Customizing Learning from Childhood to Adulthood: Pedagogy and Andragogy

Pedagogy, the art or science of teaching, is often used as an umbrella term. If you want to get technical, however, pedagogy refers specifically to the techniques that are used when educating children. If discussing adult education, the term andragogy is more appropriate. Pedagogy and Andragogy offer two distinct educational frameworks that have gone a long way toward shaping modern childhood education and adult training. Today, however, many instructors are realizing the value of a more holistic approach that blends the best of both theories.


When an organization takes a more pedagogical approach, it starts with the assumption that the student is a blank slate onto which the instructor imparts knowledge. Teachers are responsible for setting the curriculum, determining the subject matter, and establishing specific timelines. Throughout the learning process, the instructor is responsible for putting forms of evaluation in place that ensure students are making progress and are properly absorbing the learning material.

Although this is beginning to change, traditionally pedagogy has focused far more heavily on conceptual learning rather than hands-on applications. As knowledge for knowledge’s sake is the ultimate goal of pedagogy, grades or other rating systems are given a high level of import and are often used as a mechanism for determining whether or not the learner advances to the next level of instruction.


With andragogy, adult learners have much more freedom to chart their own course. The guiding assumption behind an andragogical approach is that the learner is self-directed and motivated by his or her own educational goals or desire to advance in some aspect of his or her life. Since the student is self-motivated, most practitioners of andragogy don’t believe in formal evaluations. Instead, adults are provided with the tools to perform their own self-evaluations.

While pedagogy assumes that students come in as blank slates, with andragogy instructors assume that learners have already developed a wealth of relevant experience that they will bring into the instructional process with them. These knowledge resources can be tapped by both the individual learner and co-learners to create a richer educational experience.

In addition to finding different motivations for adult learners versus child learners, the type of educational content is also different. While pedagogy often hinges on theory and more advanced concepts, andragogy typically features a more hands-on approach with real-world applications. In fact, instructors often find that adult learners are extremely motivated when they begin to see real results.

What this means for training

As you might imagine, the training field has long focused on principles of andragogy. Recently, however, there has been a swing toward “humangogy,” a kind of synthesis of the two learning principles. Proposed by Russell S. Knudson, humangogy posits that there is a great deal of synergy between pedagogy and andragogy. Practitioners of humangogy focus on differences in students at various ages while also acknowledging the similarities that allow instructors to create global best practices in education that work for all learners, regardless of demographic group. Focusing on humangogy rather than either andragogy or pedagogy encourages trainers to provide real-world, hands-on experience while also emphasizing the inherent value of higher-level conceptual learning.

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