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Research into Adult Learning Theory

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In particular looking at Malcolm Knowles and his five assumptions of adult learners (1967). Knowles defined andragogy as the science of helping adults learn. Andragogy was first coined by Alexander Kapp in 1833 and later developed by Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy.

Andragogy emphasises the understanding of supporting the process of learning in adult education. Adult learning requires the learners to create their own systems of meaningful understanding of knowledge rather than relying on rote memory. Knowles approach is humanistic and based on the notion of self directed and autonomous learning. This has close ties to constructivism as adult learners will have pre existing knowledge and experiences to bring into the classroom. I think it is possible to merge methods to engage adult learners. As listed below Knowles outlines the shift form content to problem based content this links to constructivism as a theory that is also problem that emphasises problem solving and understanding.

With both constructivism and andragogy having similar holistic ties the valuing the point of view of the students, but if the point of view is somewhat misguided the use of coaching and suggesting can redirect allow the student to reevaluate their current perspective. Both theories are built upon students making their own systems of meaningful understanding the integration of using group work in a social context can aid in student understanding. Both ultimately aim to promote students to take responsibility to set their own targets and their own learning.

Self- Concept: The first assumption relates to adults are internally motivated and self-directed. Adults need to know the reason for learning something. Adults need to be responsible for their own decisions on education involvement in the planning of activities and evaluation of the instruction.

Adult Learners Experience: This assumption accounts for an adult’s life experiences and knowledge. They are described as a growing reservoir of experience and becomes and increasing resource for learning. Experience provides the basis for learning activities.

Readiness to Learn: Adults are goal oriented as adults have a readiness to learn that adjusts to developing tasks for the roles in society. Adults are most interested in learning subjects that have immediate relevance to their work/personal lives.

Orientation to Learning: As a person matures their perspective of time changes from postponed application of knowledge to immediacy of application. The learning shifts from the more the immediate the task. Adult learning is problem centered rather than content centered.

Motivation: Adults respond better to internal rather than external motivators. Knowles highlights that adults are motivated to learn because of internal factors such as self-esteem, recognition, better quality of life, or opportunity to self actualise.

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