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Knowles’ Andragogy

Since childhood, we’ve only known “pedagogy”. So, how would an instructional designer think while s/he is attempting to design for adult learners? “Andragogy” is the answer!

Malcolm Knowles has articulated four postulates, which I’ve summarized @ Knowles’ Andragogy.

Please share your comments here on the knowledge article.


Instructors 2.0 (2)

(With inputs from Nilesh Vani, Executive Vice President, Aptech Learning Services)

Adults need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction
School and college students, by design, do not have a say in what they have to learn. Learned collegiums of wizened educators decide what should and should not go into the textbooks. The immature mind accepts this lack of control, but not for long. As the human mind grows and expands, it starts asking the “why” and “why not” questions. Andragogy allows (and even encourages) this desire by including the learner as a participant in the instruction development process.

Experience (including mistakes) provides the basis for learning activities
Punitive markings in exams have always been wielded to much effect in schools and colleges as a technique for course correction. In that sense, the cost of learning is quite high for the young mind. In the corporate environment, adults encounter unique problems and need to take risks to solve them. Failures are inherent. Punishment for such risk-taking and experimentation is a recipe for decimating the creativity and innovation that companies need to survive and grow in the competitive world.

Adults are most interested in learning subjects that have immediate relevance to their job or personal life
Formal educators pump into their young wards the universal knowledge of what they think “might be required” for adult life. Subjects from botany to astronomy are mugged up by rote learning. What is the use of learning the structure of the uranium atom when one deals with aluminium in real life?—the student might wonder, but don’t have a choice except to learn. The corporate learner needs to be convinced that the corporate training topic on cleaning the uranium reactor would be “needed” by him/her because he/she will enter the reactor to clean—at the completion of the training. It’s personal and immediate.

Adult learning is problem-centered rather than content-oriented
Even as pedagogy focuses on transfer of the “knowledge” from the teachers’ mind to the students’ mind, andragogy emphasizes on discovery of the “skill” by the learner. Related to the earlier postulate, the corporate learner is interested in solving a work problem, not wax eloquent content to his superiors, and be looked at askance.

Formal Education vs. Corporate Training
Let’s contrast the design and delivery of formal education—pedagogy—against corporate training—andragogy.

  1. In formal school or college education, the curriculum is top-driven—from the “learned” teacher to the “ignorant” student. If corporate HR attempts to follow this design for their L&D programs, learners will lose their motivation to take or complete the course.
  2. Educational curricula are chunked into annual and semester courses. In time-crunched corporate training calendars, the L&D manager is thinking hours and days—not months or years—for competency building.
  3. School and college teachers educate an audience that has demographic and psychographic homogeneity, established by the entry criteria for formal education. The corporate trainer who expects all employees to be of the same age and maturity is a trainer without a job.
  4. Most corporate trainings don’t have promotion-linked course assessments, which is an integral part of formal education.
  5. The educational institution is a citadel of peace and quiet. Students are able to focus on the task at hand—learning. Employees, on the other hand, are diverted from their work for a few hours/ days of training, all the while distracted by deadlines and work spillovers.
  6. The teacher-centric pedagogy, typically, disallows student feedback on teachers. However, corporate trainers endure the Damocles Sword of 360-degree feedback perpetually hanging over their heads—a stress that can take toll over several careers.
  7. Despite the learner-centricity of corporate training, formal education is less dependent on the performance of the teacher, but more on the process. Due to the inherent flexibility required of L&D programs, corporate trainers can make or break employee learning.

Self-directed andragogy contrasts sharply with the teacher-driven pedagogy. So, in corporate training, where the “learners” (not “students”) are adults, a pontificating instructor on a podium invariably ends up doing more harm than good. The “instructor”, in Transactional Analysis terms, tends to operate on an “I-Know-You-Don’t-Know” premise when “teaching” to students. On the other hand, the “facilitator”—in order to motivate learners to learn—must perform on an “I-Know-You-Will-Know” platform. As this approach is more skill-cum-attitude intensive, seldom does a “facilitator” measure up to the expectations of corporate learners.

The solution … in the next post—last part of this series!

Instructors 2.0 (1)

(With inputs from Nilesh Vani, Executive Vice President, Aptech Learning Services)

“Instructors are indispensable”—the factoid has been drilled into our collective consciousness over millennia. From the gurukuls of ancient India to the Lyceums of the West, this practice of face-to-face instruction to wide-eyed pupils—technically called “pedagogy”—has prevailed through the annals of time.

However, Knowles’ “andragogy” (teaching to adults) has turned the traditional “pedagogy” (teaching to children) on its head.

The image presents a visual contrast between the paradigms of pedagogy and andragogy. In the former, learning is unidirectional, from the knowledgeable master to the ignorant pupil. In the latter, learning is multidirectional, between the more knowledgeable facilitator and the less knowledgeable (but not ignorant) participant. Also, the learning environment is more amorphous in adult learning.

In this context, what pedagogical perils await the corporate trainer? Do write to us … and we’ll respond in the next post!

"Oh so ezee, LA for me!"

A certain Training & Development manager of a leading financial institution wanted to “measure the effectiveness” of her training programs, but did not know how. As she was a potential customer, and as I am the “technical expert”, our Sales team insisted that I “educate” this young (and purportedly, inexperienced!) T&D manager on the basics of learning analytics (LA).

On the appointed day, as I gently walked her through Kirkpatrick’s theory, I was quite amused by her periodic quips of “Ah, that’s easy!”, “Oh, that’s simplistic enough …”, and “Hmm! is that all?” I knew where this was going, but my poor Sales colleague was stumped when she finally declared, “Learning analytics is so easy that even we can do it in-house!!!”

The learned lady was evidently pleased with her grasp of the theory, blissfully unaware of the fact that it’s not the ideation but the implementation that makes or breaks measurement programs (and consequently L&D careers) in organizations. Respecting Knowles’ postulates of adult learning (experience, including mistakes, form the basis for learning), I wished her the very best.