Posted: September 23rd, 2020

Adult Learning Theory Sample Essay

Andragogy definition and history

Andragogy, or the adult learning theory, is a study that defines the methods or ways through which adults learn and how such ways differ from those used for children. Andragogy also involves studying adult learning and establishing the methods most suitable while contemporary andragogy was credited to Malcolm Knowles as the founding father in 1968, various texts indicate that the concept gradually grew for more than a century. History records that the term ‘andragogy’ first appeared in Germany in authorship by Alexander Kapp, a high school teacher in 1833. However, it became dormant and only resurfaced in Germany in 1925 when Rosenstock-Huesy saw it as the only means for German restoration post the First World War. Lindeman (USA) used it in 1926, after which its concepts grew in the USA and UK from whence Knowles refined it in 1968 (Henschke EdD, 2017).

Characteristics of Adult Learners

Adults have a superior mind structure and composition, which guarantees maturity absent in children. An adult learner, therefore, possesses certain traits that remain unobserved or dormant in children. For instance, adults are responsible and know that they are responsible for their lives. Consequently, they have self-concept and take charge of their learning process. Also, they are less open-minded, which makes them resistant to change. Additionally, adults prefer personal experience as a learning tool despite the mistakes and failures associated with the process. They are more likely to gain valuable lessons by trying and failing rather than theoretically learning. Most importantly, adults have a varied set of responsibilities that may interfere with their learning processes. Not only do they have jobs, but some also have families, loved ones, and friends, all of whom need their attention. (“8 Important Characteristics Of Adult Learners – eLearning Industry”, 2020).

Principles of Andragogy

The four defining principles of the andragogic approach to learning include pragmatism, experience, relevance, and involvement. When adults learn, it stems from their desire to know how to solve a specific problem. Therefore, a pragmatic approach to learning allows them to apply knowledge obtained in the learning process to face real-life situations (pragmatism). During adult learning, andragogy has to include provisions for adults to learn from their experiences. Such learning for adults is more effective, even if it is riddled with mistakes. Due to pragmatism, as mentioned above, adults need to learn on issues of immediate relevance to their situations. Hence, it is a defining principle of the theory. Finally, adults have to contribute to the planning and evaluation of their learning. Given that grown-ups tend to desire control over self, ceding some ground to adults over their instruction processes and evaluation satisfies the said desire (Klymenova, 2018).

Comparison to Pedagogy

The distinction between andragogy and pedagogy is as clear as day and night, with minimal similarities therein. Apart from the fact that both are learning processes, there lie no similarities between the two concepts. Differences, on the other hand, abound. For starters, pedagogy is much older than andragogy. First, interest in the former was recorded as early as 1500 with roots in Latin and Greek, while the latter only came to fore in the 19th century (Henschke, 2016). Apart from origins, the focus of andragogy is independent and self-directed, unlike pedagogic learning, which centers on an authority figure. Also, the former has minimal reliance on grading, while the latter almost wholly relies on grades. Finally, the experience is a major andragogic tool since leaners possess it aplenty, a situation un-replicated among minors involved in pedagogy (Khaldi & Erradi, 2020).


8 Important Characteristics Of Adult Learners – eLearning Industry. (, 2020). Retrieved 23 September 2020, from,minded%20and%20receptive%20to%20change.

Henschke EdD, J. A. (2017). John A. Henschke’s Vita Updated 2017.

Henschke, J. A. (2016). A history of andragogy and its documents as they pertain to adult basic and literacy education. PAACE Journal of Lifelong Learning25, 1-28.

Khaldi, M., & Erradi, M. (2020). Between Pedagogy and Andragogy: Definitions and Concepts. In Personalization and Collaboration in Adaptive E-Learning (pp. 55-93). IGI Global.

Klymenova, O. M. (2018). Trends of development of modern education: the basic principles of andragogy in teaching foreign languages.


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