Adult Learning: Pedagogy and andragogy


Learning can be both an emotional and intellectual process. Teaching–learning process lasts the entire life span of each individual. Adult learning allows an adult to acquire, renew, upgrade, or complete knowledge, skill, and attitude for functioning effectively in a constantly changing working environment.

 “Teachers can never truly teach, unless they are still learning themselves.”

Adult education is the intentional systematic process of teaching and learning by which the adult acquires new values, attitude, knowledge, skill, and discipline. “Pedagogy” and “andragogy” both derive from Greek. Andragogy means the method and practice of teaching adult learners, their motivation and disposition to learning. There are differences in the teaching–learning process in children and adults.

Adult learners are autonomous, self‑directed, and always expect respect and equal status. The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones. Adults focus mainly on immediate implementation of knowledge and are reluctant to learn new things. It is wrong to presume that all the information transmitted to the students are always learnt and since that does not happen, a lot more information needs to be transmitted so that something will be learnt. Adults have a deep need to be self‑directed; the teacher therefore engages in inquiry with the students to awaken interest rather than pretending to be the oracle of knowledge.



Learning is better with subject matters of immediate relevance. If it is for a long‑term goal, students should be properly motivated.

Keep it interesting

Complex matter should be made simple by using suitable examples, photos, images, videos and by making it learner centered.

Active involvement

There should be active involvement of the learner; he/she should be active contributor to the educational process. It can be done by small group discussion or by interactivity in larger groups. Encourage participants to be resources to you and to each other.


Establish a climate which is conducive to feedback. Ask questions and discuss responses. Tuition should be designed in such a way that it covers approximately one‑third part to presentation and two‑third part to application and feedback.

Rebound effect of evaluation

Students usually learn for the sake of examinations. Therefore, regular tests or objective‑structured questions and quizzes can be used for better learning.

Learning modalities

Learning is composed of multiple sensory and intellectual inputs such as sound, sight, and smell. Some individuals learn better orally, some visually, some kinesthetically, and some by combinations. Learning begins with a new experience which may be by seeing, touching, tasting, smelling, hearing, or feeling. The more effective the learning experience is, the better the learning.

The stimulation of sensory receptors will influence learning. Based on this, different types of learners have been identified such as:

(1) visual learners: they prefer print material, learn best by reading or responding to visual cues such as whiteboard/overhead transparencies,

(2) auditory learners: they prefer listening; lecturing works best for them,

(3) tactile learners: they like to manipulate objects; hands‑on methods are most appropriate for them, and

(4) kinesthetic learners: they like to learn through experiential activities; they prefer simulations, exploratory activities, and problem‑solving. Retention improves as students see the results of their actions. Experiential learning gives time to facilitate critical thinking, diagnostic reasoning, and problem‑solving.

Studies show that varying study methods and materials will improve retention and recall of information and enhance learning experience. The “learning pyramid,” sometimes referred to as the “cone of learning” suggests that most students only remember about 10% of what they read from textbooks but retain nearly 90% of what they learn through teaching others. The learning pyramid model suggests that some methods of study are more effective than others and that varying study methods will lead to deeper learning and long‑term retention. People generally remember 10% of what they read, 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see, 50% of what they hear and see, 70% of what they say, and 90% of what they say as they do a thing. Hence, there is no doubt that technical devices have greater impact and dynamic informative system. Hear it, see it, say it, do it, and teach others to improve retention.


Important components of learning are motivation, reinforcements, retention, and transference.


Good eye contact, smiles, and active listening skills such as nodding always help to motivate students. In addition, certification by reputed or recognized authority and promotion or admission to higher studies will motivate adult learners. It’s like saying “You can lead the horse to water but you cannot make him drink”. A good motivator can produce thirst in learners.

The mediocre teacher tells, the good teacher explains, the superior teacher illustrates while the exceptional teacher inspires.


The greater the number of inputs attached to a particular idea, the greater the retention of the information. Factors which affect retention are active involvement of learners and degree of initial learning. More easily if learners can relate it to their past experiences, they become sequential learners. As per saying “You cannot pour fresh tea in a cup full of stale tea” the application of knowledge depends on factors such as association with known information, its similarity, and degree of original learning.


Positive reinforcement is done by encouraging correct mode of behavior and performance. It can be given in the form of effective feedback by peers and the teacher. In case of negative reinforcement, we have to be careful; it should be restricted to formative assessment results only.


Ability to use information, its implementation, and application of knowledge is transference. Hence, first remember, then understand, and at the end, apply the learnt knowledge.


Good teaching–learning practices should be followed whether teaching is conducted in the classroom or online. It requires time: time to instruct, observe, and assess the students and also time for self‑reflection and time for our own professional development. The purpose of teaching is not a mere passing on information but developing lifelong learning habits and making it an enjoyable process. Encourage participants to be resources to each other. Allow debate and questioning. Relate learning to participant’s goal with active involvement and you will reap the seeds of success.

Anastasia Spyropoulou