Join Jeff Toister for an in-depth discussion in this video Introduction to Malcolm Knowles's andragogy theory, part of Instructional Design: Adult Learners.
Here are two terms that every instructional designer should know. Andragogy and Pedagogy. Andragogy is the process of helping adults learn. Pedagogy is the process of teaching, particularly children. One of the biggest differences between the two is that Andragogy emphasizes learner motivation by connecting it to practical application. While a Pedagogical approach can emphasize learning for the sake of learning. Why is motivation so important? Might be helpful to think of a filing cabinet. When it's new, you can put a file in a drawer then open the drawer again and have no trouble finding the file.
But things get different when the filing cabinet is stuffed full of files. Now it takes extra effort to put a new file in. And you'll need a good indexing system to be able to find that file once again. In some respects, our brains are like filing cabinets. As adults, when bombarded with new information while feeling pressed for time. Our brains feel full. So it takes effort to cram new information in there. Malcolm Knowles is widely credited with identifying Six Principles of Andragogy or adult learning. That can help us address this challenge.
The first is need to know. Learning takes effort and concentration. So adults need to know the reason they're being asked to learn. That's why it's often helpful to share the purpose of an activity or its objectives. The second principle is Experience. Learning is easier when we can build on existing knowledge. So participants prior experience should provide the basis for many of our learning activities. The third principle is Self-Concept. This means that adults need to be responsible for their learning decisions.
For example, you have the ability to skip around from video to video within this course or try or not try various activities. The fourth principle is Readiness. Adults learn best when a training can be used to help them solve an immediate problem. Try to imagine a time when you were really motivated to learn something. You might have been taking skiing lessons so you could go skiing. Or perhaps, you took driving lessons so you could get your drivers license. You may have even taken music lessons so you could play your favorite song.
Motivation increases when there's an immediate reason to learn. The fifth principle is Problem Orientation. Adults learn best when training is problem oriented rather than content oriented. That means the training is focused on helping participants acquire specific knowledge, skills or abilities rather than generic content. Adults are much more likely to learn when they feel the training can really help them. The sixth principle is Intrinsic Motivation. Adults learn best when motivation comes from within, rather then relying on external motivations such as prizes or incentives.
Let's use a Presentation Skills Class as an example to illustrate how applying adult learning principles can improve a training program's effectiveness. The class originally began as a corporate training program offered on an open enrollment basis. Just in case you aren't familiar with open enrollment. It refers to a course where anyone in the organization can sign up. The course received decent reviews from participants. But there wasn't a strong connection between people taking a class and actually giving better presentations. A few learner focused adjustments were required to make the training program much better.
For Need to Know, the course was offered to particular departments. That way, the department leader could help align the training with the department's business goals. For example, the Marketing Director wanted her team to take the course so they could give better presentations at conferences. For Experience, a survey was used to learn about participants past experience given presentations. This enabled the training to build on what they already new. For Self-Concept. Participants were asked to identify the specific presentation skills they wanted to improve.
For Readiness. Classes were scheduled at a time when participants really needed it. For example, the marketing department attended the class as part of their preparation for their biggest conference of the year. For Problem-Centered. The training was focused on helping participants prepare and develop a specific presentation. Each participant from the marketing department used the class to design their presentation for the upcoming conference. For Intrinsic Motivation. The course design connected the content with the participants work goals.
Members of the marketing department were highly motivated to take the class, because they saw how it could led to a much better performance at their big conference. Applying Malcolm Knowles principles to the presentation skills class transformed it from a generic course to a program that helped participants do their jobs better. Now, it may be helpful to apply these principles to one of your own training classes. You can download the Learner Motivation Worksheet for this video and use it to review an existing program. See if you can identify adjustments that will increase participant motivation.
And make your program even more engaging.
- Adult learning theory
- Understanding the four stages of learning
- Comparing active vs. passive learning
- Overcoming learning barriers
- Turning theory into practice