What's the difference between Andragogy and Pedagogy?

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Professional Development

In this bite-sized tutorial, we're going to look at another adult learning theory or part of it, in particular, the difference between “Andragogy” and “Pedagogy”. 

Andragogy and Pedagogy refer to the different ways that both adults and children learn. Knowing the differences when we're presenting content and involving them in the learning process, can make a significant impact, positive or negative, depending on who we're teaching. 

Let's start by taking a look at Pedagogy and what it means from a teaching perspective. 

Firstly, the word Pedagogy itself derives from the Greek words “pedi” meaning child and “ago” meaning guide. So it essentially means to guide children, which in terms of education means a practice of teaching children. 

Pedagogy involves providing students with opportunities to learn through experiences that are presented directly to them by the teacher. In other words, the teacher leads the learning, and the student depends on the teacher to provide the resources and structure. 

This works because children have little or no previous experiences to pull from and compare. So, they're presented with information via a structured curriculum.

Implementing Pedagogical Theory is a bit like working with a blank canvas about to be painted or a house being built from the ground up. This process reflects the theory of behaviourism, where it's believed that the learner is influenced by external stimuli, and a noticeable change in behaviour indicates that learning is taking place. 

This could include simple things like when the bell rings, lining up outside the classroom, or, when the teacher talks, the students are quiet. Each thing here is noticeable and each item learned is another brick in the knowledge wall. 

According to the pedagogical research of Swiss psychologist Paige and his theory of constructivism, children come to the classroom ready to engage and learn. It's the teacher's role to present activities that will engage them, spark their inquisitive imaginations and promote the retention of new ideas. This learning process through play allows children to discover their environment by directly interacting with it.

With pedagogy, it's important to ensure a well-structured delivery sequence to build a solid platform of knowledge that's required before a learner can progress to the next stage. 

From the student's perspective, the teacher is the one who knows best, and the student gravitates to them for the knowledge. The motivation for students comes from the teacher and others, including family members. And the content of learning is subject-focused with a prescriptive and set curriculum. 

If we think now about adult learners and the wealth of knowledge and experiences they bring with them to the training, you may begin to question the effectiveness of pedagogy in the adult vocational education and training environment, and you wouldn't be alone. So let's take a look now at “Andragogy” and see how it stacks up as a learning theory for teaching adults. 

Andragogy focuses on guiding the adults or essentially the practice of teaching adults. 

Adult Learners are more independent and don't require or desire information to be spoon-fed to them but rather to be directly involved in the learning, and they typically only reach out to the teacher for assistance where necessary.

Adults also bring a wealth of experience that they can utilise with a bit of guidance from the trainer to solve more complicated and abstract problems and build on their existing knowledge. Unlike Pedagogy, which was like building a house of knowledge from scratch, Andragogy is more like renovating a house of knowledge that's already built.

When delivering training to adults, it's important to recognise that they are self-motivated and usually attend training with a specific goal, like enhancing professional development skills within their careers. The role of a teacher in Andragogy Theory is to support the learners where necessary as they work on solutions to problem-centred content that is presented to them.

It's important to recognise the characteristics of adults and acknowledge the experiences they bring with them to ensure that the methods we use have meaning and relevance to them. 

Back in the 1970s, an educator named Malcolm Knowles identified that how adults learn significantly differs from how children learn. He presented his theory, which expanded on the concept of Andragogy; Knowles believed that the characteristics of Pedagogy fail to be effective in adult education.

Knowles made four initial assumptions about adult learners: 

  1. They need to know why they must learn something and why it’s relevant now. 
  2. They need both good and bad experiences to enhance the learning process. 
  3. They prefer a problem-centred approach to learning where they can use their existing skills and knowledge to find solutions. 
  4. They’ll learn best when the topic is relevant to either themselves personally, relevant to their workplace or their work goals. 

Andragogy Theory suggests that when teaching adults, the use of stories and examples that are relevant to them will enhance their understanding by allowing them to match and compare new information with their existing knowledge base. This is more likely to produce those magical light bulb moments where everything suddenly comes together for the learner. Ah ha!

In comparison, we can see that Pedagogy is definitely suited to children who present themselves for training with a blank canvas, with a need for highly structured subject-centred content being essential for their skill and knowledge development. 

Adults, on the other hand, are self-motivated and have a purpose for undertaking training. They also bring a bounty of experiences with them, so training adults using methods of Pedagogy that may not be so well accepted or effective.

Andragogy, however, accepts and recognises the characteristics and differences of adults and embraces them in the learning process. So, Andragogy would certainly appear to be the more appropriate option for adult vocational education and training.

What are your thoughts? We would love to know!

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