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The Debate Within

05 Oct

During our debate on the value of andragogy, I made the comment that it was interesting to be taking the position that was opposite of my true feeling about the topic because it forces you to look at the idea from a different perspective.  However, as I thought more about Knowles’ theory and my own reasons for pursuing learning, I began to think maybe I had been on the right side for me, namely in favor of andragogy as a valid theory for adult learning.  So I’ve decided to take a closer look at Knowles’ assumption and see how they pertain to me directly.

As a person matures, his or her self-concept moves from that of a dependent personality toward one of a self-directing human being.

This does seem to apply in my case.  My preference is to rely on myself more than others for what I need.  My choice to return to school in the M.Ed. program was influenced by others in that they shared details about the program, but this was not just the next logical step in my education as were primary, secondary, and post-secondary schooling, and even to some extent my first attempt at a Masters degree.  This is a step toward an entirely new direction I may want to take not only in my career but in my life as well.

An adult accumulates a growing reservoir of experience, which is a rich resource for learning.

10 out of 10 on this one.  I definitely feel that I am getting more out of my coursework now based on my life experiences, particularly experiences from my professional life, than I did during my undergraduate coursework.  I have often wondered what it would be like to go back and take some of the classes I took in college again to see what connections I could make related to the last 20 years of my life.

The readiness of an adult to learn is closely related to the developmental tasks of her or her social role.

I’m not really sure I understand what Knowles was getting at here.  I can see how the readiness to learn does differ between adults and children.  In some ways, I see children as being more ready to learn because that’s sort of their “job” as children to go to school and learn.  On the other hand, without many points of reference or much experience to relate new ideas to, children may not have enough to assimilate new knowledge and ideas.  Speaking from experience, adults may have the desire to learn but find it difficult to set aside dedicated time for it.  I guess I have to pass on making an assessment of how this one pertains to me until I can figure out what Knowles was saying.

There is a change in time perspective as people mature — from future application of knowledge to immediacy of application.  Thus, an adult is more problem centered than subject centered in learning.

I disagree with Knowles’ on this one, at least in terms of how it pertains to my current learning.  I don’t yet have a clear idea of where these studies will take me, I just know the subject interests me.  To some extent, education at a younger level might be viewed as more problem-centered as more and more education is geared toward passing standardized tests.  I think there is a great deal of adult education geared toward specific tasks, especially in the area of workforce development; however, I hope I’m not the only one who has returned to school simply because I want to broaden my views, consider other ideas, and just learn new stuff!

So, of Knowles’ original four assumptions, I’m only rating myself on three, and in the immortal words of Meatloaf, “two outta three ain’t bad.”  I guess there just might be something to this thing called andragogy — that adults learn differently than children.  The analogy I came up with during our debate last week really drove it home for me, though.  What else besides learning do children and adults do?  They play sports.  Would you coach a T-ball league the same way you’d coach an adult league?  Probably not.  Why?  Because the players in the T-ball league are just learning the basics, whereas the adults have probably played before, so they bring that previous experience to the game.  T-ball players may also be learning some other parts of the game for the first time, too, like taking turns and the responsibilities of each position.  These aren’t things you need to teach the adults, but there are probably some other things, maybe pitching strategy, that would be more appropriate for the adults.  Same is true for education.  When adults learn, they bring with them previous experience and prior knowledge of the building blocks for what it takes to learn.  Thus, my conclusion (at least for tonight), is that the idea of andragogy — that there should be a different set of principles at play when teaching adults — is a meaningful contribution to the field of adult education.

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2010 in ADLT 601

 

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