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Malcolm Knowles work


I am presently looking at the work of American adult educator and looking to incorporate his ideas of self directed learning andragogy/pedagogy into my training. Are you influenced by his work and if so how?

Many thanks,

Peter McDonald
peter mcdonald

2 Responses

  1. Knowles
    The quick answer is yes. This is based on very considerable experience over the last thrity five years running courses for business people. Further, all the successful business trainers and major training providers are influenced by how adults learn as described by Knowles.

  2. Andragogy
    I have been very influenced by Knowles and I wish more people this side of the Atlantic knew of his work. He did a cracking overview of early learning theory and, based on his experience, provided some really sensible, practical ideas. I like his humanistic and experiential focus.
    For those less familiar with his work, here are ten key training design points I had extrapolated from his theory of andagogy and updated. It illustrates how I have been influenced.
    1. Learners are ultimately responsible for their own learning.
    2. Learning is a process as well as an outcome. That process lasts throughout our lives – we learn in formal training environments but also at our desks, at home and while at play.
    3. Learning is an emotional as well as intellectual process. Our commitment to learning, and the richness within our learning, is often related to our feelings and motivation.
    4. Adults tend to relate their learning to what they already know. When training it is usual to build upon existing knowledge, to relate to the learners’ experiences and environment and to offer examples that fit with their frame of reference.
    5. Adults learn best by doing, or where ‘doing’ is part of the learning process. Fundamentally adults want to be actively involved in things that effect them. Lack of involvement in the learning process is usually indicative of some other problem.
    6. Examples, problems and demonstrations need to be relevant, realistic and meaningful.
    7. Learning flourishes in an informal, egalitarian and non-judgemental environment. Checking learning objectives is important but formal tests can affect the atmosphere. Challenging individuals needs to be done authentically and with support. Playing tricks or intimidating people destroys trust and builds resentment.
    8. Variety provides an important stimulus. Changes in energy levels allows for reflection as well as action. Using different methods or media helps maintain alertness and interest. Changes in pace and frequent breaks help alleviate tiredness. Appealing to all the senses provides reinforcement and helps match to individuals different thinking styles.
    9. To maximise the transfer of learning, the learner must be actively involved, not just a passive recipient. Application of the learning should be discussed or thought about at regular intervals. Activities should simulate or offer a clear parallel to real life situations.
    10. The trainer is a facilitator of learning. They need to create the right environment for exploration, risk taking and constructive feedback. They need to present information and skills in a way that is accessible and appealing. They need to work with both logic and with the human responses that emerge when individuals or groups are actively learning.

    Knowles is not without his critics. Ralf St. Clair wrote a very good critique entitled ‘Andragogy Revisited: a theory for the 21st Century’ about 4 years ago, but I cannot find the source.



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