Pedagogy and Adults Don’t Mix!

After Jesse handed us  ’25 Learning Principles to Guide Pedagogy’ last week, I couldn’t help thinking ‘does anyone know what pedagogy actually means’? I thought Lusted (1986) made a wonderful point about this:

“Why should pedagogy be of interest to anyone…even fanatics gag on its pronunciation and falter in its spelling”

Despite my own ignorance of the word, Google found over 4 million results about pedagogy. As such, I thought I would make it my challenge  to write about pedagogy and adult learning.

Pedagogy  translates into “to lead the child” and has been a traditional teaching methodology used in Europe  since the Middle Ages (Copeland, 2004). Pedagogical roots lie in the concept that adults should control and limit childrens’ learning. Considering then, that its translation and original meaning are angled towards educating children, are pedagogical models effective in adult education?

Pedagogical models can be visualised as teacher-directed environments in which the instructor decides what is taught and how. ‘Content’ is provided and  assessments are carried out by the instructor.

In the early 1920s, when adult education began to take shape, pedagogical models faced a problem. Lectures, readings, memorisations and exams (all “pedagogy prescribed”), were criticised and rejected by adult learners (Sarapin, 2000). Something new was needed – ‘andragogy’.

Andragogy is “the art and science of helping adults learn” (Knowles, 1980). The goal of andragogical models is thought to be self-actualisation (Davenport, 1987) . I understand this to mean total emotional, psychological and intellectual understanding.  Andragogy focuses on the learner having control and encourages the application of learning to real-life settings (Fidishun, n.d.). Pedagogy in comparison seems primitive or perhaps too ‘immature’ for higher education.


There are two things that I find puzzling:

1)     Why are andragogical models not being used in higher education when this information has been available since the 1920s?

2)      Why does Microsoft Word spellchecker recognise ‘pedagogy’ but not ‘andragogy’ – does it reflect the lack of application of andragogy?

On one last note, I found plenty of research echoing the same point over and over again:

The success of andragogy lies in the concept that people won’t learn unless ready and motivated to (Pew, 2007)

Perhaps ‘motivation’ is the key to the application of andragogy. I will discuss this in detail next week but in the mean time, what do you guys think?