Adult Education – How is it Different?

How is it different from K-12? Why is this important to us? Discuss andragogy and life-long learning.

Adult education, how is it different? Before we discuss the practical differences, let’s first address the two primary categories of education – pedagogy, and andragogy. Simply stated, in Merriam Webster’s online dictionary, pedagogy is the art science or profession of teaching. Within the profession, however, pedagogy, more often refers to the K through 12 type of approach; the Socratic approach, if you will, where teachers teach and learners listen. The information is passed from the instructor to student – more of a rote learning approach, where the learner is dependent upon the instructor for all learning. The teacher or instructor assumes full responsibility for what is taught.

Andragogy, however, assumes that the learner is self-directed. The learner is responsible for his or her own learning. Self-evaluation is characteristic of this approach. With Andragogy, the learner brings his own experience to the learning process. Each adult learner is a source of knowledge and contributes to the overall learning experience. With this approach is more of a built in readiness to learn than in the pedagogical model. This self-motivation comes from the need to know in order to perform more effectively or to accomplish one’s goals.

So, adult education is focus more on learning what we need to know to accomplish our different life goals. The other education approach is more of a required process to gain certain basic credentials. It is often much less student centered and focuses more on specific outcomes centered around a set curriculum. Adult education in comparison to K-12 is more learner centered in the expectation is more participation based on life experience.

The adult education approach becomes important to us since the goals are primarily different. The goals are centered on achieving a specific task outcome, or learning new behaviors. The adult becomes less motivated by grade point averages, and more motivated by achieving specific goals. Most often these goals are more pragmatic, and are centered around specific outcomes at the learner wants to achieve.

In this 21st century world of complexity, all of our senses are continually being assaulted with multiple types of information. To survive and possibly even to prosper, learning becomes a lifelong process. Most of us become lifelong learners, whether we recognize that specific term or not. In essence, adult education is different primarily from our K-12 experience, and possibly early college, by both our motivation and our need. Adult education becomes a choice, not a responsibility.

Copyright November 4, 2009 Boyd K. Smith, Ph.D. All rights Reserved

PIM was formed May of 2000. Based on research of large, complex, highly techical organizations, a determination was made that a more systemic approach to organizational learning was required to optimize learning and educational experiences.

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