andragogy:

  1. Letting learners know why something is important to learn
  2. Showing learners how to direct themselves through information
  3. Relating the topic to the learners’ experiences
  4. … people will not learn until they are ready and motivated to learn
  5. … requires helping them overcome inhibitions, behaviors, and beliefs about learning

I don’t argue with these five principles at all as they fit pretty well with the principles associated with Knowles’ definition of andragogy. But then Batson goes on to state:

There is little doubt that the most dominant form of instruction in Europe and America is pedagogy, or what some people refer to as didactic, traditional, or teacher-directed approaches… In pedagogy, the concern is with transmitting the content, while in andragogy, the concern is with facilitating the acquisition of the content.

This seems to me to be drawing the wrong conclusion and assuming two thing are polar opposites when in fact they are merely different perspectives. Batosn’s claim would certainly surprise (and probably annoy) the many great teachers who don’t work with adults and don’t rely on transmitting content.

As an analogy, consider the example of culturally-appropriate education. Some minority cultures state that their learners have preference for learning approaches which incorporate small group work and content which is relevant to their lives. I can agree with this without jumping to the conclusion that when working with pakeha (‘European’) the opposite is true: that I shouldn’t use small groups and don’t need to make content relevant to their lives.

The distinction between andragogy and pedagogy provides useful insights into our learners. But to characterise pedagogy as embodying everything that is out-dated and reactionary in educational approaches is simplistic and erroneous in my opinion.


Batson, T. ” The Institutional Path for Change in This Age: Andragogy, not Pedagogy“.

Conner, M. L. “Andragogy and Pedagogy.” Ageless Learner, 1997-2004.

Kearsley, G. “Theory into Practice: Andragogy“.

Photo: FN Noronha

One thought on “Andragogy vs Pedagogy

  1. Ricky

    Hi Paul,
    Just want to give my opinion on Andragogy vs Pedagogy. Of course, we can not say that Pedagogy practice is outdated. The reason is that we need to know what to learn before we learn how to learn.

    Like I am now in IT industry which is a competitive field. There will be a new programming language that I might need to look into in every 3 years. so, to say that I want to master only 1 programming language and make a living out of it is impossible.

    When I was in University, I always asked people about what is the ONE programming language that I should be very good at it. I found the best answer by someone from the Internet. He told me: “Information Technology is an ever-changing field, learn how to learn is a skill itself. You should master the skill of learning how to learn, instead of learning what to learn.”


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