Andragogy or Pedagogy as a Means to Improve the Workforce?

Andragogy or Pedagogy as a Means to Improve the Workforce?

Victor C.X. Wang (Florida Atlantic University, USA) and Beth Kania-Gosche (Lindenwood University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2181-7.ch007
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Workforce education is driven by learning theories. For centuries, andragogy and pedagogy have been treated as learning theories to guide workforce education. In the workplace in any society, employees are adult workers who need to be equipped with either andragogical theories or pedagogical theories. It is not uncommon to argue that andragogy works best with adult employees in most cases in the workplace. However, pedagogy does have its place to guide workforce education from time to time, due to the fact that adult employees have to go through different learning stages in the workplace. While the authors of this chapter advocate that andragogy promotes self-directed learning in the workplace, successful adult learning professionals should move in and out of those cells as illustrated in Wang’s graph freely. The authors have made an attempt to show different views of andragogy versus pedagogy and how they can be utilized as a means to improve the workforce in a given society.
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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. Of course, andragogy is defined as the art and science of helping adults learn (Knowles, Holton & Swanson, 1998, 2005). Art here refers to “style,” and science here refers to “method.” HRD and HRM practitioners need to know both. They may find when examining their own style of training that they are actually following one or more learning theories such as andragogy. “Neither andragogy nor pedagogy is a teaching technique. Instead they are the philosophy that a teacher looks to for guidance” (Forrest & Peterson, 2006, p. 115).

A number of scholars in the field of adult education helped popularize the principles of andragogy in the field of adult education and training. The primary reason to advance and popularize such a learning theory was to boost long run gains in human capital. Throughout history, humans’ actions can be explained by various learning theories. Changing from one orientation to another does not necessarily mean changing techniques or content. “Changing from a pedagogical lecture to an andragogical lecture does not require writing new speaking notes, but rather a new approach to when and how an instructor should use the lecture method” (Forrest & Peterson, 2006, p. 115). 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
Adult Learners
1Adults are motivated to learn as they experience needs and interests that learning will satisfy.
2Adults’ orientation to learning is life-centered.
3Experience is the richest source for adults’ learning.
4Adults have a deep need to be self-directing.
5Individual differences among people increase with age.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Knowledge Economy: “Traditional economic factors such as monetary capital, physical labor, and raw material, are becoming less important in comparison to the capability of adding value through knowledge development, improvement, and innovation” (Drucker, 1993 as cited in Kessels & Poell, 2004, p. 147).

Knowledge Productivity: “A process that entails signaling, identifying, gathering, absorbing, and interpreting relevant information, using this information to develop new capabilities and to apply these capabilities to incremental improvement and radical innovation of operating procedures, products, and services” (Kessels, 1996, 2001 as cited in Kessels & Poell, 2004, p. 146).

Social Capital: “Mainly a public good shared by a group and produced rather indirectly by investments of time and effort. It is related to mutual trust among individuals...Work organizations are increasingly considered to be key sources of social capital, emphasizing the importance of the social networks, partnerships, collaboration and interaction, and knowledge sharing they provide” (Kessels & Poell, 2004, p. 151).

Learning Contract: 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.

Principle: Refers to a standard, such as a guide to behavior, rule.

Societal Forces: This may refer to 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.

Humanism: Humanism originates in China. It means teacher of the humanities. It is believed that humanism would develop autonomous and responsible individuals. Therefore, 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 & Sarbo, 2004, p. 209-210).

Flexibility: Used figuratively, meaning to change easily in response to situations. In this article, it refers being able to move freely from pedagogical model to andragogical model and vice versa.

Confucius-Heritage Society: Confucius saw growing disorder in his lifetime. Therefore, he developed that 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 follows. Their roles have been 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 this is true that andragogy has no place in these societies.

Pedagogy: Refers to 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. This kind of education is top-down. It is teacher-directed education and learning is subject-centered. Learners’ prior experience is of little importance. What counts in this kind of teaching/learning situations is the experience of the instructors. Although popular with the education and training of children, some mature children may prefer andragogy to pedagogy. For example, some high schoolers may be capable of teaching themselves once they are more experienced with a subject matter.

Andragogy: Refers to 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.

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