pedagogy and andragogy

Abridged from Oldfather, Penny, and Karin Dahl. 1994. “Toward a social constructivist reconceptualization of intrinsic motivation for literacy learning”. Journal of Reading Behavior. 26 (2):

The continuing impulse to learn is realized…within these three nested domains:
Classroom Culture
Honored voice
Sharing the ownership of knowing
Generative literacy curriculum
Supportive social structures
Constructing meaning
Learning from others
Personal and social visibility
Epistemological empowerment

The ideas and best practices that I work from can be attributed to pedagogical research. Generally speaking, when we talk about pedagogy, we’re talking about the practice of teaching and learning across all audiences. Every once in a while though, I hear someone protest that as a college instructors we should be focusing on andragogy, emphasizing the literal roots of words referring to the teaching (or leading) of children vs. adults. I’m not particularly familiar with the scholarly literature that debates these meanings. I find that, in application, my approach to instructional design generally works and aligns well to what my peers are doing. But recently, when I came across the article above from 1994 about children’s motivation from social constructivist point of view, it made me curious about what those conversations to look like since those are the elements (if not the same words) that still come into play in my own work.

It’s probably just a coincidence that I found this article from the same year: Delahaye, Brian L. 1994. “The Relationship between Andragogical and Pedagogical Orientations and the Implications for Adult Learning”. Adult Education Quarterly. 44 (4): 187-200. In a very brief summation of the literature, the author indicates a general indication that they’re seen as being along a continuum rather than have a dichotomous relationship. The paper is investigating the nature of the continuum by asking whether or not that conception is still too simplistic using a questionnaire. Pedagogy and andragogy are correlated with attitudes regarding “subject-centered learning” and “task-centered or problem-centered,” respectively. The questionnaire would be able to tell us if a learner is merely some point along a line that indicates how much they prefer pedagogical to andragogical approaches or vice versa (think about hot and cold along a spectrum), or if it’s, as they describe in the paper, “orthogonal”–that is, a learner is able to encompass both to varying degrees, including being low on both scales (such a learner would be an autodidact and prefer no guidance).  They interviewed a variety of students from first-years to post-graduates attending a number of Australian universities, and basically they found that the latter is true.

To me, it’s not particularly clear that by trying to figure out their attitudes toward one or the other necessarily informs whether a pedagogical or andragogical approach should be taken (the researchers acknowledge this limitation somewhat too, although that was never the purpose of the article–it just happened to be what I found). The Wikipedia article on andragogy draws on a resource for Adult Learning Techniques hosted at the American Association of the College of Pharmacies website, and it outlines the following principles of adult learning based on the work of Knowles (cited in the first article too, so apparently a huge guy in the andragogical world):

1. Principle of Active Learning (Self-expression)
2. Principle of Problem-Centric
3. Principle of Previous Experience (Constructing meaning)
4. Principle of Relevance (Self-determination)
5. Principle of Emotional Connection (Competence)
6. Principle of Self-Learning (Epistemological empowerment)
7. Principle of Alignment (Generative literacy curriculum)
8. Principle of Fun (Supportive social structures)

Based on principles alone, the key difference between adolescent learners and adults is what their pressing problems might be (although I’m sure learning could be related to problems kids face too). Aside from that, both groups of people seem to want or need similar things: to be engaged, have a choice, understand how learning relates to themselves, and connect to content through both their prior knowledge/experiences as well as their emotions (yes, adults have a larger foundation aka more experience, but the idea is still the same).

Without going too far into this rabbit hole, I want to bring up one more issue: Some have indicated that adults are more self-directed, but I don’t agree with that. Children come equipped with natural curiosity (which Ken Robinson would say school stamps out of them), and not all adults know how to learn or self-evaluate. That same chart indicates that adult are able to learn from each other, except that we see from the first article that social learning is a part of elementary school learning. And so on.

Basically, my initial foray into these difference prove inconclusive, but I realize I’m looking at older literature. Still, based on my experience and the related research I’ve given a deeper treatment, there’s not just a big difference between andragogy and pedagogy in my mind aside from the content and who the audience is. But, for the most part, the basic principles of teaching (or what’s motivating and conducive to learning rather) seem to stay the same.