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. A competing idea in terms of instructing adult learners, and one that gathered momentum within the past three decades, has been dubbed andragogy. The purpose of this resource piece is to provide the interested reader with some background information regarding both instructional forms.
The pedagogical model of instruction was originally developed in the monastic schools of Europe in the Middle Ages. Young boys were received into the monasteries and taught by monks according to a system of instruction that required these children to be obedient, faithful, and efficient servants of the church (Knowles, 1984). From this origin developed the tradition of pedagogy, which later spread to the secular schools of Europe and America and became and remains the dominant form of instruction.
Pedagogy is derived from the Greek word "paid," meaning child plus "agogos," meaning leading. Thus, pedagogy has been defined as the art and science of teaching children. In the pedagogical model, the teacher has full responsibility for making decisions about what will be learned, how it will be learned, when it will be learned, and if the material has been learned. Pedagogy, or teacher-directed instruction as it is commonly known, places the student in a submissive role requiring obedience to the teacher's instructions. It is based on the assumption that learners need to know only what the teacher teaches them. The result is a teaching and learning situation that actively promotes dependency on the instructor (Knowles, 1984).
Up until very recently, the pedagogical model has been applied equally to the teaching of children and adults, and in a sense, is a contradiction in terms. The reason is that as adults mature, they become increasingly independent and responsible for their own actions. They are often motivated to learn by a sincere desire to solve immediate problems in their lives. Additionally, they have an increasing need to be self-directing. In many ways the pedagogical model does not account for such developmental changes on the part of adults, and thus produces tension, resentment, and resistance in individuals (Knowles, 1984).
The growth and development of andragogy as an alternative model of instruction has helped to remedy this situation and improve the teaching of adults. But this change did not occur overnight. In fact, an important event took place some thirty years ago that affected the direction of adult education in North America and, to some extent, elsewhere as well. Andragogy as a system of ideas, concepts, and approaches to adult learning was introduced to adult educators in the United States by Malcolm Knowles. His contributions to this system have been many (1975, 1980, 1984; Knowles & Associates, 1984), and have influenced the thinking of countless educators of adults. Knowles' dialogue, debate, and subsequent writings related to andragogy have been a healthy stimulant to some of the growth of the adult education field during the past thirty years.
The first use of the term "andragogy" to catch the widespread attention of adult educators was in 1968, when Knowles, then a professor of adult education at Boston University, introduced the term (then spelled "androgogy") through a journal article. In a 1970 book (a second edition was published in 1980) he defined the term as the art and science of helping adults learn. His thinking had changed to the point that in the 1980 edition he suggested the following: ". . . andragogy is simply another model of assumptions about adult learners to be used alongside the pedagogical model of assumptions, thereby providing two alternative models for testing out the assumptions as to their 'fit' with particular situations. Furthermore, the models are probably most useful when seen not as...
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