Andragogy

an·dra·go·gy  noun
the method and practice of teaching adult learners; adult education.
Google results: about 370,000
ped·a·go·gy   noun
the method and practice of teaching, especially as an academic subject or theoretical concept.
Google results: about 22, 100,000
The Google results for pedagogy are astounding – over 22 million!  But what about andragogy?  A mere 370,000.  Why?
We recognize children and adolescents as learners, and many studies and researchers have delved into discovering the best teaching approaches for this audience.  But what about recognizing the special needs and attributes of adult learners?  Is the lack of research because we educate adults in the same way as children?  Surely not.
Perhaps instructors are simply not recognizing their post-secondary level students as adults.  Whether they are fresh out of high-school, or older adults continuing their studies, students in college or university needed to be treated and taught as adults.  Teaching adult learners successfully requires a different approach than teaching children.  We know that adults bring experience, expectations, personality, motivations, etc. to the classroom.  When teaching adults, the instructor becomes the “guide on the side” rather than the “sage on the stage”.
The study of andragogy is worth a lot more Google results than is currently available.  And instructors of adult education need to become familiar with the theories of andragogy in order to have greater teaching success. In his book The Skillful Teacher, Brookfield suggests that skillful teachers will treat college students as adults – preparing them for participation in the adult world, and becoming responsible for their lives (2015).  I was surprised that Brookfield didn’t mention the term ‘andragogy’ in his discussion of learners as adults, but perhaps that just emphasizes that there is a long way to go in recognizing andragogy in the world of education.  We’ve got a long way to go to catch up to the pedagogy Google results, but perhaps if writers begin to identify adult learning as andragogy, we’ll start to catch up!
Reference:Brookfield, S. D. (2015). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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