While the term “pedagogy” is pretty much well-known even to the broader audience, the term “andragogy” is mainly familiar to education experts. The origin of the word is Greek and means “man-leading.” In other words, andragogy is the method of teaching adult learners, which has its main specifications and various tools to guarantee success. Unlike pedagogy, which focuses on teaching children of different ages, andragogy focuses on adult learning.  

Nowadays, adults need to find creative ways to enrich their knowledge and skills, and at the same time balance between their careers, family life, and free time. There are many methods that can facilitate learning while on the go such as mobile learning, microlearning, gamification.  

The main obstacle that course developers face while preparing an adult learning course is how to make it engaging and interesting so that they can retain the learners and motivate them to finish the course. The principles of andragogy can help in the modern educational setting as it is an idea with a rich history and modern approaches. 

How to Motivate Adult Learners 

In order to be successful, an adult learning course needs to be appropriate for the target audience. First of all, it has to answer the needs of the learners and provide them with the necessary skills and knowledge in a way, which will enable them to directly apply them in practice. For a course to be adequate, it also means, being properly translated and localized when intended for speakers of different languages.  

The principles and ideas of andragogy can help to establish the right plan of an e-learning course intended for adults. Basically, you need to follow the five pillars that were established by Malcolm Knowles, an American adult educator, who is associated with the popularization of the idea of andragogy. Following his ideas, it is important to create your course keeping in mind the following five principles: 

  • Self-concept – the adult is no longer dependent on others but leads a self-directed life 
  • Adult learner experience – with maturity, the person gains valuable experience, which facilitates learning 
  • Readiness to learn – the adult is no longer forced to learn, a mature person is ready to learn in order to better perform their social roles 
  • Orientation to learning – each new course is perceived as a tool to solve a certain problem in the present, the learning orientation shifts from subject-centered to problem-centered 
  • Motivation to learn – for adults the motivation to learn is internal, while for children it is mostly external 

In our modern setting, we can add one more very important principle that should be observed by educators – the limited time for learning. Many people cannot dedicate a whole day or several hours in a row in order to complete a course. Hence, it is important to offer them the option to learn while on the go – commuting to work or even when standing in a traffic jam. The content shall be divided into meaningful chunks that can be completed quickly and provide the learner with the necessary skills and knowledge to solve an immediate and concrete problem.  

Technology-enabled learning is one of the great approached that can be used for employee training, for example. Most of the methods used, such as microlearning, video-based learning or mobile learning, draw on the principles formulated by andragogy and offer suitable solutions for adult learners.  

The ability to choose when, where, and how to approach the course, is one of the great driving forces of adult learning.  

What is Interactive Andragogy? 

One of the basic ideas of Adult Learning Theory is that adults enjoy active over passive learning. The new technologies, employed in e-learning, allow us to add interactivity to the courses and thus make them even more attractive and engaging for adults. 

The idea of interactive andragogy is explored by many experts in the field of education. In his paper, Interactive Andragogy: Principles, Methods, and Skills, Alex Gitterman, presents a complex review of the issue concerning the relationship between subject matter, i.e., what is to be taught, and teaching methodology, i.e., how it is to be taught.  

One of the main conclusions is that it is necessary to use interactive teaching principles and create a collaborative learning environment in order to better address the needs of adult learners. The learners’ needs should be integrated with social demands. The material presented shall enable the learners to perform their social roles and react adequately in certain situations. In other words, the abstract world of concepts shall be integrated with the real world of personal experience and knowledge, as proposed by the American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer John Dewey back at the beginning of the 20th century. It is necessary to give the adult learners the power to draw on their experience and apply their knowledge in practice.  

Branching scenarios are one of the tools to make the e-learning course more efficient. They provide the learner with the option to exercise their knowledge and skills in practice and make mistakes in the safe learning environment. The complexity of the scenarios can be increased with the experience and motivation of the learner. Another advantage of this method is that it is suitable for a great variety of industries – from education to medicine and military training.  

The ability to interact with other learners is also one of the assets valued by adult learners. Giving and receiving feedback at the end of the learning course is an important element of successful training, especially in a company.  

We can conclude, that a good e-learning course focusing on adult learners, needs to implement the main principles of andragogy and adopt an interactive approach in order to be successful. Adult learners are motivated mainly by their internal desire to learn and improve their skills and knowledge and are looking for practical solutions rather than pure theory. Keeping these requirements in mind while developing your next course will help you attract a greater audience and improve your retention levels.  

Source: Interactive Andragogy: Principles, Methods, and Skills, Alex Gitterman 


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