Malcolm S. Knowles on informal Adult Education:


1.0  Introduction. 3

1.1 Research Issues. 5

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2.0. Discussion. 5

2.1 Practice vs. cognitive learning. 5

2.2 Learning model flexibility. 7

2.3 The Knowles model and the society. 9

3.0 Conclusion. 10

Reference. 12

Malcolm S. Knowles: Adult Education:

Pedagogy vs. Andragogy Instructions

1.0  Introduction

Malcom Shepherd Knowles lived between 1913- 1997 and was claimed to be the central figure behind adult education in the United States Education system, mainly during the last half of the twentieth century. In fact, in the 1950s according to Smith (2002), Malcom became the Executive director of the Adult Education Association of the United States of America. This distinct position encouraged and motivated Malcolm to develop the curriculum and the basis on which the adult education as well as learning through andragogy could be applied rather than the pedagogy learning practices used by  the normal students in the learning process.

Knowles (1970) described andragogy as an emerging technology for adult learning.  Knowles employed the word theory in his description of andragogy and later explained that, he obtained the term from his European colleagues. Interestingly, Knowles (1970), explained that he was not certain on the assumptions of andragogy and left the correctness of the assumption to be challenged, tested and modified through inquiry process. The andragogy learning process advocates self directing in learning process since different people would learn at different rates depending on several factors such as age, occupation, and other dimensions of life. The only role that teachers would be required to play in such a process according to Knowles, Holton & Swanson (2005) would be to encourage the students as well as nurture the learning process as the students direct their learning process. The learning process in adult education does not follow a systematic  process as would be the case with pedagogy, but the adult learner would be willing to learn a new concept in order to cope with a specific life problem. Therefore, the process has been much designed with the flexibility that would allow the student to discover their needs in search of specific lines of knowledge. The andragogy learning process therefore offers the necessary tools and creates the conditions necessary for the student to discover the above explained knowledge.

Through Knowles adult learning process and methods, there have been an increasing number of adult learners in institutions of higher educations in and education system that could have been otherwise considered to favor the lower education levels. As Gold (2005) explained, there has been a gradual increase in the number of adult learners registering in the U.S.A universities in search of particular areas of knowledge. Gold further explained that the number of the students in the higher learning institutions was registered at about 28% in 1970, increased to about 37% in 1980 and by 2003; the number was recorded as 43%. The gradual increase might be attributed to the major breakthrough that the education system impacted on adult learners in the United States. It might explain the success of Knowles’s education model in transforming the education system from the traditional learning methods known as pedagogy to a more flexible system that would allow the learners to direct the learning system as per their individual requirements.

From the explanations above on of andragogy learning process, the success of the Knowles adult education system and philosophy to large extent revolutionalised the learning process from the subject centered process in pedagogy to the performance centered system in andragogy. It’s therefore evident that the education system to a large extent bridged the gap between the fixed education systems to a more market friendly education system based on specific performance related issues. This might be attributes as the major reason behind the major success in the andragogy system successes.


1.1 Research Issues

The paper to a large detail focuses on the development and growth of the non traditional adult education programs in higher learning institutions, explaining several factors that have been largely attributed to the increase of the non traditional adult learning programs in the institutions of higher learning. The paper on the other hand researches on the trend that has seen the decline of the liberal arts programs, which are being gradually replaced with occupational and professional programs centered to specific skills in the learner’s life experience and designed in the new andragogy learning system. Using the Knowles principles behind adult education and life experiences, the paper will also outline the advantages as well as the limitations of such education systems aimed an enhancing continuous education process for the adult learners as well as the societies at large.

2.0. Discussion

2.1 Practice vs. cognitive learning.

One of the areas that Knowles learning process made a great impact was in the improvement of the cognitive teaching practices that marked the mode of learning in many traditional learning processes in institutions of higher learning. Realin (2007) explained that, the vocational training was reserved for lower education grades in trade preparations; the characteristic of the professional education in the higher education institutions was that, the system with time evolved to become a mass of higher education where students could choose their profession. The important aspect of practice in education system was therefore shelved as the professional training disassociated its curriculum from the real world practices that the students expected to encounter as soon as they left their institutions of training. The first tier liberal arts colleges according to Realin (2007) were a better example, which the institutions of higher education tried to emulate to gain credence due to the overwhelming critics that organizations raised concerning the training practices in the higher learning institutions.

However, Realin (2007) explained that the colleges also had their training programs mainly based on cognitive development on the student rather than the learning approaches that the field expected from the students. It therefore followed that, the universities and the mid-level colleges having relied much on the cognitive development of the students, they failed to equip the students with the relevant skills in real life situations, as the practices in the field required. The liberal arts colleges could not help much in developing the skills in adult education, which as Andre, Rocco & Welton (2009) explained, required legitimacy and professionalism when applied to real life situations in the field. The colleges were therefore abandoned, for a more concrete and practice oriented education system that would be inline with eh problems and skills required in the field. Therefore as Andre, Rocco & Welton explained, Knowles learning process for adults was to large extent based on these important attributes.

Knowles and Ohliger’s learning models were very similar in this in that; both models recognized the differences of tasks that required adult’s to learn voluntarily while on duties in the field to the tasks that were complex enough to require the learners to participate in some learning models sanctioned by the job requirements as Andre, Rocco & Welton (2009) explained. To reverse the situation in the traditional pedagogy practices, Knowles, Holton & Swanson (2005) explained that adult education was more successful while designed through the route of situations and not the subject as was the case in many institutions of higher learning. While in the traditional learning methods, the students came second after the teachers and the subject, the adult learning model as designed by Knowles reversed the situation to place the student first and the other two elements in the learning process second.

In the new model, the cognitive learning could be largely connected to needs and requirements as determined by the field practices. The subjects are therefore designed and made to suit the requirement of the students with teacher as the referee to oversee the implementation of the learning process and intervene where necessary. The molding of the subject around the student was critical in ensuring that the adult learning programs were designed with particular problem in focus, thereby improving the cognitive based education learning, which had in many instances distanced itself from the field requirements thereby resulting to critics from many quarters in the field. The fallout between the learning for practice and cognitive learning was the major force behind Knowles adult education model that was to a large extent a bridge that rectified the errors created by the traditional learning methods.

2.2 Learning model flexibility

One of the major differences that the traditional learning methods and the adult learning model portray would be the flexibility that the adult learners require in the formal learning process. An adult student according to Knowles, Holton & Swanson (2005) has major and important responsibilities that face the student in the formal education process. The major involvements include the daily duties, the family, the student’s recreation requirements, the needs of the community and other responsibilities that call for the interest of the student. The adult education model by Knowles finds a major ground on this aspect. Whereas the normal students have very few interests to take care of, apart from their daily education needs, the adult students require an education system that would accommodate all their numerous interests in the learning process. As discussed above the subject matter has also to be based on a real problem which is mainly the drive behind the learning process for such a student. Knowles, Holton & Swanson (2005) explained that, the teachers and the subject matter in modeling a learning process for such a student would take a second role, while the interest of the specific student finds the utmost importance it deserves.

Knowles (1980) explained that adult education was very critical in addressing the discriminatory practices against some races in the U.S where the discriminated people joined learning forums that empowered them to break the discrimination barriers. This found many earlier discriminated races joining the federal, state or local funded adult learning programs. This further explains the importance of the adult education system in aiming to solve and deal with a specific problem in the society or at work. It therefore requires the flexibility that would fit to a specific arena and bring about the intended outcome in the society or at work place as Knowles, Holton & Swanson (2005) explained. The design of the adult learning model as Knowles, intended was to impact the ability of such a model to cater for the social, educational, and cognitive needs that according to Knowles, Holton & Swanson are essential in meeting the numerous challenges faced by the adult learners in real life situations. The traditional or pedagogical learning model to a large extent limits the achievement of these factors due to a static curriculum that requires the student to mould around the subject matter and the teacher in the learning process. It therefore, limits the flexibility that an adult learner would require in the formal education considering their education requirements and their responsibilities in various situations.

The flexibility according to Knowles (1980) could be well achieved considering several factors that define the adult learners; adult learners according to Knowles might be considered to be more independent and self directed compared to the young learners, the adult learners bring out more experience to the learning process compared to the young learners. This might be attributed to the fact that, the adult learners in most cases are in the practical field, and hence know and recognize the important aspects of learning that would go along with the specific problem in the field compared to the young learners and traditional learning methods that use a laid down system that has to be followed. In addition, Knowles explained that an important aspect in adult learning is the decision making task. Adult learners make their own independent decisions around some particular needs unlike the pedagogical model that suits young learners who cannot make independent decisions. Further more, Knowles explained the adult education model to be more performance centered whereas the traditional model could be termed as subject centered. This might explained the influx of adult learners to mid level colleges and other institutions of higher education with the development in technology. The performance centered education therefore according to Knowles would be required to impact the necessary technological knowledge to the adult learners based on their specific areas of operations. Incase of the traditional learning method, the technological approach would be a broad covering, which would not zero in to a particular area of operation as would be required by the adult learning model.

2.3 The Knowles model and the society

The Knowles model on andragogy might be considered as an important tool that introduced a new approach to both formal and informal education to adults. The institutions of higher learning had been criticized largely for alienating the coverage of the subject matter away from the requirements of a specific profession. One important aspect of Knowles model would be to enable the society to get the skills that would be required by a specific area of operation as well as keeping up with challenges of any profession. As Knowles (1980), the adult education would be performance centered, thereby giving only the content that a members of the society requires in meeting their needs and goals (as quoted in Mavrinac, 2005). This in most cases would be a relief to employers who as Knowles, Holton & Swanson (2005) explained had criticized the traditional learning models in the higher education institutions due to channeling of employees with little or no skills, contrary to the requirements of a specific profession.

Many members of the society, who had been trained through job experience training, would as well get a chance to upgrade their practical experience with formal education without having to go through the stringent requirements of education system that young students had to go through. The Knowles education model recognizes the numerous interests that the adult learner has to be faced with and integrates the same to form a flexible model that allows the adult learner to be flexible as per their areas of interests and duties. However, the Knowles model would discourage many would be students form joining institutions of higher learning. Knowles (1980) offers many critics on the traditional learning methods based on cognitive development as producing unskilled graduates who cannot cope up with requirements in the practical world. This might discourage many young students who would prefer to join the adult learning models later in life rather than join the pedagogy system as would be required.

3.0 Conclusion.

Knowles andragogy learning model has to a large extent modernized the learning process for many adult learners who were previously required to undergo the pedagogy models to gain the required skills in solving specific problems. In addition to offering a new approach that Knowles described as performance centered rather than the pedagogy subject centered approach, Knowles to a large extent rang the wake up call to many institutions of higher learning that were previously criticized for producing semi skilled graduates through the cognitive learning processes. The adult learning model has over the time received much support where many adults embraced the system due to the flexibility of incorporating their duties, responsibilities and a formal learning method to form the problem centered learning. It has enabled many adult learners to upgrade their skills mainly due to the technological advancement that has posed new challenges and demands to the adult learners. The success of the learning model might be considered as being due to the ability of the student to direct their learning as per their interests. The experience that the adult learners bring along in the education system has in many cases helped in molding the education curriculums to match the practical requirements in the field. Therefore, the Knowles adult learning model has to a large extent revolutionarised the education systems in colleges and institutions of higher learning, while correcting the faults of pedagogy in the learning process.




Exam question, answer questions in 1 report using lecture slide.

  1. please add a definition for foreign direct investment.
  2. The question is ‘discuss the underlying reasons for foreign direct investment
  3. its cost and benefit for the host and home country. also the disadvantages.


with the aid of a diagram critically explain the welfare impacts of capital movement for both investing and host countries’












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Gold, H.E (2005). Engaging the adult learner: creating effective library instructions. Portal: Libraries and Academy 5(4) 467- 481

Johnson, K. A. (2009), In service of the common good: Anna Julia Cooper and adult education African American Review. 43(1)

Knowles, M.S. (1980). The modern practice of adult education: from pedagogy to andragogy. 2.ed, NY: Cambridge Books

Knowles, M.S. (1970). The modern practice of adult education: from pedagogy to andragogy. NY: Cambridge Books

Knowles, M.S, Holton, R. A., & Swanson, R. A., (2005). The adult learner: the definitive classic in adult education and human resource development. Elsevier: MA

Mavrinac, M. A., (2005) Transformational leadership: Peer mentoring as a values-based learning process. Portal: Libraries and academy 5(3) 391- 404.

Neary, M. (2002) Curriculum studies in post compulsory and adult education, Cheltenham: Mary Neary

Raelin, J.A., (2007). The return of practice to Higher Education: Resolution Paradox. Journal of General Education. 56(1), 57-77.

Smith, M. K. (2002) ‘Malcolm Knowles, informal adult education, self-direction and andragogy’, the encyclopedia of informal education, org/thinkers/et-knowl.htm”>


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