Posted on 06-Apr-15

Do you remember your first day of school? I’ll admit that the memory is a little hazy for me. Fortunately, I have the relatively fresher memories of watching my children’s first days. Be that as it may, there’s an excitement, an eagerness to engage and learn what this thing called school is all about. And that’s what Pedagogy – or the theory and practice of education – is built on.

I have an extensive background in K through 12 education. And in K through 12 we talked a lot about pedagogy. But when you get down to it, the word “ped” is in there, like your pediatrician. It’s actually the way children learn. They are empty vessels waiting to be filled, to be led. They are learning one of the most fundamental life skills necessary – they are learning how to learn.

Over time, as more and more adult learners decided to pursue an education, people continued to use the word pedagogy, until someone finally said, “Stop it, there’s a different way.” That person was Malcolm Knowles.

Knowles said adults learn differently. They’re not this empty vessel of a little child ready to fill with knowledge. On the contrary, adults have so much knowledge to give, you need to tap into that. You need to give them real-life experiences. And this is called the theory of Andragogy, the theory of how adults learn.

Marginalized Learners

In many cases, adult learners are already marginalized. They already feel like they don’t belong in college. They aren’t joining fraternities or wearing college sweatshirts or doing all the things that help ground a young person and provide life experiences to kids fresh out of high school. Adults have lived. They have life experiences. The adult learner is more interested in the relevance of the task and how it solves real-life problems … and how that translates into job and career opportunities.

How can we, as online or on-ground educators, create a “first day of school” excitement and engagement for academics, education and learning into a vessel that’s already filled with life experiences? One that is focused on solving real problems and developing real skills? In other words, where does the adult learner fit in? Or better yet, how can we ensure the adult learner has the skills they need to succeed in learning?

Blueprint for Learning

As the provost and chief academic officer for an online university catering to the adult learner in general, and military personnel in particular, these are especially important questions for me. In fact, I believe they encompass the essential questions of any educational organization – trade schools … seminar organizations … online colleges – that focuses on adult learners.

Andragogy gives us a bit of a blueprint for helping adult learners engage, retain and apply their educational experiences to life. It offers defining characteristics of the adult learner that we can use to make positive changes to our curriculum: self-directed, self-motivated, goal-oriented and seeking practical applications with real-life relevance.

Engage, Retain and Apply Educational Experiences

This April 15, I will join Grantham University’s Chair of Faculty Development and Education Training, Jennifer Schreckengost, as presenters for an IACET webinar that will explore Andragogy, cognitive load theory, multiple intelligences, learning styles and other approaches to CEU course design to boost adult learner success. Between the two of us, we offer decades of experience in training the adult learner, online and on ground. In fact, our organization, Grantham University, has been focused on the needs of adult learners since 1951. And year over year, our student satisfaction rate tops 96%.

You train adults. Join us for a Webinar that will help you understand the principles of andragogy and how to apply them to your training – helping your students engage with the material, retain the information longer, find ways to apply it in real life … and create a learning experience that they’ll talk about and come back to you for in the years to come.

Cheryl Hayek, EdD
Provost & Chief Academic Officer
Grantham University


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