Academic journal article International Forum of Teaching and Studies

Adult Learning Orientations: The Case of Language Teachers in Peru

Academic journal article International Forum of Teaching and Studies

Adult Learning Orientations: The Case of Language Teachers in Peru

Article excerpt


Adult learners begin the study of a second language because they chose to do so, whereas early language learners are "forced" through culture transfer or bilingual education in early grades. Adults recognize that learning a language will satisfy an interest or meet a pressing necessity in their lives, and for those reasons, seek language learning opportunities. By adapting teaching style to this premise, the learning environment can better accommodate the learner. This study examines the case of a group of language teachers (N=25) in a language school in Lima Peru in 2010. The results of a self-assessment showed that 18 (72%) had a tendency to teach in a "pedagogical" style, whereas only seven (28%) were classified as "andragogical" in their teaching style. Qualitative interviews were conducted with three participants from each category in an effort to find explanations of their orientations and perspectives on expanding their orientations. The study concludes with implications for practice and suggestions for further research in regard to utilizing principles of andragogy in teaching adult learners of foreign languages.

[Keywords] andragogy; pedagogy; adult learning; foreign language teaching


Adults and children are engaged in language learning opportunities, whether formal or nonformal, for a variety of reasons. Children are usually placed in bilingual education programs for various reasons by their parents or their schools. Families in which English is not the language of the home represent a rapidly increasing percentage of students enrolled in U.S. schools. Thus, for social, economic, and cultural opportunities, many parents require their children to participate in bilingual programs. Adults however are self-selected when seeking opportunities to learn a foreign language because they come into the learning environment with several dispositions or characteristics. Malcolm Knowles (1968) proposed a new concept of adult learning to distinguish it from learning in younger years. "Andragogy" meaning the "art and science of helping adults learn" contrasted with pedagogy, the art and science of helping children learn (Knowles 1980, p. 43).


The review of literature first defines "andragogy", and describes the assumptions of adult learners. In 1970, Malcolm Knowles, in his book entitled The Modern Practice of Adult Education: Andragogy Versus Pedagogy, Andragogy was considered the way in which we help adults learn. The growing discipline of adult learning and education has come to define it more broadly as a more learner focused education for all learners, and is seen as an alternative to pedagogy- the teaching of children which is more teacher-oriented. Knowles based his conception of andragogy on what has come to be considered his six assumptions about adult learners (Knowles, 1975, 1978, 1980, 1984, 1989, 1990). These are as follows: 1) learners need to know (added 1989), 2) self-concept of the learner, 3) prior experience of the learner, 4) readiness to learn, 5) orientation to learning, and 6) motivation to learn (added 1984).

Here is a brief explanation of each of the assumptions about adult learner characteristics. The first assumption about adult learners' "need to know" explains that adults need to know why they need to learn something before participating in the learning experience. Knowles (1998) states "the first task for the facilitator of learning is to help the learners become aware of the 'need to know'" (p.64). Without this awareness, learners may not find the drive or self-concept that fosters learning. Second, a person's selfconcept moves from one of being a dependent personality to one of being self-directed as they mature. Adults develop a self-concept of being "responsible for their own decisions and for their own lives" (p.65) Third, as a person matures he or she has a wealth of experience that becomes an increased source of learning. …

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