Andragogy and Self-Directed Learning Research Paper

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Androgogy & Self-Directed Learning

Historically, the term andragogy was a long-time reaching the common vernacular. The term was a wildcard, meaning different things to different individuals and groups according to whim, nacent theory, or flowery rhetoric. When the term did crop up, it was associated with attributes that were sometimes difficult to pin down, but hinted at constructs such as self-reflection and life experiences (Reischmann, 2007). Always, as the term was used, there was a cleaving between education and training, as education was seen as serving the inner self rather than simply preparing for the world of work (Reischmann, 2007). Andragogy was raised to higher levels than could be captured in the dyad of mere teaching and learning


What exactly is andragogy? The term andragogy is used today to label an academic discipline -- it pertains to the scholarly study of in a field or discipline, while the actual practice to which andragogy refers is called adult education (Reischmann, 2007). Although the two are naturally related, distinguishing between practice and theory is important and useful in any discipline. Andragogy is an expansive term that encompasses life-long adult learning. Reischmann (2000) refers to the concept of "life-wide learning" of adults in order to include many forms of adult learning in the category. Learning that occurs over the course of an individual's life span is represented by the term life-long learning, while life-wide learning covers all the sorts of learning that occurs in institutionalized settings, and also learning that is self-directed (Reischmann, 2007).

Button, button -- Who's got andragogy? A German grammar school teacher named Alexander Kapp coined the term andragogy in 1833. It was picked up by a German social scientist named Eugen Rosenstock in 1921. Then, in 1957, after years of neglect, a German teacher named Franz Poggeler published Introduction into Andragogy: Basic Issues in Adult Education. With the publication and dissemination of Poggeler's book, the term spread from Germany to Austria, Yugoslavia, and the Netherlands. Regardless, within North America, no view of teaching adults is more widely known, or more enthusiastically embraced, than Knowles' description of andragogy" (Pratt & Associates, 1998, p. 13). Knowles simplified the concept of andragogy while still retaining its more ethereal attributes, calling it "the art and science of helping adults learn" (Knowles, 1989). There are two pillars to Knowles construction of andragogy: One is that learners are both autonomous and self-directed, and the other is that the function of teachers is not to present content but to facilitate learning (Pratt & Associates, 1998, p. 12). The emphasis of Knowles construct was on the choices made by self-directed learners rather than the control exerted by content experts.

A rose by any other name. At the time of Knowles writings -- the 1970s and the 1980s -- the benefits of formal education were being questioned and alternatives were proliferating. Formal education had burgeoned into an enormous industry over many decades since the first normal school was established in 1839 in Boston, Massachusetts. Humanistic theories dominated psychology and education. The deschooling movement put forth by Ivan Illich and Everett Reimer, John Holt's unschooling, and even Carl Rogers' person-centered therapy questioned traditional approaches to education and self-reflection. Paulo Freire elevated critical theory with the construct of conscientizacao and adult education initiative in Portugal. Conscientizacao refers to developmental process that ends in critical social consciousness, but to get to that sophisticated and objective perspective, and individual must intellectually move away from magical thinking and a naive orientation to life grounded in one's point-of-view as a member of his or her culture and society.

An American named Malcolm Knowles popularized the term andragogy in the U.S. By publishing an article in 1968 entitled "Androgogy, Not Pedagogy." Knowles' construct fell on fertile ground. Pedagogy had become a pejorative term, and adult educators were eager to separate themselves from the notion of teachers as pedantic pedagogues. Knowles construct provided an organizing theory and identity to the disparate members of the field of adult education. Not only was ideological structure needed, but adult educators were seeking validation in the field of education, which was increasingly spurning them. The andragogy movement was swept up by the mushrooming adult education business, and suddenly colleges and universities were offering courses and majors in adult education. Cooper & Henschke (2003) argue that Knowles increased scholarly access to adult education by theorizing, researching, publishing, and educating students who then became…[continue]

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