Andragogy Personal Reflection
Malcolm Knowles introduced the term andragogy to the field of educational research in 1968, and he ultimately identified six underlying assumptions about adult learners (Merriam, Caffarella, and Baumgartner, 2007, p. 84). While it may seem obvious now that adult learners have different needs and motivations, it had not been previously delineated or identified as such. The phrase ‘non-traditional student’ has long been used to describe adults who return to an educational setting after they have been out of high school for a few, or many years. A non-traditional student is often one who has not entered college immediately following high school graduation, might have dependents, is financially independent, is working full or part-time, and who, in many cases, is highly motivated to pursue an education with a very specific goal in mind (Palatnick, n.d.). This group of adult learners comprises the subject of andragogy.
Traditional Learning Environment
The phrase traditional learning generally refers to an on-ground, face-to-face classroom setting, with a teacher lecturing from the front of the room. When I attended graduate school, 25 years after graduating from college, my program included weekend-intensive sessions once a month, held at a local college campus. We stayed in the dorms and met throughout the weekend to complete a large portion of one graduate course, which was followed by at-home assignments. One course was taught by a professor who lectured exclusively as his method of teaching. There was little interaction, and no media used. The class met for three hours on Friday evening, six hours on Saturday, and three hours on Sunday morning, for a total of 12 hours of lectures in three days. The professor was not a particularly compelling presenter, thus creating a stultifying environment where, at least for me, little learning was likely to occur.
Fortunately by the time my cohort met for this course, we had established a very firm sense of community. The cohort was comprised of people of varying ages with the unifying component that we all worked in library settings, and were pursuing a master’s degree in order to advance our professional careers. Individual students were highly motivated to not just pass the course, but to actually learn the content. It was a required, foundational course in the library science curriculum and we understood that the content, while not presented in an engaging format, was important for our understanding of the tenets of the profession.
My cohort of adult students demonstrated self-direction in the sense that by the end of the Friday evening lecture session, we had determined that this particular teaching method was not meeting our learning needs. We had the advantage of meeting as a group after the teaching session since we were spending the entire weekend in a dormitory. We decided that we would have to supplement...