Monday, 2 February 2015

the continuum between pedagogy and andragogy: developing independent students

This is something I have been thinking about especially in the light of reading The Adult Learner: a Neglected Species by Malcolm Knowles. This idea of different students needing different levels of support to feel empowered and thus engaged in their own education. Knowles explains it as a continuum between pedagogical and andragogical approaches to learning. This has made me think about how active learning/teaching strategies are implemented. It is ironic, I think, that active learning strategies are andragogical, empowering, student-centred teaching practices, yet if they are imposed on students without consultation, it ends up being implemented in a pedagogical manner. For active learning strategies to work in our courses, they need to be implemented in a manner that treats students like adults. Students need to have a say in how they wish to be taught. Sometimes, that may mean that they wish a pedagogical (instructor-centred) approach rather than an andragogical (learner-centred) approach. What frustrates me is that research provides ample evidence to suggest that the learner-centred approaches produce deeper learning. But what I am wondering these days, is if the potential for deeper learning with andragogical teaching strategies is squandered on students who are not yet ready to accept more responsibility for their own learning. So then the question becomes, how do we as educators best prepare students so that they feel empowered to direct their own learning? And isn't that the true goal of higher education - the development of independent learners. Maryellen Weimer's blog post cited below has some suggestions for how we can do this.


Knowles, M.S.  1990. The adult learner: a neglected species, 4th ed. Houston (TX): Gulf Pub. Co. (The 1973 edition is available through ERIC here)

Weimer M. 2014. What’s an Empowered Student? Faculty Focus (April 16).