Does Pedagogy Still Rule?

By McAuliffe, Marisha; Hargreaves, Doug et al. | Australasian Journal of Engineering Education, June 2009 | Go to article overview

Does Pedagogy Still Rule?

McAuliffe, Marisha, Hargreaves, Doug, Winter, Abbe, Chadwick, Gary, Australasian Journal of Engineering Education


Theories on teaching and learning for adult learners are constantly being reviewed and discussed in professional education, especially in terms of the university educational environment. Teaching and learning theories in this concept are not static and appear to be in a constant developmental process. Following on from theories and discussions on the differences between pedagogy and andragogy, yet another theory is being discussed: heutagogy. These theories shall be discussed further below. Professional education, including university education, is rapidly expanding in line with fundamental developments in society, that is, the spread of knowledge-based education in a highly technological society. Universities are making serious moves toward improving the quality of teaching and learning, especially in undergraduate education. However, even with ongoing research and new innovations in these areas, problems still remain in teaching and learning in undergraduate engineering programs. With the restructuring of degrees, there is still a large amount of material to impart in a necessarily restricted time; the fundamental skills that are absolutely essential for future engineering graduates. In some cases, the temptation to simplify complex problems, passing over intellectual challenges, is often overwhelming; alternatively, it is also difficult to justify trialling novel and "risky" educational techniques on core curriculum material, for fear of failure and repercussions in student feedback, as well as in accreditation of both the students and the courses. As educational theories advance, educators are aiming, in principle, to move towards more effective learning techniques such as andragogy (student-centered approach) and heutagogy (self-determined learning).


Pedagogy was originally developed in the monastic schools of Europe in the Middle Ages. Assumptions regarding learning and learners were based on observation of monks in the teaching of simple skills to children (Knowles, 1984). The tradition of pedagogy was later adopted and spread to some secular schools of Europe and America in the 18th and 19th centuries. Pedagogy is derived from the Greek word "paid" meaning "child", plus "agogos", meaning "leading", therefore defined as the art of leading and teaching children. The pedagogical model is a content model concerned with the transmission of information and skills, where the teacher decides in advance what knowledge or skill needs to be transmitted and arranges a body of content into logical units, selects the most efficient means for transmitting this content (lectures, readings, laboratory exercises, films, tapes, for example), then develops a plan for the presentation of these units into some sequence. Pedagogy is a teaching theory, rather than a learning theory, and is usually based on transmission.


Andragogy is a learning theory that is usually based on transaction. Theories of transmission work on the basis of filling deficits in student knowledge and comprehension of their environment, while theories of transaction work on the basis of addressing the immediate, practical needs of context-dependent learners. Andragogy is different from pedagogy in that it is a learning theory and not a teaching theory. The term is defined from the Greek words "anere", meaning "man", and "agogus", meaning "leading", and is used by adult theorists and educators to describe the theory of adult learning. Offering an alternative to pedagogy, the andragogical model considers the following issues be addressed in the learning process: allowing the learner to know why something is important to learn; showing the learner how to direct themselves through information; relating the topic to the learner's experiences--individuals will not learn until ready and motivated to learn; and finally, a need to have a life-centered, task-centered or problem-centered orientation. …

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