An Overview of Andragogy and How to Use it in Educational Programs to Create Better Educator Leaders

Returning to school is one thing. Returning to school as an adult is an entirely different ballgame. Just as adults think, execute, and digest information differently than children, they also learn differently. Unfortunately, many learning and development professionals educate and train adults using strategies that are appropriate for grade school, ultimately resulting in poor academic outcomes.

Creating training programs unsuitable for adult learning is a surefire way of seeing failure rates increase and enrolment rates decrease. Recent data shows roughly 38% of adult learners leave college after their first year. Like it or not, developing effective and engaging training materials for adult learners is challenging for many educational organizations and institutions.

For one, adult learners lack the freedom to devote their time to education. They may also encounter challenges such as financial debacles, hindering them from engaging fully in the learning experience. This calls for learning and development professionals to implement andragogy in advanced education programs to give different perspectives to classroom teaching and help adult learners share their experiences and fit into the current academic environment.

By effectively implementing andragogy, learning and development professionals can empower adult learners to take control of their education, be more independent, and establish measurable learning goals. Unlike pedagogy, which relies on a more hands-on approach from instructors, andragogy is more learner-centered. This means learners can direct their learning depending on their needs and goals.

What is andragogy?

Also known as adult learning theory, andragogy is an interdisciplinary field that uses psychology and education and concentrates on how adults learn. It was first developed by Malcolm Knowles in 1968 and is based on the concept that humans learn best when they are engaged with their surroundings and actively involved in the learning process. This concept grew from the idea that learning must be a life-long process, not a series of discrete stages toward adulthood.

Andragogy highlights that learning and development professionals must choose teaching strategies that help students develop their intellectual, social, and emotional skills. For instance, if an educator thinks his students struggle with communication because they are too shy or have trouble following directions correctly, he must try to re-teach the lesson differently to appeal to their learning styles better.

If this does not work, the educator may change his teaching style or use another strategy to ensure the students are more successful when taking an exam moving forward. It has been applied to several instructions, including business, education, and nursing courses. The primary goal of andragogy is to identify why people learn a specific thing and how they can be taught it more effectively.

The importance of integrating andragogy in advanced education programs?

Creating an environment where adult learners can feel comfortable asking questions and making mistakes is crucial to ensuring they feel positive and empowered throughout their learning journeys. Integrating andragogy into advanced education programs is part of creating a safe learning environment for adult learners.

It allows for self-directed learning

Learning new skills and knowledge can take a backseat for professionals juggling multiple career and family responsibilities. While many people find time blocking helpful to manage their personal growth and responsibilities, it is often a personal preference. Including andragogy in advanced educational programs allows learning and development professionals to engage more deeply with the subjects presented.

Moreover, moving at their desired pace, following their interest, and implementing learning in their environment can make it easier for adult learners to cement what they have learned and make it more meaningful. In some cases, it can also help develop a growth mindset that encourages adult learners to take more risks and work independently toward improving their knowledge. This also makes it easier for them to see learning as a requirement but a legitimate opportunity to enhance their skills.

It encourages problem-solving

Most adult learners are busy people. They might be too preoccupied with work to spend a significant amount of time in training. So, it is no surprise that they either want to gain knowledge on the job or spend less time on time. In most cases, they require training whenever a task or problem is to be done or solved. Integrating adult learning theory into advanced education programs ensures the lessons and content teachers provide to their learners become more relevant to the issues they are trying to solve.

When adult learners can rapidly learn the skills urgently required at work, they can transform themselves from mediocre to excellent professionals. With technology advancing rapidly, the opportunities for medium-skilled workers are reducing. Adult learning theory promotes quick learning, meaning you won’t be expendable at your job and remain competitive in a cutthroat business environment.

Faced with more complex challenges, today’s leaders must eliminate challenges and barriers that can otherwise hinder an organization’s progress. As an adult learner, andragogy provides you with a solid foundation for becoming a better problem-solver at work. When you can problem-solve quickly and effectively, you can anticipate and overcome challenges, encourage innovation and creativity, facilitate collaboration, manage risk, establish trust, and improve efficiency.

It focuses on learners’ experiences and prior knowledge

Adult learners gain a growing bank of experiences that become an increasing resource for learning. By incorporating andragogy into advanced education programs, learning and development professionals can ensure learners connect theories and knowledge learned in the classroom to real-world scenarios.

When adult students take advanced educational programs rooted in andragogy, they gain:

  • A better understanding of the course material
  • An extensive view of the world and an appreciation of community
  • Insightful data into their skills, passions, values, and interests
  • Opportunities to collaborate with diverse individuals and organizations

Adult learners can learn more from an advanced education program when they can relate to past experiences and validate what they are learning based on what they already know. As the adult learner interacts with the information, the concept becomes real, allowing them to seek creative solutions to hands-on tasks and assignments. Furthermore, incorporating andragogy teaches adult students to evaluate their actions, thought processes, and emotional responses and prepares them to become better workplace leaders.

It promotes focused learning

Adult learners have different learning styles. There will always be ones that understand an idea quicker and students that require more time to digest information and apply it in real-life scenarios. A student’s learning significantly affects their ability to maximize the delivery model.

Integrating andragogy into educational training programs helps learning and development professionals customize the learning environment to the needs of an adult learner, focusing on learning. Doing so makes it easier for instructors to facilitate class discussions and ensure every adult learner can maximize their education.

Applying adult learning principles in advanced education programs also gives adult students a renewed passion for learning. Not every adult is bold enough to return to school because it is challenging. Academic institutions can ensure adult learners feel comfortable and confident in engaging in class discussions using adult learning theory principles in existing advanced education programs.

Principles of adult learning theory

Before learning and development professionals can incorporate andragogy into advanced education programs, they must understand its principles. Doing so makes it easier for adult learners to build a suitable and accepted curriculum.

Adult learners guide their development

Using situations and dilemmas to contest adult learners’ principles and assumptions can guide their development. Adult learners can use questioning and critical thinking to assess their assumptions and beliefs and learn from what they realize about themselves moving forward.

Adult learners need ownership

With a more advanced and nuanced hierarchy of requirements, adult learners value motivation and personal ownership of their learning. Therefore, learning and development professionals must motivate adult learners by rewarding their success and promoting confidence and self-esteem.

Adult learners excel with goal-setting

Adult learners with a particular goal will have a better learning experience as they pursue their degree program. For instance, if a student wants to become a Doctor of Education, they might have a particular objective to enroll in a leading academic institution such as Marymount University online to reach their goal by a specific date. Unlike younger students, adult learners need these goals because they control their learning.

Adults learn differently than children

As mentioned above, adults and children are at sixes and sevens in learning. Therefore, different techniques must be used to make learning effective for adults. Adult learners often use past life experiences and their existing understanding of a topic as they learn. An excellent way for learning materials to make their course material more effective is by ensuring lessons are problem-centered and focused on real life or current events.

Adult learners welcome repetition

Repetition is essential for adult learning. If learners can practice new skills in a safe environment, self-efficacy will enhance to take those skills outside the four walls. Once adult learners can practice a specific subject or skill more than the ordinary, the better the chances are for mastery.

Adult learners process with their senses

Most adult learners don’t excel in a lecture-driven environment. Because of their lack of brain plasticity, adult learners must engage the senses completely when learning to solidify new knowledge successfully. Learning and development professionals must incorporate reading, writing, visual, audio, group, kinesthetic, and individual techniques to bolster learning chances.

Adult learners use experience

Most – if not all – adult learners are shaped by their experiences, and the best learning comes from understanding those experiences. Adult learners significantly benefit from determining ways to get hands-on experiences. This allows them to get a firmer grasp of their learning and be more excited about how their learning can advance their careers and interests.

Adult learners require relevance

Although some enjoy learning, adult learners are likelier to engage when the learning material directly relates to their lives. A good example is taking an online Ed.D. at Marymount University to improve their chances of promotion on the job and their salary potential. Students studying this course can learn to be agents of change in the education system, tailoring education to suit its learners through techniques such as ethical leadership, organization theory and reflection.

Adults learn through action

Most adults prefer to participate actively in projects and take actions related to their learning. This means incorporating a project-based curriculum that uses real-world scenarios that adult learners can encounter in the future in their respective jobs. Many adult learners find this learning significantly beneficial as it gives them direct access to what they can do with their knowledge.

Adult learners are self-directing

Self-directed learning occurs naturally for many adults without anyone suggesting or explaining it. Adult learners are used to planning, executing, and assessing their learning experiences without the help of others. When teaching adults, learning and development professionals must help adult learners establish goals, identify their training or educational requirements, and implement a plan to improve their learning.

How to integrate andragogy in advanced education programs

Incorporating andragogy in advanced education programs is tricky because it involves multiple components. Unlike pedagogy, wherein a learning and development professional can act as a subject matter expert, andragogy requires more involvement with the student – in this case – the adult learner.

Learn about your students’ backgrounds

Before planning their online courses or lessons, instructors must learn about their prospective students’ backgrounds. When you understand what is relevant to adult learners, you can personalize the curriculum to fit them better. This also makes it easier to use standard terms, examples, or problems they can relate to as you explain concepts.

Doing so reduces any frustration, disinterest, or distraction adults might encounter if they do not think your course is valuable. As mentioned, adult learners are self-driven and motivated. So, teaching something that does not bring value to their personal and professional lives increases the likelihood of them withdrawing from learning.

Use real-life examples in your lessons

Including several relatable examples in your lessons is another way of integrating andragogy into advanced educational programs. Real-life examples provide concrete applications to skills and knowledge learned as they relate to students themselves and society. Moreover, real examples encourage adult learners to understand their choices and how they fit into a greater societal context.

Role-play activities are relevant to adult learning environments. This is because role-play uses the previous experiences of an adult learner, encourages reflection, and provides an experiential learning opportunity. Moreover, it also lets them explore realistic situations by interacting with their fellow adult learners.

When implementing role-play activities into advanced educational programs, an excellent start is using everyday examples and situations relevant to what adult learners encounter in their daily work. You must also have an outline of the situation and know the expected outcomes. For instance, to teach students how to use a new application effectively, you can walk them through an actual situation in which they will need to use the tool and explain how and why they would use it.

Alternatively, learning and development professionals can tell stories based on their experiences or ask learners to tell stories from their personal and professional lives that directly relate to the lesson discussed. This fosters dynamic and interactive interactions essential in helping adult learners analyze, synthesize, and evaluate concepts. Furthermore, storytelling can help adult learners channel their emotions and help them retain their knowledge better. Experts find that using a story format makes fact retention roughly 22 times more likely.

Take advantage of micro-learning and immersive learning

According to recent data, the average attention span of an adult learner is roughly 20 minutes. So, if a class lasts for an hour, there is a good chance that most – if not all – adult learners will zone out and lose track by the 30-minute mark. Although reasons vary from one person to another, this is usually a result of cognitive overload.

One way to avoid cognitive overload is breaking a course down into 20 to 30-minute lessons that progress as learning development professionals teach the topic. This ensures adult learners can take a break after each lesson to recharge, digest information, and prepare for the next one. When implementing microlearning, you can provide students with notes or slides that emphasize the fundamental concepts of each lesson. This makes reviewing what they learned easier and determining where each section starts and concludes.

Moreover, teachers can also implement immersive learning and use innovative technologies to simulate real-world scenarios and help adult learners acquire new skills. What makes immersive learning excellent for adult learners is its ability to blur the lines between illusion and reality. This way, adult learners become active participants rather than passive spectators.

Working towards helping adult students learn better

Investing in learning is something adults can control and helps them be their best in times of change. However, for adult students to learn better, learning and development professionals must put their learners first, pay attention to their prior knowledge and life experiences, and choose how they would like to receive new information and join in their respective learning processes.