Tag Archives: theory

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“. http://campustechnology.com/articles/2008/10/the-institutional-path-for-change-in-this-age-andragogy-not-pedagogy.aspx

Conner, M. L. “Andragogy and Pedagogy.” Ageless Learner, 1997-2004. http://agelesslearner.com/intros/andragogy.html

Kearsley, G. “Theory into Practice: Andragogy“. http://tip.psychology.org/knowles.html

Photo: FN Noronha

Exploring the assumptions underlying learning technologies

Teachers don’t always find it easy to analyse the assumptions about learning that underpin specific examples of learning technology. A simple scenario can be used in a professional development setting as a trigger for discussion of these assumptions and the links between technology and education theory.

In my professional development work with teachers, I love seeing them learn how to use the new tools and develop an enthusiasm for using these tools with learners. But skills and enthusiasm are not quite enough – to decide how and when to integrate technology tools, teachers also need to be able to understand the educational models on which the technology is based.

Even when a teacher ‘knows’ some education theory, it is not always easy for them to integrate theory and practice. So the theory often remains as ‘book learning’ and doesn’t fully inform their decision-making about planning and using technology.

I recently developed a simple scenario as an attempt to deal with this:

I incorporated the scenario into the session and used it to generate discussion around a few simple questions. On their own, the small groups touched on a few links to education theory, but the payoff came when reporting back – as a group, we identified lots of ideas about the sorts of assumptions about learning and the links with theory.

The fact that it was only a scenario and not hands-on I believe helped the participants because there was no ‘seduction’ factor – there was no possibility of being distracted by the technology and the fun of exploring its features. And it reinforced the concept that every application of technology in learning is based on implicit assumptions and theories about learning, and that informed teachers can make these explicit through dialogue and collaboration.