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Theory of Andragogy (Adult Learning)

What should I know about the theory of andragogy (adult learning)?

The theory of andragogy emphasizes the following points1:

  • Adults are self-directed learners.
  • Adults need to understand “the why” behind what they are learning (eg, “This piece of knowledge is important because …”)
  • Adults learn by doing.
  • Adults learn best when instruction is problem centered (rather than content centered).
  • Adults learn best when the learning topic is immediately helpful.
  • Adults have a lot of life experience to draw on when learning something new (eg, “I observed this phenomenon at my last job.”)

How does the theory of andragogy (adult learning) show up in our work?

When we design training curricula and workshops for life science professionals, we focus on:

  • Involving learners in the curriculum or workshop design
  • Creating a facilitative learning environment
  • Explaining why a topic is important
  • Providing opportunities to learn by doing
  • Positioning learning as a problem to be solved rather than content to be absorbed
  • Discussing how the training is immediately relevant
  • Asking learners to connect what they have learned with previous life experiences

Where can I learn more about the theory of andragogy (adult learning)?

Click here or watch the video below to learn more.

Works Cited and Works Consulted

  1. Teaching Excellence in Adult Literacy (TEAL). Adult learning theories. TEAL_Adult_Learning_Theory.pdf. Published 2011. Accessed July 1, 2016.
  2. Culatta R. Andragogy (Malcolm Knowles). website. Accessed July 1, 2016.
  3. Finlay J. Andragogy (adult learning) [video]. May 17, 2010. Accessed July 1, 2016.