The Keys To Adult Learning: Knowles 6 Principles of Andragogy Explained

No items found.
Professional Development

In this bite-sized tutorial, we’re going to dive deeper into the adult learning theory known as “The 6 Principles of Andragogy” and how they can guide our approach, making our training more engaging and effective for adult learners. 

American educator Malcolm Knowles gained recognition for his interest in and research into adult education. Knowles developed a theory known as “Andragogy” that identified a significant difference in how adults learn compared to children.  

Knowles presented 6 assumptions for designing adult learning known as “The 6 Principles of Andragogy”. These 6 principles identify the different characteristics, needs, and preferences of adult learners, and they offer guidance to trainers that can assist with the design and delivery of effective and engaging learning experiences. 

So what are Knowles's 6 Principles of Andragogy?

  1. Need to Know: Adults need to know why they need to learn something and what the benefits will be for them before they fully commit or buy into the learning process. This makes it essential that from the start, trainers clearly outline the personal benefits their adult learners will gain from the training. 
  1. Experience: Adults bring with them a wealth of life experiences and trainers should encourage them to share and reflect on those experiences as part of the overall learning process. Providing links between their current knowledge and experience, and the new content will allow them to expand their knowledge and skills through logical and familiar associations; THIS makes a huge difference to how engaging and effective your training can be!
  1. Self-Concept: This principle acknowledges that adults like to be in control of their learning. They see themselves as capable of making decisions and taking responsibility for what they learn; they prefer to learn rather than be taught. So teachers and trainers should encourage and support this autonomy by presenting themselves as a means of support to assist the learning process. 
  1. Readiness to Learn: Adults are reluctant to learn something that has no relevance to their immediate situations, but rather, they’re motivated to learn when the training content can directly help them solve current real-life/work problems. This links to... 
  1. Problem-Centred Approach: This principle acknowledges that adults tend to be more receptive to learning when they're presented with practical problems and challenges to solve. They're also more likely to engage with materials and activities that are problem-centred, goal-oriented and can be immediately applied to real-world and work situations. 
  1. Intrinsic Motivation: Adult learners are driven by internal motivations like personal growth, career advancement or a sense of accomplishment and achievement. They're less likely to be motivated by external rewards, and certainly not punishment. Trainers should tap into these motivations by providing intrinsic rewards such as acknowledging their progress and providing positive feedback throughout the training process. 

Knowles’s 6 Principles of Andragogy are widely used in the design of effective and engaging adult education and training programs because they highlight the importance of respecting the unique characteristics and needs of adult learners. 

Over time Knowles's work has been further refined, structured and added to by others, leading to what is now more commonly referred to as the “Principles of Adult Learning” and principles that we believe should continue to be used as a foundation when designing and delivering any form of adult education.

What are your thoughts?  We would love to know!

Images and Videos

No items found.
Get a free personalised Learning Plan and let us point you in the right direction.