Critical Elements of Program Design in Andragogy

Andragogy is the term applied to the teaching of adult students. Pedagogy, its counterpart, is the teaching of adolescents. The term andragogy was first applied by Malcolm Knowles as a way to define the way that adult learners differ from adolescents, taking into account factors such as life and work experience, motivation for learning and learning styles. Six characteristics of the adult learned are defined in andragogy that must be addressed when designing instruction.

  1. The Need to Know

    • The need to know deals with the adult learners need to understand why the learning is important. When designing androgogical instruction, clearly define the value that the knowledge gained will have for the learner.

    Learner's Self-Concept

    • This concept is based around the way the adult learner perceives themselves. Instruction should be designed to allow for adult learners to interject their thoughts and opinions and have them validated as important.


    • Designing lessons with the learner's experience in mind is essential in andragogy. This closely relates to the learner's self concept. The instructor must realize and understand the vast amount of life and work experience that adult learners bring with them into the classroom and design instruction with this in mind. For example, if you are teaching a class on an element of business management, you may have a student that has been in the field for more than 20 years. You need to take into account when designing the lessons that this student may have valuable input and accommodate for it.

    Readiness to Learn

    • The readiness to learn in andragogy deals with the timing of instruction. This can either be training at work due to new products coming out, or the decision to go back to school due to a layoff. Readiness to learn for the adult learner is speaking to the timing of the learning, proving the importance of it.

    Orientation to Learning

    • This concept in andragogy program design deals with the element that the learning is placed in. This means that the learning and knowledge must be set in or around real life situations that the learner can relate to. Designing lessons around this concept will help the adult learner transfer their new skills and knowledge back into the real world and workplace.


    • This final element of program design sums deals with the adult learner's overall quality of life. It does not necessarily refer to promotions or increase in pay to due to education. It deals with the adult's overall satisfaction with their life and job as a result of the acquisition of new knowledge and skills. When designing andragogy programs, this is a critical element for adult learners.

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