A good question human resources development (HRD) and human resources management (HRM) practitioners ask is “why do we explore learning theories?” The simple answer is we want quality learning in our organizations. HRD, HRM interventions, and management policies are congruent with the assumptions about human nature and organizational life. Naturally, learning theories about human behavior carry with them assumptions about human nature, the purpose of training, and desirable values. Understandably then, a better understanding of the various learning theories will result in better decisions regarding learning experiences and more desirable outcomes (Knowles, Holton III, & Swanson, 2005). Without a doubt, learning theories will contribute to long-term gains in our human capital. The purpose of this article is neither to solely outline existing learning theories in contemporary human resource management settings nor to present an analysis of the theory of helping adults (andragogy) vs. the theory of teaching children (pedagogy). It is rather an attempt to incorporate andragogy and pedagogy into effective teaching/facilitating methods of human resource development and human resource management in contemporary organizations. The collaborative use of and ragogy and pedagogy is believed to lead to better learning outcomes in any organization (Knowles et al.,1998, 2005). In e-HRM, it does not necessarily require that andragogical approach be used. The collaborative or single use of andragogy and pedagogy depends on a plethora of factors: organizational differences, individual differences, and subject matter differences(Knowles et al., 1998, 2005). To address the above pertinent issues associated with HRD, HRM and e-HRM, it is necessary and important to look into two important terms, namely, andragogy and pedagogy and how these two different approaches affect effective teaching/facilitating methods of HRD, HRM, and e-HRM in today’s learning organizations.
The concept of helping adults learn had been evolving in Europe for quite some time before it was introduced to North America by adult education leaders. It was a German grammar school teacher by the name of Alexander Kapp who coined the term andragogy in 1833 to differentiate it from the theory of youth learning, which is widely called pedagogy, the art, and science of teaching children. Andragogy is defined as the art and science of helping adults learn (Knowles et al., 1998, 2005). Art here refers to “style,” and science here refers to “method.” A number of scholars in the fields of adult education, HRD, and HRM including e-HRM helped popularize the principles of andragogy. It must be noted that andragogy has been applied to more than the previously mentioned fields. First, Lindeman (1926) identified several key assumptions about adult learners. Table 1 shows a summary of Lindeman’s key assumptions about adult learners.Table 1.
Lindeman’s key assumptions about adult learners
|1. Adults are motivated to learn as they experience needs and interests that learning will satisfy.|
|2. Adults’ orientation to learning is life-centered.|
|3. Experience is the richest source for adults’ learning.|
|4. Adults have a deep need to be self-directing.|
|5. Individual differences among people increase with age.|
Key Terms in this Chapter
Andragogy: The art and science of helping adults learn. The word “helping” is heavily emphasized to differentiate the theory of andragogy from the theory of youth learning. Some scholars refer andragogy a set of assumptions; others refer it to a set of guidelines. Still others refer it to a philosophy. However, Knowles refers it to a theory, which has been widely accepted in the field of adult education and training. According to andragogical leaders in North America, the theory of andragogy sparked a revolution in adult education and training simply because previously every learner was taught pedagogically.
Pedagogy: The art and science of teaching children. The word “teaching” is emphasized because the role of an instructor is defined as that of a knowledge dictator. A knowledge dictator is supposed to lecture heavily and children are supposed to assume the role of following their instructors submissively.
Principle: A standard, such as a guide to behavior, rule.
Humanism: Humanism originated in China. It literally means teacher of the humanities. It is further believed that humanism would develop autonomous and responsible individuals. Humanistic instructors see themselves as facilitators, helpers, and partners in the learning process. They establish a context for learning and serve as a flexible resource for adult learners. Humanistic teachers must trust students to assume responsibility for their learning. (as cited in Wang and Sarbo, 2004, p. 209-210 AU11: The in-text citation "Wang and Sarbo, 2004" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. )
Confucius-Heritage Society: Confucius saw growing disorder in his lifetime. In response, he developed a philosophy to maintain the status quo in societies. His philosophy has been translated into teaching, “let a teacher be a teacher and let a student be a student.” What this means is that teachers are leaders and students are followers. Their roles are well defined. In other words, in Confucius-Heritage societies such as in Japan, China, South Korea, and Singapore, pedagogy is deeply rooted in their cultures. Probably andragogy has only a small place in these societies.
Learning Contract: A document spelling out learner expectations within an organizational context. Learning that has as its purpose improving one’s competence to perform in a job or in a profession must take into consideration the needs and expectations of organizations, professions, and society. Learning contracts provide a means for negotiating reconciliation between these external needs and expectations and the learner’s internal needs and interests.
Societal Forces: Political culture, social culture, and economical development of a given society. These forces may determine educational theories that one may use to educate and train the workforce.
Flexibility: Flexibility is used figuratively, meaning to change easily in response to situations. In this article, it refers being able to move freely from the pedagogical model to the andragogical model and vice versa.