Knowles' formulation of the principles of andragogy may
be taken as much as an integration or summation of other
learning theorists as in its own right, and therefore represents
the assumptions and values underlying much modern adult
educational theory. The term was actually introduced in
1833 by a German called Kapp.
Knowles (1990) draws
an explicit parallel between
(1960) "Theory X" and "Theory Y"
models of management thinking and pedagogic and andragogic
approaches to education, and it is clear that his sympathies
lie with Theory Y. He shares his assumptions with many other
current educational thinkers, but in many cases they are
disguised. Consensus about implicit values or ideology,
however, does not constitute an excuse for not subjecting
them to scrutiny:
(1997), has argued that they are meaningless, culture-bound,
tautologous, or unsupported by the psychological and empirical
The sheer fact that Knowles has to make his point
is some evidence that it is not yet COWDUNG (Waddington’s
wonderful acronym for the “COnventional
Wisdom of the Dominant
Group”). It could be argued that he addresses
part of the problem posed by subjecting people to educational
learning, in less formal settings, andragogy?
Throughout Knowles' discussion is an implicit two-valued
opposition of a straw man of pedagogy (which appears to
be derived primarily from the
educational theories of Thomas Gradgrind) and the panacea
of andragogy, although he explicitly denies this.
It is axiomatic for Knowles that the role of the teacher
is to provide opportunities for individuals to learn, and
that the teacher cannot accept responsibility for their
failure or refusal to do so: the task of learning itself
is therefore owned by the learner, and with this there can
be little argument. But there is no discussion, to take
just two examples, of the phenomenon of
of the course leader, or of the possibility of inconsistency
between the findings of different levels of evaluation ("I
enjoyed the course and I learned a lot, but no, it has not
made any difference to my practice").
For a comprehensive critique see
Andragogy has also been criticised from more of a training
and Mouton (1984), who maintain that its emphasis on
learning from peers makes it an inefficient instrument for
the transmission of knowledge, although they value the way
in which avoids the problems of resentment of authority
and counter-dependence which they see as implicit in the
normal "pedagogic" structure.
I am of course being seriously unfair: I just resent the smugly self-righteous way in which Knowles
seems to have cornered the market in respecting and empowering
adults in education.
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