teacher_and_students_picturesAs a parent of a 21-year-old and a 16-year-old, I have heard the phrase, “Stop treating me like I’m a little kid” more times than I would like to admit. Changing my communication approach, as my children grew older was a tough thing for me to learn. Similarly, as a trainer of adults, one of the most important things I had to recognize is the fact that children and adults learn differently. This becomes an important distinction because many trainers fail to adopt adult learning practices (andragogy) when they design training for adults. Many trainers continue to use training methods built on pedagogical principles—principles used to train children.

This is pretty heady stuff, so let's start with a definition. By definition, Pedagogy is the study of being a teacher or the process of teaching. The word comes from the Greek paidos meaning "child" and ágō meaning "lead." So, it literally means "child leading.” The term pedagogy is used to refer to instructive theory; teachers learn their subject and also how to teach that subject. The whole practice is teacher focused. Andragogy, on the other hand, consists of learning strategies focused on the learner—adults. It is the process of engaging adult learners with the structure of learning experience—it is learner focused.

American educator Malcolm Knowles1 asserted that andragogy (Greek: "man-leading") should be distinguished from pedagogy (Greek: "child-leading"). Knowles' theory of six assumptions, or principles, related to the motivation of adult learning are:

1.  Need to Know – Adults need to know the reason for learning something.

2.  Foundation – Adults bring a volume of experience (including past mistakes) to the learning experience, which impacts their role in the learning.

3.  Self-concept – Adults have become responsible for their decisions in life, and that includes continued learning. While teachers evaluate the learning of children, adults typically self-evaluate their success.

4.  Readiness – Adults want to perform tasks and solve the problems of life. When they see the connection between the learning and how they will apply it to their work and lives, their readiness to learn is triggered.

5.  Orientation – Adult learning is “life centered” as opposed to “content centered.”

6.  Motivation – Adults respond better to internal motivations such as self-esteem, accomplishment, and satisfaction rather than external motivators like the consequences of failure such as not advancing to the next grade level.

Over the next two weeks, we’ll take a deeper dive into these six principles and SHOW YOU how to apply them when developing training for your staff. Of course, we’re always here to help save you time and money in making your training “best in class.” Simply contact us and we’ll be happy to help you adopt adult learning practices into your organization’s training programs. Until next week, remember to take care of the customer, take care of each other, and take care of yourself!

1 Knowles, Malcolm; Holton, E. F., III; Swanson, R. A. (2005). The adult learner: The definitive classic in adult education and human resource development (6th ed.). Burlington, MA: Elsevier

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