Pedagogy vs. Andragogy: Where Many Get it Wrong In Their Learning Strategy

andragogy and pedagogy, elearning, learning design

Most professionals in the learning space have used the words “pedagogy” and “andragogy” before. Unfortunately, the terms are often used interchangeably and therefore, incorrectly. Broken down, pedagogy and andragogy essentially translate to “child guide” and “man guide” respectively.

Breaking Down Pedagogy vs. Andragogy

It might seem like a case of a tiny detail and a nitpicky eLearning agency, but there is actually a vast difference between adult and child learning theories. Someone applying pedagogical theory to a classroom full of professionals might find that their efforts read as child’s play.

As it turns out, there’s an art and a science to the way adults learn. Understanding the differences between motivation and what learners bring to the table separates the classroom from the boardroom.

Differences in Learning Motivation

One of the most obvious differences between pedagogy vs. andragogy is the motivation of the learner. Children require extrinsic motivation: They’re usually learning because an authority figure tells them to, or because they’ll be penalized in the classroom otherwise.

Adult learners, on the other hand, come to the table self-motivated and interested in understanding new topics and ideas because they know that doing so can positively affect their earning potential, community standing, or personal development. In short, to motivate adult learners, you need to highlight how learning benefits them personally and directly, rather than a “because I said so” mentality.

Life Experience

For better or for worse, kids approach learning as blank slates: They don’t have much experience with most topics, and even when they’ve had experience, it’s been on an academic level only. Teachers and instructors don’t necessarily need to connect learning experiences together for children to understand new concepts.

Adults? They’ve had the benefit of an entire lifetime of learning and experience. They know what has worked in the past or have habits that affect the way they learn and act. Because of this, approaching new topics with a traditionally pedagogical strategy could leave them disengaged and uninterested. Instead, andragogy inspires instructors to do a better job connecting learning experiences to what adult learners already know. Allowing for personal opinion, better pacing, and knowledge checks and re-checks helps adults leverage their life experience as valuable information.

Immediate Relevancy

Kids don’t really care why they’re learning something, so teachers in the classroom don’t always have to specify the reason behind trigonometry. (Don’t ask us.) Those who teach according to traditional theory might not realize the importance behind relevancy as part of the strategy. Adult learners want to understand why they’re learning a new topic. Not only should it be applicable to either their current position or a position they’d like to achieve, but topics should be hyper-relevant in the moment. Adult learners see irrelevancy as a waste of their time, so whether they’re already familiar with a topic or they simply don’t see how it applies to them, you could lose learners if you don’t take the time to highlight the “what’s in it for me right now?” behind any topic.

It’s a common mistake and one that might seem like no big deal, but mixing up pedagogy and andragogy (and using the wrong one strategically) makes your learning less effective. If you’re teaching adults, don’t patronize them with childlike learning strategies: Andragogy takes years of experience, motivation, and overall learning readiness into consideration so your learners feel respected, motivated, and less like kids in a classroom.