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Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks Essay

Before the turn of the 20th century there was only one model of teaching utilized in public school systems. This was known as pedagogy and it was used universally. Unfortunately (or fortunately) an adult learner brings different attributes and skill sets to the table, which are not well suited to this educational model. Andragogy was the name given to a revolutionary new educational model which transformed adult education, making it possible to teach an “old dog” new tricks. The changes in adult education began largely in the 1920’s with the publication of two seminal books; Edward Thorndike’s Adult Learning (1928) and Eduard C.

Lindeman’s The Meaning of Adult Education (1926). These books introduced a whole new concept of learning and became the impetus for change in the methods used to teach adults. (Clark, 1995) Adult learners benefitted from these changes because they were not a “clean slate” per se. They brought their own ideas and preconceptions, which were developed through their adolescent education and their adult life experiences. The essence of learning was captured by Lindeman: In this process the teacher finds a new function.

He is no longer the oracle who speaks from the platform of authority, but rather the guide, the pointer-out who also participates in learning in proportion to the vitality and relevance of his facts and experiences. In short, my conception of adult education is this: a cooperative venture in nonauthoritarian, informal learning, the chief purpose of which is to discover the meaning of experience; a quest of the mind which digs down to the roots of the preconceptions which formulate our conduct; a technique of learning for adults that makes education coterminous with life and hence elevates living itself to the level of adventurous experiment.

– quoted in Nadler, 1984, p. 6. 4 (Nadler, 1990; Taylor,B. ,Kroth,M. , 2009) No longer was education an exercise in memorizing grammatical rules or multiplication tables through repetition, rather it became a lesson in critical-thinking and learning how to ask the appropriate questions of other adult learners; essentially to learn how to work together to teach themselves with educators assuming the role of a coach, or an intellectual personal trainer.

In fact Kroth even labels andragogy as being, “learner-focused education” while referring to pedagogy as, “teacher-focused education”, with the former being experience based and the latter being information based. (Taylor,B. ,Kroth,M. , 2009) With this relatively new method of teaching educators became better equipped in their forays into adult education. Malcolm Knowles, who is widely considered the father of adult education, laid the foundation for many of the current ideas in adult learning, also known as the andragogical model, in his book, The Modern Practice of Adult Education: Andragogy Versus Pedagogy (1970).

(Lee, 1998). Knowles’s book was premised on four basic assumptions about adult learners: “1. self-concept, 2. experience, 3. readiness to learn, and 4. orientation to learning. ” (Lee, 1998). These principles have been expounded upon ad infinitum, but they remain the core of adult learning. An examination of these principles begins with self-concept. As adults, learners have a more developed sense of who they are based on the accumulation of life’s experiences, allowing them struggle less with identity and self-esteem and focus more on the art of learning.

Experience plays a very similar role, but also allows them to utilize skill-sets already developed in furthering their learning career. An adult learner’s readiness to learn is usually motivated by many things; a desire to obtain a degree; career advancement; social status, etc… Additionally, adults have a more global view of the importance of investing their time and energy into education. Finally, as adults, the years spent in school from childhood to adolescents have been a fantastic indoctrination into the educational process.

So the art of learning is far from being a foreign concept. And even though adult curriculums are much more advanced, adult learners are more successful today as a result of being able to mesh their pre-existing tools with the andragogical model currently used by educators. This is not meant to imply that this is easy. Each adult learner has different situations they are required to address that affect their learning process. These may range from; working full-time jobs, raising children or maintaining a household, just to name a few.

A comparison between the pedagogical and the andragogical educational models is required to fully understand why the latter is so much more effective in addressing the needs of an adult learner. First there is the traditional pedagogical model. Pedagogy is defined as: “the method and practice of teaching, especially as an academic subject or theoretical concept…” (Oxford dictionaries. 2013). A more practical definition is given by Smith & Lowrie; “…the word pedagogy refers to our relationships with children. More explicitly, it refers to appropriate ways of teaching and giving assistance to children and young people.

” (Smith & Lowrie, 2002) Andragogy is defined as: “the method and practice of teaching adult learners; adult education…” But Taylor & Kroth provide a more complete definition: Andragogy is referred to as learner focused education, whereas pedagogy is referred to as teacher-focused education (Conner, 2004) Andragogy provides a set of assumptions for designing instruction with learners who are more self-directed than teacher-directed (Birzer, 2004; Conner, 2004) An instructor using andragogical principles focuses more on being a facilitator of learning instead of being a transmitter of knowledge and evaluator.

(Taylor, B. , Kroth, M. , 2009) Traditionally teachers used a question and answer technique with students often referred to as the Socratic Method, named after the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates. The new focus in adult learning changes the paradigm from having the teacher on a pulpit, preaching (teaching) to the congregation, with little input from the parishioners (students), to one of a shepherd tending his flock and responding to their needs by nurturing them and guiding them in the right direction. This change has had a profound effect on adult learners who are self-directed, self-motivated and savvy.

There has been an evolution in the methods used to teach adult learners. This shift has been driven by many factors, none more important than recognizing the need to create a more effective learning environment for adults in society today. An environment which capitalizes on the acquired skill-sets, life experience and coping mechanisms developed in all adults. So, in this modern day and age it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks with a more evolved teaching model called andragogy. References Clark, D. (1995). Big dog & little dog’s performance juxtaposition. Retrieved August 31, 2013, from

http://www. nwlink. com/~donclark/hrd/history/andragogy. html Lee, C. (1998). The adult learner: Neglected no more. Training, 35(3), 47-52. Retrieved from http://search. proquest. com/docview/203393025? accountid=8289 Nadler, L. (1990). The handbook of human resource development Wiley; 2 edition. Oxford dictionaries. (2013). Retrieved September 16, 2013, from http://oxforddictionaries. com/definition/english/andragogy? q=andragogy Smith, T. , & Lowrie, T. (2002). Pedagogy as conversation: A way of experiencing learning: What is pedagogy anyway? Australian Primary Mathematics Classroom, 7(1) Taylor, B.

, Kroth, M. (2009). Andragogy’s transition into the future: Meta-analysis of andragogy and its search for a measurable instrument. MPAEA Journal of Adult Education, 38(1), 1-11. Retrieved from http://search. ebscohost. com/login. aspx? direct=true&db=ehh&AN=47122120&site=ehost-live Taylor,B. ,Kroth,M. (2009). A single conversation with a wise man is better than ten years of study: A model for testing methodologies for pedagogy or andragogy. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning, 9(2), 42-56. Retrieved from http://search. ebscohost. com/login. aspx? direct=true&db=ehh&AN=45408845&site=ehost-live

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