Adult education or training does not follow the learning process in which a teacher imparts knowledge to passive students.
It is hard to shake this ingrained notion of what education “should” be. The teacher-centred form of learning is known as pedagogy. The learning process is prescribed, and students are compelled to be there. Andragogy, or adult education/training, is the voluntary choice of the student who is invested in the learning experience on different levels.
Pedagogy uses techniques of manipulation and behaviour modification. Andragogy is focused on student self-empowerment and the sense of personal responsibility and motivation they bring to the educational experience.
Learning in an andragogical classroom is not administered by rote or a formal process. Rather, it mirrors the way people learn in real life and requires the full participation of the student. They learn by doing, and through making a personal connection with the subject matter. The process goes beyond an intellectual dimension to having emotional relevance for the student.
This emotional dimension is possible through the real-life applicability of the subject matter to the learner’s life experiences. Andragogy recognizes that a class is composed of different perspectives and backgrounds and students are going to approach topics in different ways. An instructor leading adult learners will keep the classroom atmosphere relaxed and informal, so students are comfortable giving opinions, asking questions and telling their stories.
Getting high marks and performing on tests are not goals of the adult education/training student. Their learning objectives are more practical, involving skills and insights that can be applied to help solve present-day challenges. Taking to heart the crucial differences between the two approaches is the key to getting the most enrichment from adult education.
The topic of this article is from the curriculum for the Schulich ExecEd program Masters Certificate in Adult Training and Development (starting Jan. 29, 2020). This popular program is designed to provide both leading-edge research and practical experience in teaching and training adults in the workplace.