Education has traditionally been seen as a form of transmission, of broadcast. It was always the teacher and the institution who decided what the learner needed to know, and how knowledge and skills should be transmitted.
This is to be expected since Pedagogy concerned itself initially with teaching children- empty vessels to be filled. Although we tend to use it as a blanket term, there is clearly a wide variance between teaching children and adults, if only in terms of awareness of self and willingness to learn.
In 1970, Malcolm Knowles published “The Modern Practice of Adult Education: Andragogy versus Pedagogy” and outlined the idea of Adult Learning as distinct from assumptions about child learners. Andragogy refers to “man led” rather than pedagogy which has the root ped meaning “child”. To Knowles Andragogy was the Art and Science of adult Learning. In fact the term wasn’t new- Andragogy was coined as far back as 1833, but Knowles gave it a methodology.
Knowles suggested that what made Adult Learners distinct were 6 core assumptions:
Need to Know: Adults need to know why they are learning something, and what the benefits are.
Self-concept: A person matures into adulthood from being a dependent personality toward being a self-directed human being. They take ownership of their learning.
Adult Learner Experience: The adult accumulates a growing reservoir of experience that becomes an increasing resource for learning.
Readiness to Learn: As a person matures they are increasingly drawn to the developmental tasks of their social roles. Teaching and learning needs to be timely and relevant.
Orientation to Learning: Adult Learners have need of immediacy of knowledge, ready to be used, whereas children’s application is often postponed till older. Adult learning shifts from one of subject centredness to one of problem centredness.
Motivation to Learn: As a person matures the motivation to learn is internal, whereas children need external guidance and nudges. Intrinsic rewards- self satisfaction, sense of achievement tend to motivate the adult learner.
From these assumptions, Knowles laid out the 4 principles of Andragogy. First, Adults need to be involved in the planning and execution of their learning. Secondly, learning should be experiential- and a space where mistakes can be made and corrected. Third, learning should have relevance and immediacy based around their adult life (eg impact on their job). Finally, Andragogy is based on problem-solving rather than subject knowledge.
Educators teaching adult learners can incorporate these principles into their teaching style, moving from instructors to facilitators, helping the adult learner to set and achieve goals and guide them through problem-centred learning experiences that are relevant. The adult learner has a wealth of life experience to bring to the learning.
You could say that University teaching, certainly at undergraduate level sees a blending or seguing between Pedagogical and Andragogic principles. For instance my first years initially are not involved with the planning and execution of the course, and often show discomfort at first when they are not spoon fed. But as the term progresses, they start to adopt adult learner characteristics, and take control of their own learning regime. For the tutor, knowing how and when to manage this calibration from pedagogical tools to andragogic tactics is an area worthy of closer study. Of course not all adults learn in the same way at the same pace, so the transition between pedagogical tools may need to be individually paced for different students.