Adult Educational Theory Review

The key principles of andragogy for adult learners revolve around a theory of 6 principles: 1.The learners need to know; 2. the student’s self- concept; 3. the student’s prior experience; 4. readiness to learn; 5. his orientation to learning; 6. the learner’s motivation.

Malcolm Knowles considers the expectation that an adult learner has grown somewhat considerably and is mature enough to direct themselves toward an educational goal. This need to find a goal often comes from some sort of discontent in the adult’s life where he realizes that he needs to fill an area of his life that will give him more information. The adult is coming to a time in his life where he is ready for a new direction and will seek out options. This self-concept is evident with the epiphany that it is time to seek something other than his normal status quo.

Knowles surmises that the learner’s self concept is important in his endeavor, and that he will use the way he thinks of himself as a measurement of what it is he is seeking. The learner will start out with the autonomous intent on finding answers that he needs to know, when he asks himself: what, why, and how questions. Androgogy is a tool that the student can utilize to help him find these answers. His prior experiences in life are often analyzed by the student so that he finds a relationship with his past and puts it in order to identify meaning in his current life. In finding perspective from past growth milestones, he will not see any unfulfilled quests as failures, but as situations that he can learn from. A teacher, through his art of teaching, can remind the student to look back at other attempts at accomplishment and use it as a stepping stone from which to direct his next goal.

When a student seeks out assistance , when he finds out who he needs to ask to get his questions answered, it proves to him that he is indeed ready to learn- to actively find answers and to begin the process of getting what he needs to accomplish done. The student might be reluctant to seek alternative ways of obtaining his information based on his orientation to learning, but knowledgeable teachers can help the student learn what learning methods work for him. Sometimes learning what kind of teaching style the student best responds to will help him keep his eye on the prize. When a student can keep seeing the road ahead of him, and knows what kind of educational setting he needs to learn better in, and begins to envision himself as being successful, his motivation should increase with positive personal satisfaction.

Adult development theories refer to ‘˜changes in consciousness’ in which as persons mature, they see a clearer correlation to their lives as it progresses. Adult development theories often incorporate ideas from social science perspectives and also psychology and physiological ideas. Adult development theories, therefore, would often mimic a holistic approach for developing education plans for a wide array of learners. If theorists do not acknowledge that a variety of learners come with a variety of assessment needs, then androgogy cannot continue to be dynamic. Understanding the dynamics of adult populations in learning will enable educators to continue to implement changes in their teaching methods.

Adult development theories whose focus is mainly on psychological development of the individual assumes that moist all adult learners have the ability to reach mature psychological thinking. Theories that acknowledge physiological development of human ability to mature and make connections in learning relationships create a path in which further exploration would benefit adult educators. Sociologically focused adult development theories can incorporate physiological and psychological knowledge into their teaching methods, thereby acknowledging each situation is best approached with a vast collection of ideas to use with adults who want to learn. Today’s educators do not work with concrete developmental theories based on assumptions that do not work with everyone. Adult development theories of today may use Knowles’s ideas as a basis, but also provide room for discretion. It’s a little like cooking from scratch. They use a little of this and a little of that to create the dish that will best help the person ingest the information they want to obtain.

Individual differences that affect adult learning have becoming increasingly clear as more combinations of personalities and learning styles become recognized. For example: we view an adult as not having a grasp on basic concepts that should be an obvious foundation for the ability to learn more, but we notice that even without the basics, this same adult does possess other intellectual capabilities. It goes beyond what we initially think this adult would be capable of, and teaches us that nothing is impossible. (Like the inspiring story of Helen Keller, for instance.)

Most easily recognized differences individual to each student would be the often referenced learning styles theories, personality theory tests, and assessment results. Learning styles theories discuss traits like visual acuity, auditory retention, writing preference to retain knowledge- things that are often selected as a way to implement different lessons plans for specific styles of learning. Personality theories, on the other hand, don’t just look at the student’s learning style (visual, auditory, etc.), but place more emphasis on the student’s reaction to different methods. Some students might be overly anxious, worrying about their ability, while others may be more ‘˜self-tolerant’ and allow themselves to stumble, knowing that it is likely normal to have to try and try again. Personality accounting may label the learner as being an introvert, preferring to study silently and alone, while other personalities may be ready to interact with others to gain their information. Personality theories also may take into account what motivates the student- are they motivated by money or by less tangible rewards like personal internal gratification?

Individual differences once discovered and taken in to consideration, open doors for assessment based on individual differences that affect adult learning. Of the wide array of differences that affect the learning process (in all age groups), there is an equal way of testing methods. For example, an auditory learner may grasp the information best by hearing the subject matter in a specific way, but may need to prove their grasp on the subject by completing a written test. It could very well be the opposite for a learner who grasps material better through writing, but is better able to explain their comprehension of the subject by verbalizing their answers.

So, in conclusion, the individual differences that affect adult learning can also affect adult testing methods. As androgogy principles are considered and meshed, we can think outside lines of old-fashioned basics, and assist today’s adult learners who have unique combinations of skills and experiences to take to the classroom.