Andragogy vs pedagogy

I think I honestly try to stay away from discussions of andragogy because I am never sure how to pronounce it.  But today I ran across a post at Open Education that not only brought the subject up but made me so interested that I had to post about it.

I had always thought about andragogy as pertaining to the education of adults and pedagogy as the teaching of children.  I quickly learned form this post that I was mistaken.  After sharing Wikipedia explanations of the two terms, he goes on to introduce readers to Marcia Conner. She has some very insightful things to say about education.  She defines the two terms this way:

Pedagogy (pèd-e-go´jê) literally means the art and science of educating children and often is used as a synonym for teaching. More accurately, pedagogy embodies teacher-focused education.


Andragogy, initially defined as “the art and science of helping adults learn,” has taken on a broader meaning … The term currently defines an alternative to pedagogy and refers to learner-focused education for people of all ages.

Not much question of which side I want to be on in my practice.  (Of course, which side I am actually on is sometimes a different matter!)

When you go back to Wikipedia‘s discussion of andragogy, you find the following:

Knowles’ theory can be stated as four simple postulates:

  1. Adults need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction (Self-concept and Motivation to learn).
  2. Experience (including mistakes) provides the basis for learning activities (Experience).
  3. Adults are most interested in learning subjects that have immediate relevance to their job or personal life (Readiness to learn).
  4. Adult learning is problem-centered rather than content-oriented (Orientation to learning).

When I read that, I always think about discussions with my friend Angie about gifted ed:  That’s how everyone should be taught!

Of course, I teach young adults, so I should be thinking more along the lines of Knowles’ postulates anyway.  And often I am.  But I should be all the time.  And I get a more real sense of that when I go back to Connor’s distinction between the two:  teacher-centered pedagogy vs. learner-centered andragogy.

I have Knowles’ book The Adult Learner.  And I have actually read it  But I think I need to go back and read it again.

And I have to learn how to pronounce that word!

(By the way, I just checked at, and they helped me learn to pronounce it:  /ˈændrəˌgoʊdʒi )


3 thoughts on “Andragogy vs pedagogy

  1. What I love about sharing educational practices on the net is when the blogger is honest with themselves. Nancy, thanks for writing “Not much question of which side I want to be on in my practice. (Of course, which side I am actually on is sometimes a different matter!)” In my own teaching practices I wanted to be on the learner side but in actuality, I was probably on the teacher side more often that I would admit.

    I didn’t even know andragogy even existed until your post. Thanks for the careful explanation. I have to chuckle at your attempt to show the reader how to pronounce it. Looks like Greek to me! Where did you find those characters!?

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