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Andragogy 101

An overview of 6 adult learning principles, their implications and an example scenario




  • 1833: Alexander Knapp coins the term in Platon’s Erziehungslehre, als Pädagogik für die Einzelnen und als Staatspädagogik. Oder dessen praktische Philosophie.

  • 1921: Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy brings back the term in Andragogy.

  • 1925: Eduard Lindemann introduces the term to English speakers in The meaning of adult education.

  • 1980: Malcolm Knowles Shepard publishes The Modern Practice of Adult Education. From pedagogy to andragogy.

Key researchers

Connection to learning

  • Andragogy is identified as a process model for learning in 6 steps:

    #1: Self-concept: As a person matures from childhood to adulthood the self concept moves from being dependent towards being self-directed.

    #2: Experience: Adulthood brings about an accumilation of experience which becomes an increasing learning resource.

    #3: Readiness to learn. The adult learner’s readiness to learn becomes becomes more and more tied to the tasks of his social roles.

    #4: Orientation to learning. To the mature learner, the immediate application of learning, such as solving a problem, is more important than the postponed application of knowledge.

    #5: Motivation to learn: As a person matures the motivation to learn is internal.

Example scenario

The adult learning experience I would like to present here is about public speaking: I recently joined a Toastmaster group. Toastmasters is an international organization that promotes public speaking skills by completing one or several online learning paths. It includes texts, videos and practice exercises to deliver a number of speeches and evaluations of varying lengths and formats.

I would describe this learning experience as formal and informal at the same time: It is formal, as the structure of the learning process is pre-defined through the respective learning pathway. However, it is also informal, as it is up to the learner to choose one of several pathways, as well as the topic of one's speeches.

To me, this learning experience has been a successful one, as it caters to several adult learning principles: The learning materials clearly state the advantages of being able to express yourself well in public, which is mirrored by the learning motivation of the group members: All of us have joined Toastmasters for a reason, and we are willing to learn in the hope to improve our public speaking skills. Since the learning pathways leave ample room for choice and individualization, we learn self-directed and are able to draw from previous experiences. The practise exercises in the forms of short speeches and evaluations are very hands-on: Not only do we get to read and listen to public speaking tutorials, we also get to do a lot of it ourselves.

I will definately remember Toastmasters when designing future learning experiences myself, as it adheres to all of the adult learning principles I read about in our course literature. Especially the practical aspect of it - the opportunity to practise what we read about - is something I would include in my future work.

Additional resources

Instructional Design Central. (n.d.). Adult Education Definitions. Retrieved June 13, 2019 from

Maestro. (August 24, 2017). What is Adult Learning Theory? Andragogy Explained. Retrieved June 13, 2019 from