Conventional Online Teaching vs. Andragogical Online Teaching

Conventional Online Teaching vs. Andragogical Online Teaching

Victor C.X. Wang (California State University, Long Beach, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-906-0.ch005


In an effort to promote the andragogical teaching model in helping adult learners learn online, the author of this chapter has sought to compare and contrast this model with conventional online teaching model. In doing so, the author argues while conventional online teaching is guided by behaviorism, in order to help adults learn in the online environment, instructors must go beyond the conventional online teaching model characterized by the use of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives and embrace humanism from which andragogy flows. The two models addressed in this chapter were not developed in a vacuum. Rather, they were derived from pedagogical and andragogical assumptions of learners. According to the literature in adult education, pedagogical principles were developed as early as in the 7th and 12th centuries whereas andragogical principles emerged in the early part of the 19th century in Europe. Both pedagogical principles and andragogical principles have been used to guide online adult teaching and learning since universities began to deliver courses in the virtual environments at the beginning of the 21st century.
Chapter Preview


As people walked into the 21st century, they realized that teaching, especially teaching of adult learners is completed not only in the traditional classroom, but also in the electronic classroom or what we call “virtual environments”. As early as the 1970s, the father of adult education, Malcolm Knowles predicted that teaching of adults in the 21st century, would be delivered electronically (Knowles, 1975). We can all prove that his predication came true as more and more universities have begun to deliver courses online to reach learners far and wide. One logical inference as to why Knowles made such a precise prediction is the fact that mature learners cannot come to the traditional classroom to receive their education and training because of their multiple work/family responsibilities. Yet, they must retool their knowledge and skills in order to survive and thrive under any economical conditions in the 21st century. He further predicted that the de-institutionalization of education, in the form of open and independent learning systems, would create a need for learners to develop appropriate self-directed learning skills: Students entering into these programs without having learned the skills of self-directed inquiry will experience anxiety, frustration, and, often failure, and so will their teachers (as cited in Wang, 2005, p. 35). Self-directed learning skills will definitely help mature learners learn in the virtual environments where they have no face to face meetings with their course instructors except that some instructors may arrange some online interaction with mature learners via technologies. The virtual environments provide not only academic learning but also social networking. King and Gura (2007) argue that learners young and old in the information age, not only engage in learning on the Internet, but also engage in online social networking such as making virtual international friends via their online journals, MySpace and Facebook (Havenstein, 2007). In addition, learners, especially those with better computer skills, may engage in constant text messaging, watching movies and “Googling” for all sorts of their information needs directly from their cell phones (King, 2009). The implication has been people all live in such a digitally connected world and the Internet has become a bone fide tool for teachers to conduct teaching online and learners to engage in learning online. If positively used, the Internet can help maximize learning on the part of learners. In other words, the Internet can maximize learning anywhere, any time given the asynchronous and synchronous nature of online teaching/learning. If negatively used, the Internet may frustrate our learners in the 21st century, leaving our learners aimless “Googling” searching for useless information they may not need to achieve learning. As teachers and learners, we should be aware of the dialectical relationships between the above positive and negative usage of the Internet.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Humanism: First advanced by educators and philosophers such as Confucius 2,500 years ago in China. Later, it was supported by giant scholars such as Abraham Maslow who emphasized self-actualization is the highest level of his hierarchy of human needs. In adult education, it places emphasis on personal growth, self-direction in the learning process, individual potentiality and self actualization by using facilitation, self-direction and teamwork. When applied to the virtual learning environments, it is all about andragogical teaching methods.

Pedagogical: This term is the adjective form of the noun pedagogy.

Andragogical: This term is the adjective form of the noun andragogy.

Constructivism: It places its emphasis on the internal process of the learner’s mind. Constructivist instructors have the notion that instructional objectives are not to be imposed on the learner but negotiated with the learner, and evaluation is more of a self-analysis tool. This philosophy is more akin to humanism.

Behaviorism: It stands for behaviorist teaching philosophy. First invented by John Watson in the 1920s and further advanced by B. F. Skinner in the 1960s. Translated into online teaching and learning, it represents “programmed instruction” which was first introduced in the 1960s. In the 21st century, programmed instruction is still useful for the virtual learning environments, but it must be supplemented and complemented by andragogical teaching methods when it comes to helping adult learners learn in the online learning environments.

Instructional Design: It refers to the practice of maximizing the effectiveness, efficiency and appeal of instruction and other learning experiences. The process consists broadly of determining the current state and needs of the learner, defining the end goal of instruction, and creating some “intervention” to assist in the transition.

Andragogy: A term first coined by Alexander Kapp in 1833 in Germany and brought to North America by a Yugoslavian scholar. In the 1970s, the concept of andragogy was popularized by the father of adult education, Malcolm Knowles. The term is simply defined by Knowles as the art and science of helping adults learn. Note here Knowles emphasized strongly the word “help” to indicate that educators can not teach adults directly. Educators must facilitate adult learning. In the 21st century, the concept of andragogy has been applied to online teaching and learning and some other fields of study as well.

Taxonomy: It refers to the science or technique of classification. In this chapter, it refers to Bloom’s taxonomy which includes six levels: 1, Knowledge; 2, Comprehension; 3, Application; 4, Analysis; 5, Synthesis; and 6, Evaluation.

Adult Learning: It refers to the education and training of mature learners. It focuses more on the self-directed learning process. It is driven by the concept of andragogy and humanism or constructivism.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: