Andragogy, the art and science of helping adults learn, has a long and rich history that has shaped understanding of adult learning and continues to be a strong force in guiding the way adults learn. While adult educators in the US are familiar with andragogy through the work of Dr. Malcolm Knowles, the theory of andragogy reaches a worldwide audience of practitioners striving to improve learning through its respectful and engaging method focused on the learner.
The term 'andragogy' was first authored by Alexander Kapp (1833), a German high school teacher, but it lay fallow for many decades (Reischmann, 2005). In the 1920s, another German, Rosenstock-Huessy (1925) resurrected the term as he developed a method for teaching the German people, dispirited and degenerated in 1918 after World War I, to regenerate themselves and their country. Bringing 'andragogy' from the German Workers to America, Lindeman (1926) introduced the term andragogy twice, and explained it as a key method for teaching adults.
Malcolm Knowles acquired the term in 1966 from Dusan Savicevic (Sopher, 2003). Knowles (1970) infused andragogy with much of his own meaning garnered from his already extensive experience in adult education. The defining attributes of his theory include: acknowledging that learners as self-directed and autonomous and that the teacher is a facilitator of learning rather than presenter of content. Knowles successfully tested and refined this theory and design on a broad spectrum in numerous settings: corporate, workplace, business, industry, healthcare, government, higher education, professions, religious education, and elementary, secondary, and remedial education.
Savicevic (1999) advocates that his research has established andragogy as a scientific discipline, that studies education and learning of adults in all its forms of expression. The clearest articulation of andragogy from the European perspective is found where he provided a critical consideration of andragogical concepts in five Western and five Eastern European Countries (Savicevic, 1991, 1999). The critical element in European andragogy is that adults should assist one another to become more refined and competent. European andragogy also suggests that there should be differences in the aims of andragogy and pedagogy (assisting a child to become an adult).
Critiques of Andragogy
Andragogy has faced multiple critiques from adult education scholars. A complete list is not possible, given the space available in this futures column, yet a few will be mentioned. Jarvis (1984) wrote that the theory of andragogy had moved into the status of an established doctrine in adult education, but without sufficient empirical research to justify its dominant position. Welton (1995) asserted that "the 'andragogical consensus' (anchoring the study of adult education in methods of teaching and understanding the individual adult learner), formulated by the custodians of orthodoxy in the American Commission of Professors in the 1950s and solidified by Malcolm Knowles and others in the 1960s and 1970s, has unraveled at the seams" (p. 5).
Grace (2001) considered that Knowles' andragogy had been effectively dismantled by 1990. Pratt's (1993) perception was that after 25 years, Knowles' approach was not a panecea for a teaching approach in all adult education. Shore's (2001) perceived that Knowles' andragogy promoted unproductive debates framed along a binary path, such as adult/child, isolation/relation. Sandlin (2005) has serious reservations about its (andragogy's) prominence and thought it needed to be supplemented by three other perspectives: Afrocentric, feminist, and critical. Merriam (2001) acknowledged that andragogy is one of the pillars of adult education and it will continue to engender debate, discussion, and research; however, the field needs to move beyond andragogy.
The common thread that …